Fans of Karen White’s Tradd Street books have something else to celebrate this holiday season. “The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street,” the sixth title in White’s series and her first Noel-themed novel, has just been published.
A few weeks ahead of the book’s roll out, White was hardly resting on her holly-filled laurels. In fact, she was busy putting finishing touches on her upcoming standalone novel — due out in 2021 — while planning a host of author appearances stretching from Indiana and Florida to Texas and many points in between.
“I’m supposed to be at the beach right now,” she sighed and said. But there would be no rest for this weary writer anytime soon. With nearly two million books in print in 15 languages, White has been thrilling readers with Southern women’s fiction since 2000. At the time, she was living in Alpharetta, had just read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series and had such a “book hangover” that she couldn’t imagine reading anything else. So she began writing.
Two decades and 24 novels later, she and her family now live in Milton. In the process of producing a steady stream of New York Times bestselling “grit lit,” White’s life has been flooded with responsibilities in ark-like pairs. In addition to caring for two elderly parents, there are two dogs, two adult children, two houses, two authors with whom she occasionally collaborates and one husband whom she joked might as well be two, given all the other demands on her time.
“The distractions in my house are legion,” she said, laughing. “I need a vacation, but really, I just need to be locked in a white, padded room where I can just stare at the wall for a week. Without a phone or a computer. But with my dogs.”
While White playfully insisted she’s “on a merry-go-round, and I don’t know where the off switch is,” there is no doubt she knows just what literary buttons to push to keep fans clamoring for more.
When it comes to her Tradd Street titles, the appeal is downright otherworldly. A contemporary paranormal mystery series set in Charleston, the sixth installment “takes off exactly where book [No.] 5 left off,” she said.
Melanie and Jack Trenholm are living in the house on Tradd Street, White explained, and anticipating Christmas with their 18-month-old twins. Melanie is having trust issues, Jack is having career issues, and finances are strained. The trying situation is only exacerbated by the excavation of a centuries-old cistern in the garden of the historic house. Rumors of long-buried Revolutionary War treasures lure the living and the dead, including an old adversary in search of riches and a dark spirit Melanie senses peering out from her stepdaughter’s bedroom.
“Melanie’s inability to trust will come back and bite her in the rear end, and it will put her relationship with Jack in a crisis,” White said. “There’s lots of stress and tension in this one, but lots of funny bits, too. And, of course, Christmas.”
That combination of playfulness amid pressure sounds something like the author herself, which might be one reason White is often asked if Melanie is her fictional doppelgänger.
“I will neither confirm, nor deny those rumors,” she said, though she laughed and admitted Melanie “is like an exaggerated version of me, except I don’t see dead people.” The fact that plenty other “reputable people” are on record as having had ghostly encounters — including, she said, Winston Churchill, who claimed he saw Abraham Lincoln’s apparition in the White House — is enough to keep White populating her Tradd Street tales with spirits.
“People just respond to it, whether you believe or not,” she said.
Hollywood has likewise responded. TV serial rights to the six-book set have been optioned, though nothing concrete has yet been proposed.
“I think the Tradd Street series would make an excellent series,” White said. “But I’m not holding my breath.”
That is good advice for readers, whom White wants to forewarn: Her new book ends on a cliffhanger.
“So don’t be surprised,” she said. “But no worries. There will be a book No. 7, where I promise to wrap everything up.”
In other words, the next Tradd Street installment will be the last.
“You can’t just go on and on and on,” White said.
She doesn’t have a plot outlined. All she knows is the Tradd Street saga will end in 2021 or 2022.
“I don’t know anything about it yet,” she said. “It’s not even a twinkle in my eye. I’m trying to finish my 2021 book first.”
After that, she promises more standalone novels catering to readers who have come to rely on her for “a Karen White Southern fiction book featuring a female character and her journey.”
White will be appearing nearby at Gwinnett Public Library’s Nov. 2 “Books and Bites” in Norcross, as well as Nov. 14 at Marietta’s Book Exchange. For more information, go to karen-white.com.
Contributing journalist Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi, owner of Johns Creek’s KRC Communications. Connect with her at krccom.com.