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A Dramatic Re-interpretation

Sophia Alexander Author Interview

‘Silk: Caroline’s Story’ follows three women as they look for love, for themselves, and navigate the drastically changing culture of the south, some doing whatever it takes to get what they want. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My own family tree! I’ve been obsessed with genealogy since I was a girl, and there are some unclear, unexplained branches that I’m fairly sure I’ll never discover the absolute truth about. Why did Caroline choose to marry whom she did? What happened to her? Many of the main characters are based loosely on real people, but I’ve changed names as it’s so fictionalized. Silk is a dramatic re-interpretation of my own family’s obscured past, in which Jessie was likely not so evil at all.

What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

Hmm… I generally shy away from spelling them out, but you seem to have already gathered that my novels are rife with morals, if only because it’s simply how I think. Silk is flat, Lowcountry terrain compared with the mountains that exist of all my soapboxes!

Perhaps the most pervasive moral in the book, however, is one nearly universal for novelists: that it’s important to try to understand where others are coming from, to develop empathy—even for those with bats in their belfry, as Anne would say. That moral is not so much taught as experienced with all the head-hopping—and studies have shown that fiction readers do become more empathetic.

Honesty and fidelity, the value of friendships, the dangers of alcohol and extremism—these are other moral themes in Silk. I’m afraid, however, that many of the moral analogies I personally draw to today’s society are bound to be missed by readers. For instance, readers sometimes express their disdain for brothels and their understandable relief that brothels aren’t still widespread in America today. Rampant pornography is, however, now far more available than brothels ever were, is damaging to psyches and relationships, and objectifies people entirely.

Gracious, for all that I was hesitant to jump on an invitational soapbox, I’ve gotten started now! Countless moral ideas guided my writing of The Silk Trilogy—even if they barely brush the surface and are hardly mentioned. For example, broad-brimmed hats and parasols protect from the sun, which my characters do actively consider; this might not sound like a moral issue and certainly isn’t presented as such in the novel but, in fact, folks do need to protect themselves from skin cancer—I’ve personally had melanoma—yet most sunscreens are endocrine disruptors, even carcinogens themselves, while also damaging coral reefs. So as you can see, I can only relate a fraction of what’s relevant, just hoping to plant little seeds.

Other moral elements are briefly shared when Dr. Connor goes on about his dilemmas in practicing medicine—how to choose the safest, most effective therapies; being aware of the marketing ploys of pharmaceutical companies; issues with not being able to follow up with patients, etc.

One of my most heartfelt morals was difficult to flesh out satisfactorily, so to speak. I’m a vegetarian, quite against factory farming, so the meals feature casseroles, biscuits, cobblers, butterbeans, collard greens, pickles, etc. Reluctantly, I also include dishes like turtle soup and crabcakes, hoping to muster a traditional Southern table while not sending people salivating to their kitchens, inspired to throw on a pan of fried chicken. Jessie does eat barbeque in the first chapter, however, which helps set a Southern tone. Sigh… I tried, but I doubt that Silk helped my animal-rights mission one iota, except maybe through Caroline’s love for Julep.

I will say, however, that an overarching purpose/moral of the novel was to conjure up a fairly authentic Southern historic setting to help readers relate to Southerners a bit more. I’m thoroughly convinced that Southerners are one of the most maligned groups these days—so often parodied as ignorant, selfish, racist, bigoted, etc. Frankly, it’s now trendy to disparage Southerners, so I’m doing what I can with The Silk Trilogy to balk against that ugly bias.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One theme is dealing with women’s issues—how to exist as a woman in society, the joys and difficulties of motherhood and/or of having a career, clarifying and validating how difficult our choices can sometimes be.

Another theme is how extreme thoughts, fixations, and desperation can distort facts and lead to unspeakable acts, acts that perpetrators justify and too often entirely get away with.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Homespun, the last installment of the Silk Trilogy, is due to come out next St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2023. It centers on Caroline’s granddaughter, Ginny. Jessie’s still as deadly as ever, but her energies are channeled in a surprising new direction.

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Headless dolls, horse races, and arson—the tools of passion.

It’s 1899, and Caroline Corbett is ready for the twentieth century. She’s excited to find work and meet new people—but gets more than expected when a rough-hewn Lowcountry farmer and a small-town doctor both engage her affections.

The broad-shouldered, genial farmer is clear about his desires, and he’s there for her. The doctor is sophisticated, educated, and obviously the right choice—but sees no reason to dwell on certain realities.

In trying to decide between them, Caroline fails to consider the girl Jessie. A young sociopath bent on her own way, Jessie Bell sees very good reasons to dredge up unpleasant realities—and to create new ones. Before long, this South Carolina landscape is riddled with the detritus of her intense jealousies, which have set astonishing and horrifying events into motion.
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