Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Carolynn Carey Offers Sweet Southern Fiction and Great Recipes

A Recipe for Writing Sweet Southern Fiction

By Carolynn Carey

One of today’s popular myths about people who live in the southern part of the U.S.—the states that are known as “the South”—is that we all love to drink sweetened iced tea. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know anyone who drinks sweet tea. I’m sure there are some among us, but everyone I know orders their iced tea unsweetened and then adds an artificial sweetener that has no calories.
So what does sweet tea have to do with writing sweet Southern fiction? Merely that sometimes the writer has to choose between the myth and the reality, especially when the story setting is a small town.
I love writing stories set in small towns in the South, partly because I can create a world where neighbors are always neighborly, traditions are always observed, and people enjoy the simple pleasures of life year round. Among these simple pleasures are social gatherings, such as picnics, cookouts, and church suppers, all of which are excuses for Southern cooks to create their favorite dishes.
Three of my books are set in the fictional small town in Tennessee that I called Barbourville. The most recent of these books, Dealing with Denver, is the story of Denver Vance, one of three triplet brothers. Denver is the most laid-back of the brothers. In fact, when his new friend, Mattie Meadows, first asks him to help her search for her birth mother in Barbourville, he politely declines. After all, he explains, he was just passing through town on his way back to Chicago. But Mattie is determined, and Denver stays around to help. In the process, he’s introduced to some interesting Southern foods, such as buttermilk pie. If you’ve never tried buttermilk pie, you really should. It’s easy and delicious. Here’s a basic recipe.

Buttermilk Pie
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Add flour and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs until combined. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Beat well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for five minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake another 45 minutes or until set.
Yield: One 9-inch pie.

Food also has a role in the sweet romance I published in February 2012. In Prognosis for Happiness, at the request of his sister, Dr. Trevor Kendall takes a leave of absence from his Hollywood plastic surgery practice to return to the small Tennessee town where he attended high school so he can oversee the medical treatment of his young niece. Only after he arrives does he learn that his niece’s pediatrician is Dr. Gwen Meyer, his nemesis from their high school days. Once back in Brook Haven, he also happily becomes reacquainted with Southern cooking, including (since it’s summer), a delicious cucumber salad one of the hospital employees takes to the annual Mayhew County Memorial Hospital picnic. With summer coming on, you’ll want to try this recipe too.

Cucumber Salad
About 4 medium-sized cucumbers (enough to make 3 cups sliced)
1 medium onion
Peel cucumbers, score lengthwise with a fork, and slice thin. Slice onion very thin and mix with sliced cucumbers. Salt to taste.
Mix the following until very smooth and stir into cucumber mixture:
½ cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons vinegar

Chill until ready to serve.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, my recipe for writing sweet Southern fiction involves characters who reflect their small-town heritage, actions that are based on the traditional values of rural locations, and the love of good Southern cooking!

Buy Links for Carolynn's Sweet Romances:


Carolynn's website and blog:

Please welcome Carolynn to Sweet Not Spicy by Leaving a Comment.


  1. I too write sweet, southern romances, and I drink my tea unsweetened. I use splenda in it. When I make my tea to share with others I also use the granular form (not packets) of splenda in the pitcher so they get the sweetness without the calories.

    Thanks for sharing your recipes today, Carolynn

    1. Thanks for commenting on how you sweeten your tea, Leanne. Like you, I sometimes sweeten my homemade tea with the granular form of Splenda. I think it tastes almost like sugar. I also like to flavor my homemade tea using part of a packet of the powdered drink mix that's intended to be added to water. I like the pink lemonade or raspberry lemonade flavors, but you can't add too much or it doesn't taste like tea anymore. :-)

  2. Hi Carolynn. I'm from a small farming town in Florida and I drink my tea sweet. It drives me crazy when we go on vacation beyond the GA state line and I have to ask if they have sweet tea. My hubby's watching his sugar though, so he uses artifical. And his cousin bakes buttermilk pie every Christmas from her mother's recipe.

    I bake Mrs. Harvey's white fruitcake with a little twist of my own that I learned from my grandmother. And I have her from-scratch, tunnel of fudge cake recipe. I think I'm the only one in the family that has it.

    I write Southern small town inspirational romances.

    Good luck to you and your writing.

  3. Welcome to Sweet Not Spicy, Carolynn. Your books and recipes both look yummy!

    Morgan Mandel

    1. Thanks for inviting me to visit, Morgan. This is such a fun blog. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

  4. I have a friend who uses about six packets of artificial sweetener in every glass. Talk about sweet!

    As a big fan of Carolynn's work, I can say that her recipe for Sweet Southern Fiction is Perfection! And the buttermilk pie. Sigh.

    Great blog post!

    1. Six packets? Wow! I usually use just a half a packet. Guess I'm not as "sweet" as your friend. :-) Thanks for your kind words about my work. Hope you try the buttermilk pie someday. You'd love it!

  5. Holy monkey, I'm making that buttermilk pie! LOL Sounds sooo good! So do your books!

    1. Hi Bella. I do hope you'll try the buttermilk pie. It really is very, very good. And thanks for the comment about my books. I appreciate your stopping by! :-)

  6. Hi Carolyn,

    I'm another southern author who writes romances - and mysteries - set in the south. I try not to lean toward stereotypes too much, but people expect a certain type of "Dukes of Hazard" mentality when they pick up a southern book. It makes the challenge a little more interesting to deliver what they expect in a fresh way.

    Getting back to the sweet tea thing. When I was a kid everyone drank sweet tea, only it wasn't SWEET like it is today. I think my Mom put half a cup of sugar in a gallon of tea. And with such a big family, we only got one glass. After that it was water. These days, sweet tea in restaurants and fast food places is over-sweetened.

    I'm watching my caloric intake, so I use a packet of Splenda to sweeten my unsweetened tea. Only one of my sisters still drinks sweet tea, and she still sticks to the one glass a day rule because its "so sweet."

    Many people order half and half - half sweet and have unsweet teawhen they are out in restaurants.

    sugarless in Georgia

    1. Hi Maggie,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with iced tea. I'd never heard of ordering half and half before. That's certainly an interesting compromise, but I'd still worry about the calories. In fact, I usually just order water (without lemon) in restaurants these days.

      Writing stories set in the South does present certain challenges, especially since mine are set in Tennessee. I once had a reader complain that my characters sounded as though they were college educated. As a matter of fact, they were and the story said so, but I let it slide. Sometimes that's all you can do. :-)

      Thanks for your comment. I'll check out your books. They sound interesting.