Villains, Victims, and Vices: A Conversation with Author Caroline Leavitt


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The writer talks about villains, victims, and vices – and why she snoops

In New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt’s 11th book, “Cruel Beautiful World,” 16-year-old Lucy runs off with her high school teacher, William. Set in 1969, against the backdrop of the Manson tragedy, the novel grapples with grief, scandal and love before turning dark. Leavitt writes from Hoboken, N.J., often called NYC’s sixth borough. 

 

What unifies your books?

I’m really interested in characters and people under duress. People living their life and something traumatic happens and makes them question everything they think they know about their life. 

Where do you get your ideas? 

From stuff that has happened to me. Something I’m trying to understand. “Girl in Trouble” for example was written after my husband and I were trying to openly adopt. We were never chosen and I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t forget all the voices of those young girls. I wrote the book to try and understand what it’s like to be so young and growing up still and have a child. What it’s like to be a couple trying to adopt. 

What’s the most difficult book you’ve written?

My first novel, “Meeting Rozzy Halfway.” I started out wanting to write short stories and sent the story into a contest. And won first prize and got an agent right away. She sold the short story as a novel. I panicked. But that was good. When you’re terrified, it signals you’re writing about something deeply meaningful for you. I feel the novel’s job is to go to all the dark and embarrassing places most people are afraid to go to. 

What’s the most profound thing you’ve uncovered about yourself?

It was with my current novel. I ended up writing about my relationship with my real-life sibling. I meant it to be a love letter to our relationship. Growing up she was my hero. And then she changed and became troubled and unhappy. And I’m this Pollyanna. I kept trying to help her and the more I tried the worst things became with us. As I was writing, the question became “how do you help someone you love when they don’t want your help?” The answer is sometimes you can’t. 

 

 

The New York Times said repositioning William as a victim in “Cruel Beautiful World” was “mawkish.” Do you agree?

William was just a troubled man. I believe no villain ever thinks he’s a villain. I let him tell his story at the end. But you don’t know whether he’s telling the truth or even believes what he’s saying.

Have you ever been a victim?

I met this guy once who seemed nice. After three months we moved in together. Things started turning weird. One time we went out to a restaurant and I reached for a roll, and he put his hand over my hand and said “oh honey you would look so much better if you were five pounds thinner.” Then it started with my clothes. He didn’t want me to see my friends. My friends staged an intervention. They said “you look like death.”

You wear cowboy boots to readings. Why?

On eBay I saw a pair of red cowboy boots for $10. And I thought, a woman who wears those boots wouldn’t be afraid. I felt braver when I put them on. People started knowing me as the woman who wears cowboy boots. I’m not scared now. When I wear them now I wear them because I want to, not because I need to. 

Do you have any vices?

Chocolate and coffee. You can’t get through life without coffee.

Any secrets?

 

To find out Caroline Leavitt's secrets and more, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine.

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South's Greatest Chef Contest 2017

With the food revolution starting in the South, it's no wonder our chefs are so dang popular.

South's Greatest Pets 2017

Nominate your pet for the South's Greatest Pets contest! Winners will be featured in a photo spread for South's August/ September issue!
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Events Calendar

  • Charleston Cars & Coffee

    Jun 17, 2017
    7:30 AM - 10:00 AM @ Mount Pleasant Towne Centre

    7:30am - 10:00am  FREE ADMISSION  Mount Pleasant Towne Centre,1712 Towne Centre Way,Mt Pleasant, SC 29464,USA A bunch of car and...

  • Charleston Farmers Market

    Jun 17, 2017
    8:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Marion Square

    8:00am - 2:00pm  FREE ADMISSION  Marion Square,329 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403,USA Join us every Saturday in beautiful Marion...

  • Amelia Adventures’ Endless Summer Daily Kayak Tours

    Jun 13, 2017
    9:00 AM @ Amelia's Adventures and Kayak

    9 am Amelia Adventures’ Endless Summer Daily Kayak Tours www.AmeliaAdventures.com CAll 904-500-TOUR for more information Repeats...

  • Live Oak Public Libraries Summer Reading Program

    Jun 01, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Libraries in Chatham, Effingham, & Liberty County

    Live Oak Public Libraries presents “Build a Better World” Summer Reading Program (SRP) June 1 – July 31. SRP offers engaging activities and...

  • Kayaking and Canoeing at Hanna Park

    Jun 14, 2017
    10:00 AM @ Hanna Park

    10 am Kayaking and Canoeing at Hanna Park Wed, thurs, fri, sat, sun  Wed-Thu 10-6pm, Fri-Sat 10-8pm, Sun 10-6pm $5 park admission, $20 hr...

  • BrainWaves Clay Sculpture Exhibit at Art League of Hilton Head Gallery

    Jun 07, 2017
    11:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ Art League of Hilton Head Gallery

    As one of Hilton Head’s premiere sculptors, Sheri Farbstein is well known for teaching classes, giving creative workshops and exhibiting her...

