Monday, August 21, 2006

Calling all Southerners...Jean needs research help!

If any of you lovely readers would like to help me out, I've got a hero who owns a family business (I don't know what it is--question #1) in one of the Southern states (question #2--I've never written a book set in Miss., Ala. or Georgia, my top contenders) and I need the business to be one that employs a number of people, has been very successful but is now facing troubling challenges. (At least, this is my latest thinking...I never know where I'll wind up!)

I also need to figure out what the heroine grows in her gardens, both vegetable and flower. Since my hubby is an avid gardener, I think I've got a good idea about the vegetables, as we're likely in similar zones, but I'm not sure about the flowers (though I live in hot country, too) because we do mostly xeriscape, not the azalea/camellia sort of thing.

I want a Southern state for the deep sense of tradition in a wealthy family that can entrap you, the strong rules of conduct and dress (we're a little too casual here in Texas), etc.

Anybody want to play what may wind up being Twenty Questions (or more!) with me?


Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

I grew up in West Virginia but we fought for the Union so I don't think you can count me as southern. Sorry I can't help, Jean!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Jean Brashear said...

You mean the War of Northern Aggression, Nancy? ;)

But thanks for the thought!

8:00 PM  
Anonymous MJS said...

He runs a business rehabbing old houses and selling them to people who move to the south to retire, but the housing market tanked and his business is in trouble - several houses that he has to pay mortgages on that aren't selling.

She grows daffodils called Eye of Partridge and the little yellow ones Southerners call Jonquils under her azalea bushes. Check out Henry Mitchell and Elizabeth Lawrence at the library. They don't write about the mechanics of gardening. They are essayists and if you haven't read them yet, I envy your meeting them for the first time. You will learn what plants not only grow in Southern gardens, but which touch Southern souls with joy and nostalgia.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Jean Brashear said...

Thanks, mjs! I'll look into Lawrence and Mitchell.

8:47 PM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

Some unexpected wealthy family businesses I have come across growing up in the south/midwest: Trucking company (your hero's business could be facing the crunch of higher gas prices and less stuff to ship), Rock Quarry (EPA regulations, or if you want to set up more conflict with the heroine--he needs a prime area as a new quarry, she wants it earmarked for a greenhouse/community garden project), Family Produce company (Peaches, citrus, onions--this could also set up a conflict with the heroine), loans (pay day type loans--this could create ethical pressures and negative town reaction), furniture (GA, NC, Tenn. are all hotbeds of furniture making and the industry has been really squeezed by the assemble-your-own stuff cheap products). To find out what your heroine grows in her veggie garden, get a copy of Green on Greens--he tells you what produce grows where, mentions heirloom varietys, and gives you good down-home style recipes. It's a fun and easy cookbook and more.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Jean Brashear said...

Wavybrains, thanks for all this--some great ideas here.

And I love to cook and am always interested in new recipes...not that I follow them all that well ;)--my family swears I've never followed the directions once in my life. (But where's the fun in following lockstep? ) Anyway, Green on Greens sounds terrific--thank you!

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Gigi said...

I live in the Deep South of Georgia. just 35 north of Tallahassee, Florida.
The hero could be a contractor.
Constuction of new homes has been in high demand because of the hurricane weary Floridians moving to our area. We are still close enough to the beach,but about 90miles inland.

Landscaping companies are pretty big here in the south because we have such warm weather. There are only a few months a year that people don't need a lawn mowed. WE don't get much cold weather down here.

As for a garden for the heroine. My choice of flowers is rose gardens. I have about 30 rose bushes. Exotic lilies are good too.
for a vegetable garden I have an aunt that grows everything she needs for a wonderful salad in her garden.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Jenny G said...

I live in Central FL and have also had stints in NC and SC.

If you are looking to base your book in the current timeline, any and all tourist related industries have taken big hits in the South due to a combination of hurricanes and rising gas prices.

My parents are actually a good example. They own a little 18 room motel in FL which they run themselves with no outside help, and they have seen a significant decrease in people traveling.

My parents also provide a good example for some plant recommendations (they have a flower garden out front of their motel and hidden behind some of their rooms is a little vegetable garden). Vegetables: Pretty much anything you can grow in the north, you can grow in the South, except you have 2 planting seasons: Spring and Fall. Don't expect much in the summer (too hot).

Plants: Azaleas, 4 o'clocks, southern bleeding hearts (not the same as the Northern variety), wandering jew (just be careful, it tries to take over, just like mint!), a wide variety of cacti and agave, lillies, amaryllis, pentas, etc. You may want to check some of the seed catalogs or their websites like for some more ideas. even lets you enter a zipcode and it will list some plants that do well in that area.

One of the most amazing plants that grows in my area is the century plant. It is a large, spikey plant (think Aloe Vera on steroids) and only blooms once in its entire life time (about 25 years). My parents have one outside their motel that is now 8 feet tall (Wikipedia says they can grow up to 25 feet tall). There are 2 things that I find amazing and a bit humorous about this plant: 1) Whe standing next to my parents' plant, I feel like I have taken a step into the prehistoric era, and 2) they are great anti-theft devices. People in my area tend to take advantage of their spikey leaves by planting them beneth their one wants to fight with one those plants!

I hope some of my ramblings help. If you have questions about anything I said, feel free to ask by emailing me at (take out the .NOSPAM to get my actual email address).

7:00 PM  

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