PITTSBORO — Chatham County author Marjorie Hudson believes the South must be embraced before it can be understood.
“The experience of living in the South is such a rich and layered tapestry,” she said. “I was born in the Midwest and grew up in Washington, D.C. After I moved here, I realized the South was so much more complex from anything I learned in school.”
Despite her Midwest origins, Hudson, 69, who lives in Pittsboro, is making a name for herself as a Southern writer: she has published five anthologies of short stories, poems and essays describing her life in this part of the country.
Now, her debut novel is getting rave reviews.
“This is a very exciting and rewarding time for me,” Hudson said.
“Indigo Field” — scheduled for released March 14 by Regal House Publishing — follows the story of a retired colonel in an upscale retirement community grieving his wife’s sudden death. On the other side of the highway, an elderly Black woman grieves the murder of her niece by a white man. Between them lies an abandoned field where three centuries of crimes are hidden. When the colonel runs into her car one day, the accident starts a feud that sets loose the spirits in the field.
Contemporary best-selling Southern writers such as Jill McCorkle and Sue Monk Kidd have praised the book, and literary critics have lauded Hudson’s prose style.
‘A certain sweetness’
Hudson traces that style to her experiences living in Chatham County.
“It is a little ironic that someone from the Midwest would fall in love with writing about the South,” Hudson laughs. “However, I have lived in North Carolina since 1984 and I love it here. The people here have a certain sweetness that draws you to them. It’s a more welcoming and diverse community than other places I have lived.”
Hudson said she was inspired to start writing fiction while serving as copyediting chief for Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill, working with contemporary Southern writers including McCorkle, Kaye Gibbons and Clyde Edgerton.
“I loved the writers I worked with,” Hudson said. “Each of them inspired me in different ways.”
Hudson said writing about life in the South involves a unique way people tell their stories.
“When I first came to North Carolina I remember how mesmerized I was at the way people spoke,” Hudson said. “I fell in love with the beautiful rolling accents. It has its own scale. The way people talk here is perfectly modulated for storytelling.”
Hudson said she is just as inspired by the natural beauty of the region as she is by the people that live here. Hudson lives on a “century farm” in Pittsboro with her husband, Sam, and her feisty terrier, DJ.
“I married into a local Chatham County family,” Hudson said. “We were so fortunate that his family has had this property for generations. I remember the first time I went there, a rainbow suddenly appeared over the farmhouse and I remember thinking, ‘This feels like home.’ I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to live.”
The themes Hudson uses to describe contemporary Southern life have also been noted by critics.
“Life here is so layered,” Hudson said. “I love exploring things like the experiences of newcomers to the South; or the shared, multi-generational and interracial history people share. There are so many facets of life here to explore and I wanted to explore them in this book.”
A story with many layers
What “Indigo Field” is about, though, will be up to the individual reader, she says.
“For me, it’s about how we ignore history and ignore crossing boundaries at our own peril,” Hudson said. “However, it’s also a story about personal growth and coming together as a community. The story has as many layers as life here does.”
“A rich tapestry of history and nature,” is how McCorkle, the New York Times bestselling author of “Hieroglyphics,” “Life After Life,” and “Going Away Shoes,” described the work. “A compelling and surprising journey as unlikely characters come together in moments of shelter and grace.”
“Indigo Field brims with multi-generational drama, earthly spirituality and deeply imagined characters you are unlikely to forget,” Sue Monk Kidd, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Invention of Wings,” and “The Secret Life of Bees,” wrote in her review of the book. “In tightly compressed, poetic language, Hudson weaves a mesmerizing story of loss, injustice and revenge conspiring to darken the human heart … and if the redemptive and unexpected ways the light comes in.”
Hudson said she was “deeply touched” by the reception the novel has received from other authors.
“It has been simply overwhelming to say the least,” she said.
Local readers of “Indigo Field” also have praised Hudson’s latest work.
Pete Mock, the book buyer at McIntyre‘s Books in Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, said the novel “had me weeping.”
“It’s a damn good book,” Mock said. “I’ve known Marjorie for 20 years and I’m always a little nervous reading something a friend has written because I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to tell them if I don’t like it?’ However, this book drew me right in. It’s absolutely phenomenal.”
Mock said he first met Hudson when she was involved with the Chatham Reads program, which promotes literacy and ensures reading resources are available to Chatham County residents.
“Marjorie introduced a bunch of people in Chatham County to ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini,” Mock said. “Hardly anyone around here had even heard of Hosseini, but everyone loved the book.”
Mock said Hudson also persuaded Hosseini to come to Chatham County to attend an event sponsored by the bookstore.
“We had more than 800 people show up for that,” Mock said. “It was crazy. I really thought I was going to be crushed.”
Mock said Hudson has convinced other authors, including Kidd, to come to Chatham County to meet readers.
“Marjorie is amazing,” he said. “She is really a go-getter.”
Mock said the bookstore is hosting a similar event on March 18 to promote the launching of “Indigo Field.”
“Marjorie has done so much in our community” Mock said. “We are pleased to be doing this for her. This is such a fantastic novel … we want to do everything we can to get the word out about it.”
‘This is a national novel’
But Mock said the owners and employees of McIntyre’s Books aren’t just limiting their endorsements of the novel to the local level.
“We have connections and friends amongst booksellers all over the country,” Mock said. “We are sending this book out to these people and telling them to take a look at it because it is so phenomenal.”
Mock says he’s afraid some might see Hudson’s book as “more of a regional-type novel.”
“But it’s so much more than that,” he said. “This is not a Southern novel or a North Carolina novel. This is a a national novel and we are going to do what we can get the word out there.”
Hudson said she was looking forward to the McIntrye event and is “completely grateful” for the local support.
“It’s hard to describe how wonderful people here are,” Hudson said. “However, support like this from the community makes me realize how fortunate I am to be living in Chatham County.”
“Indigo Field” is scheduled for release on March 14. The novel will be available for purchase at local bookstores or can be ordered online at Regal House Publishing’s website at https://regal-house-publishing.mybigcommerce.com/indigo-field/.