  • Jazz Brunch

    Jun 04, 2017
    11:30 AM - 2:00 PM @ The Westin

    The Westin's weekly Jazz Brunch is a treat for all, with spectacular views of Savannah, delicious food and beautiful music performed by the...

  • Applications for Leadership Savannah 2017-2018 Class Now Open

    Apr 01, 2017
    12:30 PM - 12:30 PM @ Savannah Area Chamber

    Leadership Savannah will begin accepting applications for its 2017-2018 class beginning April 1. The 2017-2018 class will be limited to 42...

  • Cone Art Exhibit Reception to Benefit Anderson Cancer Institute in Savannah

    May 18, 2017
    5:30 PM - 7:30 PM @ 24e

    CONE ART EXHIBIT RECEPTION TO BENEFIT ANDERSON CANCER INSTITUTE The Savannah artist Jim Cone announces a fine art exhibition with the opening...

  • Home Herbalism Workshop: Herbal First Aid Kit

    Jun 23, 2017
    6:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Starlandia Supply

    In this workshop students will learn the basics of building an herbal first aid kit for your home or for travel. They will discuss herbs that can...

  • ALJ Monday Night Ceramics

    Jun 12, 2017
    6:00 PM

    Students will learn how to build ceramic sculptures as well as hand crafting with various techniques in form and technique $60 for 4 sessions, $80...

  • Charleston Night Market

    Jun 16, 2017
    6:30 PM - 10:30 PM @ Charleston Historic City Market

    6:30- 10:30 pm  Historic City Market,Historic Charleston City Market,188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401,USA FREE ADMISSION  Spend...

  • HarbourFest (Every Monday - Friday)

    Jun 12, 2017
    6:30 PM @ Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina

    Two shows at 6:30 and 8:00pm Fireworks- Tuesdays, June 13, 20 & 27 Tuesdays, July 4, 11, 18 & 25 Tuesdays, August 1, 8 & 15...

  • Fire & Wine

    Jun 03, 2017
    7:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Foxy Loxy Cafe

    Fire & Wine at Foxy Loxy Cafe features half-priced bottles of wine, courtyard fire-pits, free marshmallows for roasting, and s'more kits. This...

  • Blues & BBQ Harbor Cruise on the Carolina Queen

    Jun 15, 2017
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Carolina Queen River Boat

    7:00pm-9:00pm Admission- $44.95 for adults/ $25 for children 4-11 Carolina Queen Riverboat,17 Lockwood Boulevard,Charleston, SC 29401,USA...

  • Fun With Albert

    Jun 01, 2017
    7:00 PM - 7:45 PM @ The Sea Pines Resort

    Join The Sea Pines Resort recreation team and our mascot, Albert the Alligator, for photos, games and activities on the lawn adjacent to the...

  • Free Movie Night on Folly Beach ( repeats every Wednesday until August 23rd)

    Jun 14, 2017
    7:30 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tides Folly Beach

    7:30-9:00pm Tides Folly Beach,1 Center St,Folly Beach, SC 29439,USA COST: Free From May 31st through August 23rd, Tides will play movies...

  • Mamma Mia!- HHI ( Every Tuesday- Saturday 8pm)

    Jun 14, 2017
    8:00 PM @ Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

    14 Shelter Cove Ln, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928 Full priced tickets June 16-August 6, 2017 are $50 for adults and $41 for children. Performance...

  • Generation Exhibition Opens

    May 26, 2017
    All Day @ Jepson Center

    Generation is an exhibition that brings together two generations of Iraqi-Canadian women artists—mother Sawsan AlSaraf and her daughters...

  • Her + Him Film

    May 26, 2017
    All Day @ Jepson Center

    Akram Zaatari (Lebanese, b. 1966) is a filmmaker, photographer, archival artist, and curator who lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon. Her + Him...


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Scenes of the South

Love the Wine You're With June

South Magazine and 39 Rue de Jean - Savannah host an evening of Power Networking and Fundraising on the third Wednesday of each month to raise awareness and funds for non-profit organizations. This event is free to attend. Coastal Pet Rescue is the charity for June and guests were invited to bring along their dogs and enjoy a night on the patio featuring, delicious regional wines and exceptional appetizers prepared by the culinary team at 39 Rue De Jean. Each glass of select wine will be priced at $7 and for each glass purchased, $1 will be given to the non profit. A Cash bar is also available for those who prefer beer or Spirits. Due to inclement weather, the event was moved inside to the Oyster Room at 39 Rue De Jean instead of its usual location outside on the patio, but we still had a great time! See you next month!

The JCB Mud Fest Mud Run June 2017

Hundreds of excited competitors came out to the JCB Mud Run and Dig and Ride events on June 20th to test their strength against the elements. Attendees had to endure 100 Degree heat to complete the 5 mile course made up of over 30 obstacles on this hot Savannah afternoon but everyone in attendance had one focus only - Finishing the Race! The event was once again an incredible success and 100% of race proceeds were donated to the children at The Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development. The Lady Bamford Center was created through a joint partnership of JCB, the City of Savannah, and The United Way of the Coastal Empire. The Center opened on October 16th, 2007 and is operated by Wesley Community Centers of Savannah, Inc. The Wesley Community Center has a long and distinguished history of serving the needs of working mothers and minority families in the community.

