Photo by Tamara Reynolds
The author of “Moonrise,” “The Sunday Wife,” “The Same Sweet Girls” and other novels will visit The Hidden Lantern Bookstore in Rosemary Beach from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday to sign copies of her latest release, a gift book called “The Same Sweet Girls Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle.”
Rick Bragg’s introduction to the book explains the difference between being an ordinary Southern man and being a gentleman, which he uses to illuminate how being a failed Southern belle is what makes a real Southern lady. The book contains black-and-white illustrations throughout and is designed as a keepsake or inspirational gift book. Among the bits of wisdom King shares: Know the value of time.
“Be a spendthrift with everything but time,” she writes. “Listen to me instead of your financial manager: It’s okay to spend money, to save it, to give it away, to worry over it. It’s just money. The only enemy in life is time. It helps to be reminded that fate always bats last, and always bats a thousand.”
As a bonus, King’s afterword focuses on the value of becoming a lifelong reader: “Books let us know we’re not alone in this world…. Some might say that we lose ourselves in a good book. In truth, we find ourselves.”
This book came about in a different way than King’s novels generally evolve, she said during a phone conversation Tuesday. It’s based on a commencement speech she gave at the University of Montevallo (her alma mater), and contains anecdotes to illustrate “hard life lessons,” she said. It’s also a tribute to a group of women who became friends while attending Montevallo.
“We call ourselves ‘The Same Sweet Girls,’” she said. “It came from a remark we heard in a speech one time by a beauty queen who had travelled all over but said she was still the same sweet girl she’d always been.”
King fictionalized the group in her New York Times bestselling novel, “The Same Sweet Girls” (2005). A portion of the money raised by publication of this new book will go to the University of Montevallo’s Same Sweet Girls Scholarship Fund.
King said she and her friends were empowered that day to rebel against the superficiality of “sweetness” and frame life in a different way — an authentic and generous way. The group “wanted everyone to know we hadn’t got the big head” despite their accomplishments, she joked. The term then became used ironically, or sometimes as a warning.
“We actually take it totally tongue-in-cheek,” King said. “We might say, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to be sweet, but you aren’t really.’ … It’s a way of having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously. We’re very aware that most people are more concerned about how we appear to others rather than how we really are.”
Each year, the group gathers and catches up, and they crown a queen from among their number — whoever has been “the sweetest” that year. As this year’s gathering coincides with King’s visit to Rosemary Beach, she said, “I’m going to have to be really, really sweet on that leg of the trip.”