- The Alumni Grill (editor)
- The Gospel According to Gracey (2003)
- The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me (2002)
Although born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1969, Suzanne Kingsbury grew up in Vermont but moved to Oxford, Mississippi, in 1999 to research and write The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me. According to a press release, she quit her job, broke her lease, and moved from Vermont to work the breakfast shift in a Mississippi diner and spend time smoking cigarettes on Faulkner’s grave. The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me is her first novel. While living in Mississippi, she appeared on ETV’s Conversations and the Thacker Mountain Radio program.
Kingsbury is the daughter of Laurence Kingsbury and Kasha Duffield Kingsbury. She has one sister, who is two and a half years older whose name is Jennifer Katherine Kingsbury Bogosian. As a child she daydreamed and read constantly. She wanted to be a movie star, not a writer, but she did enjoy writing stories and poetry. After graduation from high school, Kingsbury went to college where she majored in Political Science and International Studies. As a result, she did not write for seven years. Then, two years after college she attended a writing workshop which inspired her to write again. Her first novel The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me was published seven years later in 2002.
A former Fulbright scholar, Kingsbury did not have the usual rejections that many authors receive. She was fortunate to have major publishing companies interested in her book. After completing The Summer Fletcher Loved Me, she sent letters to several agents. Her book was sold a week after she hired an agent. Set in the fictional Houser Banks, Mississippi, in modern times, the novel is the story of four teenagers (two couples but one is racially mixed) who learn about life, love, and tragedy the summer after Fletcher’s graduation from high school. It was purchased by Scribner.
The World According to Gracey is Suzanne Kingsbury’s second novel. It was released in the fall of 2003, and is the story of Fletcher, Haley, Crystal, and Riley and the summer they were in love. Jim Harrison, a family friend of the Kingsburys, says that the book is “a horror story set in Atlanta” drug scene….You will see how poignantly our culture germinates the seeds of its destruction.” Kingsbury has been praised for her lush, lovely language. The novel is the story of Gracey Fill, who has just been arrested during a narcotics raid in Atlanta. In the twenty-four hours of the novel, the author reveals the harrowing story of a bad batch of heroine.
In addition to writing, Kingsbury also likes to rollerblade, read, and swim. Kingsbury is the co-editor of the anthology of Southern writers called The Alumni Grill published by (Macadam and Cage in 2004). She has been anthologized in The Blue Moon Cafe and At My Grandmother’s Table.
A Review of The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me
by Mary Lynn Rednour (SHS)
The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me is the debut novel of Suzanne Kingsbury. The entire book, which is centered around a town’s racism and teenagers’ raging hormones, is very interesting and realistic. It is set in the late 1980’s in a fictional Houser Banks, Mississippi, a small rural community resistant to change.
The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me is a novel about a teenage white girl (Haley Ellyson) who has gone a little wild since her mother died. Haley falls in love with a teenage white boy (Fletcher Greel), who has just arrived in town from a prep school. Fletcher’s mother has also died, so he has many emotions that he can relate to with Haley. Soon their friends, a white boy (Riley White) and his black girlfriend (Crystal Nash), are caught in the middle of the town’s criticism. A few racist boys from the town set out to cause trouble because of Riley and Crystal’s interracial relationship.
Kingsbury has a very nicely-paced writing style. She tells only the things that the reader needs to know and skillfully tells them using two points of view, the voice of Fletcher (son of a prominent judge) and the voice of his love, Haley Ellyson, who “has a secret deeper and darker than any teenager should have to bear.” Fletcher and Haley alternate telling chapters. Strangely, Kingsbury uses no quotation marks. I think she uses this method of writing to make the reader get more into the book and really learn what exactly is going on.
The ending of this novel was quite a surprise to me. It is not the typical “and they lived happily ever after” fantasy which everyone is so used to. I think the realism put an element of surprise in the novel, along with making it more imaginable.
I really enjoyed The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who find reading about interracial relationships interesting. There are some subject matters that might offend some readers. For instance, the teenagers often experiment with various kinds of sexual behavior. There is also underage drinking and alcohol mentioned frequently. Violence is scattered throughout the novel, although no gory details are mentioned. The teenagers attend bars, and one of them is raped, so if this would offend you, this novel is not for you. However, I really liked it! Kingsbury’s easy style immediately makes the reader feel a part of the story. I highly recommend reading it.
From: Suzanne Kingsbury
To: “Nancy N. Jacobs”
Where were you born and when?
Baltimore, Maryland, 1969
What are your parents’ names, and do you have any brothers and/or sisters?
My parents names are Laurence Kingsbury and Kasha Duffield Kingsbury. I have one sister, two and a half years older than me, and her name is Jennifer Katherine Kingsbury Bogosian.
Are you or have you been married, and do you have any children?
I have never been married and I have no children, but someday I hope to!
What specific childhood memories, high school, or college memories do you have that you are willing to share?
When I was a little girl, I daydreamed all the time. I read constantly and won summer reading contests for the most books read in both the third and the fifth grades. I can not remember all the books I read, but I do remember loving To Kill a Mockingbird and Philip Hall Likes Me I Reckon Maybeand the Island of the Blue Dolphins among many others. When I went to college, I felt as if I needed to major in something that would land me a job after graduation, and I wound up taking Political Science and International Relations courses. For six years I gave up writing. I took a job in the international relations field and did not start writing again until two years out of college when, on a whim, I decided to do a writing workshop, and I never stopped writing. Seven years later, my first book was published.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there something in particular that got you interested in writing?