Father's Day Unity in the Community Camp Festival

Every 3rd weekend of the month, Unity in the Community of Savannah hosts free public events on River St. that bring the community together. Unity in the Community is a nonprofit organization that promotes and hosts free, family-friendly culturally diverse events to give back to the Savannah community. The events feature handcrafted ethnic arts and crafts, home-based businesses, and community nonprofits. Entertainment is provided by churches and other local individuals and groups.

3rd Annual 'Crawl of the South'

For the past two years, Savannah has attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the largest bar crawl for two years now, with no success. The event brings in 5,000+ crawlers, but each year they’ve reached within 500 participants of the record, but couldn’t quite grab that winning title. Still, the party continues on, but this year they left Guinness out. The focus this year was on the people, the bars, and the fun. The goal is to complete your scorecard by going to each participating bar on the list. At the end, bring your filled out card to the final location for the after party and a free shirt. It’s one of the biggest events of the year for Savannah. Check out our gallery to see who we ran in to along the way!

12th Annual Savannah Mile

Hundreds gathered for the 12th Annual Savannah Mile presented by the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire that honored our fallen first responders, their families, and our military heroes. The one mile course down Drayton Street from the south end of Forsyth Park to Broughton Street has heats for every fitness level and age group. Our elite first responders and military runners competed for the Full Gear * All Out Flag in the heroes heat in full gear (30 additional pounds). The family friendly Family Fun Run/Walk allowed anyone to participate, including strollers, wheelchairs, and our four legged family members. The Memory Walk had the surviving family members of our fallen first responders walk the mile in remembrance of their loved ones.

Chicago Bears After Party

Members of the 2006 Chicago Bears NFC North Championship team came to the coastal empire on Saturday, May 20th for a fundraiser and promotional event through the The Adrian Peterson Foundation and Wilmington Island Wishes. Players competed in a charity golf tournament at Bacon Park Golf Course during the day, followed by a visit with fans at Britania Pub from 2:30-5:00pm, a gathering open to the public. Former football stars scheduled to attend include recent College Football Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, the all-time leading rusher in NCAA Division I-A history from Georgia Southern University, former Pro Bowlers Mike Brown and Charles Tillman, former All-Pro Alex Brown and Anthony Adams. Tillman was the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. The Adrian Peterson Foundation is a non-profit organization which spotlights speech impediments and stuttering problems. In 2012, Peterson published the book “Don’t Dis My Abilities”. He is an accomplished inspirational and motivational speaker.

SCAD FASHWKND Runway Show 2017

Guests of this past weekends SCAD FASHWKND experienced wonders like the SCAD Savannah Runway Show, a juried celebration of fashion featuring premier SCAD School of Fashion senior and graduate student collections. Attire for this outdoor event was casual chic, and guests were invited to wear springtime ensembles that showcase their own personal style. Following the show, guests had the opportunity to purchase select garments and accessories created by SCAD alumni. This event was presented as part of the inaugural SCAD FASHWKND, the university’s most anticipated sartorial event of the year, held in Atlanta and Savannah.

Jim Cone Opening Reception at 24e

The opening reception of Jim Cone's fine art display at 24e in downtown Savannah was held Thursday night. The local artist unveiled more than 100 drawings, paintings, sculptures and mixed media pieces. Cone has been creating art for over 40 years. After a recent bout with cancer, he decided to use his talent to help others. "As you can see, his artistry is amazing. Jim's story is nothing short of miraculous,” 24e owner Ruel Joyner said. You can check out the exhibit until June 25. Proceeds from pieces sold will go to the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial Health.

Lawyers, Guns & Money 2017

The 5th Annual Lawyers, Guns & Money Sporting Clays Tournament 2017 was presented by Honda, Yamaha, Triumph, Kawasaki, KTM of Savannah. This year's event was be held on Friday, May 12, 2017 at Forest City Gun Club. The 100 target shoot started at 2pm and was followed by an After Party at 6pm featuring live music by Connellis and the Train Wrecks, a BBQ dinner, local craft beer from Southbound Brewery, wine, a silent auction, a gun raffle and a YETI raffle. This year the proceeds will benefit Abilities Unlimited, a local 501(c)(3) charity that provides progressive exercise programs for individuals in Chatham County with varying disabilities (Birth Defects, Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Cord Injuries and Neurological Injuries, etc.).

Crime Stoppers Race Against Crime 2017

On Saturday May 6th, community members came out to help CrimeStoppers fight crime in the community with the Race Against Crime (formerly the Azalea Run)! Runners could choose between the 5K, 10K, and 15K, with all the races starting and ending at Forsyth Park. Proceeds from the event will help fund the rewards that Crime Stoppers uses to pay out for tips that lead to arrests! All the races were dog friendly, and even the pups could get a free matching race bib as part of their "Pooch Patrol".