My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands. Today’s guest is Brenda Bevan Remmes, author of The Quaker Cafe, a novel about secrets from the past that threaten to unravel the delicate fabric of racial harmony in an easily-divided Southern town. Brenda has written for Newsweek and university journals, and she spent her career conducting rural health education programs for the Schools of Medicine at both the University of North Carolina and the University of South Carolina. She lives with her husband near Black River Swamp, North Carolina in an old family home filled with the history and stories of generations past. For more information on The Quaker Cafe, please visit Brenda’s website.
My First Inspirations
The first time I realized I wanted to write a book was when I read, John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Perhaps this is not the book that inspires great literature, but it is the book that inspired me. Berendt wrote about a South that I knew. Holy cow, I had a DNA connection to half the characters and I loved them all. But instead of writing a syrupy tongue-in-cheek cozy mystery, Berendt dug up the graves and hit some raw nerves. I thought it was great drama cushioned within the multi-layered flavors of Savannah.
I won’t go into details. It didn’t end as well as we’d hoped. Someone else caught on to the fact that he was dead and blew the whole incident out of proportion. There were several Yankees in the restaurants, and, well, they simply didn’t understand Southern etiquette. At that very moment, however, I remember thinking I’ve got to write this down.
Writing about my eccentric and delightfully entertaining relatives does not, however, “move the heart,” as Roger Rosenblatt’s book so strongly points out. BUT, and this is a very pronounced “but,” it keeps the reader from closing the book on the part of the story that we simply don’t want to draw attention to or blow out of proportion. I’m a person who has had the fortune to know many good people throughout my lifetime. Good people are not without faults, and as much as we’d prefer to ignore them, poor choices can have lasting ramifications on others for generations to come. It’s taken me several years to put that into words, but for my first novel, The Quaker Cafe, I feel like I have. Within the multi-layered characters and humor, there lies drama that affects us all to this day.