I always wanted to be a movie star, never a writer, but I was always writing stories and poetry. Our family was friends with Jim Harrison, a novelist, and his sister-in-law Rebecca Harrison and I used to pour over their poems. I always wrote poetry and stories instead of doing my homework. In my mind, everything I did was a book. I would think, And then she said this… and then she did that…. consequently I made my life very dramatic in order that the book had a good plot and theme and lots of strange characters.
How difficult was it to get your first book published? How did you go about it?
It was not difficult for me. I wrote stories (some very bad) for about five years before I began the novel, and then I wrote it over the course of two years. It was a novel about five young people in Mississippi, taking place over one, hot steamy summer with lots of blues and river swimming stuck in and I finished the first draft in a snow storm in Vermont! I consequently went to Oxford, Mississippi for a year where I finished the final draft. I sent it to twelve agents who I found mostly over the internet or in the acknowledgment pages of authors books. Ten accepted it, and I flew to New York to meet my top choices. The woman I picked took me out to a sushi restaurant and she said she would send it out the next day without changing a thing. Her agency handled Larry Brown and she had sold Memoirs of a Geisha and Cold Mountain and she was very high powered. She was also very pregnant. She sent it out the next day, which was a Friday, and I began getting calls from Simon and Schuster, Random House, Knopf, Ballentine, Scribner and Algonquin. I think half the houses we went to to wanted it, and I went back to New York and met all of them. The book sold in one week, the following Thursday, to Scribner before it went to auction. My agent had her baby a few hours later!
Are any of your books autobiographical? Where do you get the ideas for your books?
No, none of my books are autobiographical. They come to me like cinematic films. The scenes are already formed in my head and the characters are vivid and very alive. What I do is try to translate the scenes in my head onto the page as best I can, with as much detail as possible. It feels very much like I am a medium for some parallel life going on that is invisible to the world as we know it, but is very real.
Who is/are your favorite author/authors?
I love William Gay, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, Peter Mathiesson, Cormac McCarthy, Robert Olmstead, Sherman Alexie, Norman Mailer, Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith, Oh, there are so so many, I could go on and on and on...
What author do you think has influenced you the most?
I think certain books really influenced me. You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates, Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips, In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaajte, At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthieson, The Long Home by William Gay, All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, Crime and Punishment by Doestevsky, also the classics, The Odyssey, Tristan and Iseult, Dante’s Inferno, all of Herman Hesse’s books.
What kind of student were you in high school?
I was a good student, particularly in English where I won awards. I was a voracious reader, and I had a wonderful English teacher named Mrs. Garber, who was a little wild with a great mass of frizzy hair and big owl spectacle, and I was constantly asking her why and she was always happy to answer. She talked a lot of universal themes— especially with every birth there is a death— and it helped me grow and learn. She could always read my horrible handwriting.
Are you currently working on a new book? What is it called? When will it be published? Do you have a title for it yet? What is it about?
I am working on a novel about a girl from the States who moves to Mexico and then to Panama, falls in love with a boy who is in the American army in Panama, she then moves to Tucson. It spans quite a few years and three countries, so it is a pretty intense project, but I love working on it. No title yet.
What made you decide to come to live in Mississippi and write a book? Do you move to another place for each book that you write?
I followed my characters to Mississippi. I was intrigued by the books set in the South I had read, from Mark Twain to Cold Sassy Tree to To Kill a Mockingbird. I liked the idea of the heat, the blues, the music, the passion of the people, the history, the food and the farming landscape.
Have you received any awards for your writing?
How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influenced your writing?
Mississippi is so inspirational. It is really incredible with the oral tradition of story telling, everywhere I go in Mississippi, I hear great stories and stories make up novels. I find great characters there, people who were not afraid to live largely and to show their true colors. The music, its rhythm, influence my prose. My senses are alive when I am there, the food is amazing, the music and the way people talk is beautiful, the heat is languid, the landscape is deep and green and wild and beautiful and there are always people talking about books and how important they are.
Besides writing, what else do you like to do?
I rollerblade, read, swim in swimming holes with my friends and travel.
Do you have any advice for future writers?
Just keep writing and it will all work out!
Do you have any advice for students today?
Find your own voice, not your professors, and follow your bliss.
Have you written any other books not listed on our writers page?
I am working on getting together a tour of writing workshops in schools this fall whereby I would be conducting writing workshops at schools in the towns where I would be doing readings. I would love to include you all in this and meet some of yours students! I spent some time in Starkville while I was researching The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me I have been out of the country this winter, working on a novel in Mexico. I will be back this summer and would love to stop by for a visit.
Please let me know what other info would be helpful for this and thanks so much!
- Synopses and reviews of Kingsbury’s first novel are available here.
- Durham’s Independent Online’s Clancy Nolan reviews Suzanne Kingsbury’s new novel
- Amazon.com’s customer reviews may be read here.
- Publisher reviews on Amazon may be read here.