2017 Feature Author: William Rawlings

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If you ask William Rawlings where he lives, you will likely be told “in the Center of the Universe.” The thought comes from Lewis Thomas, the talented physician, scientist and essayist who compared a writer’s world to a universe swirling around the tip of his pen. Indeed, for an author and a physician, there are few richer sources of inspiration than that of a small, rural Southern town.

Rawlings was born, raised and still lives on the family farm in Sandersville, Georgia, where he is the son, grandson, nephew and brother to physicians who have served the area for more than a century. He was educated at Emory University in Oxford and Atlanta, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society. He earned his Doctorate in Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology at Tulane University in New Orleans. Completing his postgraduate medical training in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he returned to Sandersville to practice medicine with his father. He has received numerous awards and accolades over the years, including the award of an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Mercer University in 2011.

 Writing is an interest that developed relatively late. “Unlike a number of other authors, I didn’t grow up with a burning desire to be a writer.” Rawlings says. “But sometimes you have a story that just needs to be told, and so I hammered out my first book. To my great surprise, it was quite successful, and now writing occupies much of my free time.”  Working first in the genre of “Southern suspense,” his first five novels were commercially successful, earning positive reviews and interest from Hollywood. More recently he has turned to writing non-fiction, for the most part Southern history, and is a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines.

A Killing on Ring Jaw Bluff (Mercer University Press, 2014), Rawlings’s first non-fiction book, is the story of the infamous 1925 Rawlings-Tarbutton murder for which his great uncle, Charles Graves Rawlings, spent the latter part of his life in prison. “In 1920, Uncle Charlie was one of the richest men in the state,” Rawlings says. “Some five years later he was serving a life sentence for the conspiracy-murder of his first cousin. It’s a great tale, with all the elements of a Greek tragedy: greed, deception, lust, treachery and murder, not to mention actual court dialog that could have been written by Erle Stanley Gardner.”   The book has been commercially successful, going through a second hard cover printing, and released in softcover in September 2015.  In June 2014 it was named Finalist in History for the Georgia Author of the Year Awards.

Rawlings’s current book, The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire (Mercer University Press, 2016), is a definitive history of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.  The Klan was, for a brief moment in time, one of the most powerful social and political organizations in the United States, boasting as many as five million members.  “It’s a fascinating study in sociology,” Rawlings says, “and the Klan’s self-destructive decline was also as rapid as its rise to power.”

His forthcoming book, The Strange Journey of the Confederate Constitution, will be released by Mercer Press in late summer 2017.  It is a collection of shorter pieces on Georgia and Southern history.

Outside of his literary career, Rawlings has multiple business interests, as well as an addiction to travel, especially in Central and South America. “I think I inherited that from my grandfather, a country doctor who had a real fascination with Latin America and traveled there many times from the 1930s through the 1950s,” he said.

Rawlings is married to the former Elizabeth Dunwody of Macon. They have two daughters, one in college and the other in law school.  Now semi-retired from the practice of medicine, he divides his time between attending to his business interests, travel and writing.

As an author, Rawlings welcomes and encourages feedback (both positive and negative) from his readers. “I appreciate other opinions and always try to answer letters and emails promptly.” He enjoys giving talks and presentations to civic and book clubs, historical societies and other groups. Feel free to contact him by email (dirkrawlings@gmail.com).

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2017 Featured Author: Cassandra King

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Cassandra King is the author of five novels, most recently the critically acclaimed Moonrise (2013), her literary homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Moonrise is a Fall 2013 Okra Pick and a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) bestseller. It has been described as “her finest book to date.”

Fellow Southern writers Sandra Brown, Fannie Flagg, and Dorothea Benton Frank hailed her previous novel, Queen of Broken Hearts (2008), as “wonderful,” “uplifting,” “absolutely fabulous,” and “filled with irresistible characters.” Prior to that, King’s third book, The Same Sweet Girls (2005), was a #1 Booksense Selection and Booksense bestseller, a Southeastern Bookseller Association bestseller, a New York Post Required Reading selection, and a Literary Guild Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

Her first novel, Making Waves in Zion, was published in 1995 by River City Press and reissued in 2004 by Hyperion. Her second novel, The Sunday Wife (2002), was a Booksense Pick, aPeople Magazine Page-Turner of the Week, a Literary Guild Book-of-the-Month selection, a Books-a-Million President’s Pick, a South Carolina State Readers’ Circle selection, and a Salt Lake Library Readers’ Choice Award nominee. In paperback, the novel was chosen by the Nestle Corporation for its campaign to promote reading groups.

King’s short fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, includingCallaloo, Alabama Bound: The Stories of a State (1995), Belles’ Letters: Contemporary Fiction by Alabama Women (1999), Stories From Where We Live (2002), and Stories From The Blue Moon Café (2004). Aside from writing fiction, she has taught writing on the college level, conducted corporate writing seminars, worked as a human-interest reporter for a Pelham, Alabama, weekly paper, and published an article on her second-favorite pastime, cooking, inCooking Light magazine.

A native of L.A. (Lower Alabama), King currents lives in the Low Country of South Carolina with her husband, novelist Pat Conroy, whom she met when he wrote a blurb for Making Waves.

(Bio and images from author’s website)

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2017 Featured Author: June Hall McCash

JHMcCashJune Hall McCash is the author, co-author, or editor of thirteen books (four historical novels, eight nonfiction works, and one book of poetry) as well as numerous articles. Her novel, Plum Orchard, won the Georgia Author of the Year Award for best novel in 2013. Her first novel, Almost to Eden, also won the Georgia Author of the Year Award for first novel in 2011. She is the recipient of eight other literary awards for fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. She has spoken to many historical, museum, library, book clubs, and university groups throughout the South, as well as in Connecticut, New York, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, and abroad in France, England, Ireland, Wales, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada. She has appeared in four film documentaries and on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Her nonfiction books have focused primarily on the history of Jekyll Island, Georgia and medieval literature. Her most recent books are Marguerite’s Landing, published in 2016, and The Boys of Shiloh, published in December, 2015.

McCash holds a bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College as well as a master’s degree in French and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Emory University. Before becoming a full-time writer, she enjoyed an academic career at Middle Tennessee State University as a professor of French and humanities. At MTSU she was founding director of the University Honors Program (now Honors College) and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. She was the recipient of MTSU awards for teaching, distinguished research (1996), and career achievement (2003), the latter being the highest award given to one faculty member each year by the MTSU Foundation, She is also the recipient of as outstanding alumna award from Agnes Scott College in 1996.

She has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Education. Serving as chair of Humanities Tennessee, she helped to found the Southern Festival of Books. She also served as president of the Southeastern Medieval Association and the International Courtly Literature Society. She has recently completed a nine-year term as a trustee of the Jekyll Island Foundation and currently serves on the Foundation’s advisory board.

(Bio and image from author’s website)

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