Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: Robert Dalby


Robert Dalby 1946Robert Dalby. Photo courtesy of the author

Major Works

  • God of the Door
  • O Bed! O Breakfast! Genesis Press 2000
  • Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly Putnam 2006
  • Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly Putnam 2007
  • A Piggly Wiggly Wedding (2009)

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Biography of Robert Dalby

Robert Dalby was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1946 to R. D. and Helen Jenkins Kuehnle. Dalby's father wrote pulp fiction novellas and was an editor and writer in New York after World War II. Dalby grew up in Natchez and graduated from South Natchez Adams High School in 1964. He then obtained a B.A. at Sewanee: The University of the South.

To date, he has published five novels including God of the Door, O Bed! O Pidggly Wiggly WeddingBreakfast! Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly and Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly, which was recently awarded Best Fiction of 2008 by the Mississippi Library Association. The third in the Piggly Wiggly series entitled A Piggly Wiggly Wedding, was published by Putnam in 2009.

He currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

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Email Interview with Robert Dalby (2008)

What are your parents' names? What can you tell us about them?

My father is R. D. Kuehnle and lives in a retirement home in Mobile, Alabama. He is 90 years old and was a fighter pilot in World War II. He was also a writer and editor in New York right after the War. My mother, Helen Jenkins, has been deceased since 1992. She was both a dance instructor (ballroom) and an interior decorator.

Where and when were you born? Do you have any siblings?

I was born in Natchez, Mississppi, in 1946. I have one brother who lives in Mobile, Alabama.Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby

Are you married, and do you have any children?

I am single.

What author or authors do you think influence you the most? Many

Southern writers have influenced me--such as Ellen Douglas, Ellen Gilchrist, Rebecca Wells, Fannie Flagg, Larry Brown and Willie Morris.

Why did you decide to write a story with Piggly Wiggly as its setting?

I was looking for a warm, fuzzy Southern icon when I hit upon the small fictional town of Second Creek as my locale and universe. Most Southerners are familiar with the Piggly Wiggly, and there are still 600 of them doing business across the country.

When did you become interested in writing? Was there something in
particular that got you interested?

I became interested in writing when I was a small boy and started reading my father's pulp fiction novellas which he wrote when he was in New York. I wrote my own stories and illustrated them during grade school. I've often thought this might be a matter of genes.

Do you have a "day job"?

Kissing Babies at the Piggly WigglyI have represented various publishers and distributors to public libraries in five Southern states for about twenty-five years. I have a defined territory and travel a lot.

What kind of student were you in high school?

I loved English and languages. Wrote for the school literary magazine at South Natchez Adams High School. I was also involved in musical theater and was the features editor of the school paper.

How long did it take you to write Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly ?

About a year and a half.

Are you working on a new book right now? What can you tell us about it?

I just finished the third novel in the Piggly Wiggly series--A Piggly Wiggly Wedding. It is scheduled to be released by Putnam in the spring of '09. There are to be four novels in the series so far.

Have you received awards for your writing?

Yes. The second novel in the series, Kissing Babies At The Piggly Wiggly, was recently awarded Best Fiction of 2008 by the Mississippi Library Association. It will be awarded at their 2008 Convention in my hometown of Natchez, where I will speak at their Book Dinner. Waltzing At The Piggly Wiggly was also nominated for Best Fiction of 2007 by MLA, and the first two novels were also nominated by the Mississippi Institute of Arts
And Letters for Best Fiction of 2007 and 2008.

Do you have any advice for future writers?

O Bed O BreakfastKnow your subject. If you haven't lived it, then research it well. Remain persistent and determined. Do not let rejection deter you from your goal. Network with other writers. Attend conferences and workshops and hone your craft. Try to get an agent for your material.

What are you most proud of?

My determination. It took me a while to break through and get published, but by 2010, I will have been published seven times, including large print and audio editions of my works.

How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influenced your writing?

Mississippi (and my hometown of Natchez particularly) has been the inspiration for my work. I am proud of my home state and believe that there are many wonderful and positive stories to tell about it and the people who live here together. Our past is checkered but rich with pathos. I believe we are solving our problems in the new millenium and will continue to provide the nation with literary talent, continuing our rich tradition.

Robert Dalby
Oxford, MS July 2008

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A Review of A Piggly Wiggly Wedding by Robert Dalby by Lesa Holstine

Somewhere in Mississippi is Robert Dalby's quirky little town of Second Creek. It's a treat to be invited back for the third book in the series, A Piggly Wiggly Wedding.

In Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly, we met Hale "Mr. Choppy" Dunbar, owner of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, on the verge of closing due to the new big box store in town. It took an innovative scheme by a group of wealthy widows, the Nitwits, to raise the town's awareness of this possible loss to the community. Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly brought out secrets in Mr. Choppy's background, and a political campaign, run by the Nitwits. Now, it's up to that special group of women to smooth the way for Mr. Choppy to marry the woman he loves when her grown children object to the marriage between their wealthy mother and a small town southern grocer.

In the course of this charming series, the Nitwits have gracefully coped with issues such as Alzheimers and learning to understand gay children. Now, they deal with adult children afraid of their mother's remarriage. But, these books are also lighthearted, with eccentric characters in a town known for its eccentric weather. The weather is so hot that fireflies have totally disappeared from Second Creek, and Mr. Choppy and others have noticed their absence.

Despite the lack of fireflies, two new people blow into town, and light it up. Euterpe Simon, "Mistress of the Scales", hopes to rent a place to teach piano lessons. The mysterious woman captures the interest of all of the Nitwits, who vie to be Euterpe's best students. And, then there's Great Buddha Magruder, a giant of a man famous for his dancing. He's a "big" hit with the women.

If you like the books by Ann B. Ross, Joan Medlicott, and Louise Shaffer, authors who have blurbed Dalby's books, you'll appreciate the southern humor and small town life in these stories. The Piggly Wiggly stories are delightful, with eccentric, lively characters. There's a sense of comfort and contentment when reading the Piggly Wiggly books, and A Piggly Wiggly Wedding is no exception. It's another charming book, filled with friendship, laughter and a little of that Second Creek magic.

Oh, and may you always have fireflies.

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Related Websites

Robert Dalby blogs about his life.

Book review of Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly.

Powell's Books reviews of Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly.

Info about Dalby's O Bed! O Breakfast! published by Genesis Press.

The Pulpwood Queen Blog talks about Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly and her memories.

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Updated September 7, 2009
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