Hidden Shelf
May 3, 2021
9 min read

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The Souls of Clayhatchee

A Southern Tale

By Anthony Todd Carlisle

Brief description of your new book: The Souls of Clayhatchee

 James Kingsman, a career-driven reporter, must suspend his work, his life in New York, and his relationship with girlfriend, Jackie, to travel 1,130 miles to Clayhatchee, Alabama, to fulfill his mother’s final wish: to be buried in the South, her native home. James finds his mother’s final request peculiar, since she has spent nearly 50 years in Pittsburgh as a housewife to John Kingsman and a mother to James and his siblings: Francis, Mark, and Celia. Although confounded by her request and hesitant to leave New York, James keeps his promise out of a sense of duty and love for his mother. James, who finds family life and his family in particular tedious, launches into a trip that reveals one secret after another.

In one or two sentences, what makes your book different from others in the same genre? I believe this story has a wide appeal and crosses genres — love story, family drama, mystery/crime story. I believe this is a good, heartfelt story of love and hope. 

Fan readers of which authors/books do you think would enjoy this title and why? Walter Mosley fans would enjoy this book because it’s a mystery that’s steeped in black tradition and vernacular. Fans of Eric Jerome Dickey books would also enjoy this read because of its humor and accessibility. I think fans of Terry McMillan would enjoy this book because of the strong women characters. They will see their sister, mother, girlfriend in these characters.

Is this book part of a series? Do you have more books planned? Yes, I’m looking at this book as the first in a series of books looking into this particular family as a vehicle to explore the great black migration from the South to the North in the early twentieth century. These stories are generational and broad  and representative of America’s struggles with its racial legacy of the Middle Passage, slavery, and Jim Crow. 

What are the most important goals you hope to achieve with publishing this book?

My most important goal is twofold: I would love to add to the discussion of racial healing in this country while also entertaining readers. Race is so baked into who we are as a nation and themes around race such as discrimination, slavery, prison pipeline, racial reconciliation are worth continuing exploration.  

Please share any backstory on why you choose to write this book at this time in your life/career?

I have always wanted to write fiction, and I expected I would one day after my career as a newspaper reporter. I actually started this story in 2002 when I was on deployment in Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom. When we had downtime, I spent most of my time reading novels–whatever I could get. I remember thoroughly enjoying Eric Jerome Dickey’s book Milk in My Coffee because of its humor and accessibility and I thought I could write something like that. I think the next day I flipped open my laptop and started my book.

What books, already published, would you consider to be similar or “comp” titles to yours? In other words, if your book were on a bookstore shelf, what titles would be next to it? Brothers and Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley, Milk in My Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.

Written by Rachel Wickstrom 

Rachel Wickstrom coordinates marketing at Hidden Shelf Publishing house. She’s an avid reader, master party-planner, craft enthusiast, a mom to two young boys with wildly long hair, and is married to a hospital chaplain. As an Oregon native, Rachel’s childhood memories are scented with juniper berries and the crisp mountain air of Central Oregon. She currently lives in Boise, Idaho where her days are scented with lukewarm coffee, and spilled snacks.

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