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Arkansas is the home of and the inspiration to many authors. We have authors from every genre who call the Natural State home. Some are transplants to the state. Some were raised here and have since moved on but still recognize their roots in Arkansas.
I have spent the last few months exploring the writings of several different authors that I think you will truly enjoy. Here is a sneak peek into the lives of five Arkansas authors that you need to check out.
Mark Caldwell Jones
Mark Caldwell Jones has been writing his whole life and just can’t stop. His mother keeps stacks of notebooks and evidence of his writing from a young age when his writing was what he describes as terrible, silly and hilarious. Jones says he will always consider himself a student-in-progress when it comes to grammar, writing and storytelling.
Jones did well in school but was known for putting things off until the last minute. He said that he has always been labeled as the creative, artistic guy but that he sometimes let those labels be an excuse for procrastination and poor follow-through. Getting diagnosed with ADD as an adult helped him to understand why he had a lack of focus. Managing his distractibility is still a daily challenge, so he often wears ninja sandals and socks, so he is always ready for action!
Jones is heavily influenced by comic books, movies and television. His considers his character Opal, from Opal Summerfield and the Battle of Fallmoon Gap to be the first Arkansas superhero. Most of the fiction Jones has written is fantasy. “Opal” is essentially Harry Potter in the Ozark Mountains. The Samurai and the Jabberwocky is a post-apocalyptic story about a kid who wants to be a samurai. Stylistically, reviewers have said his work has vivid imagery and great action. So, if you love reading cinematic fantasy stories grab one of Mark Caldwell Jones’s books!
Mark Caldwell Jones’s book Opal Summerfield and the Battle of Fallmoon Gap is built to expose Arkansas folklore to a wider audience. The whole book is full of diverse characters and references to real places, and myths based in Arkansas—everything from Blanchard Springs Caverns to Sam Walton gets a wink or nod in this book. Jones’s most recent novel The Samurai and the Jabberwocky is a post-apocalyptic story about a kid who wants to be a samurai.
John Achor keeps his eyes and ears open to listen for ideas. Ideas are everywhere, and he finds stories in the people around him. Achor says that while writing comes easy he finds the editing to be the worst part of the process. But again, he relies on his ears to help him know when something is incorrect.
Achor enjoys creating a story, seeing it come alive on the page and learning how it comes out in the end. He considers himself to be more of a seat-of-the-pants writer than a planner and an outliner, so the ending is sometimes a mystery until he gets there.
He is more of a traditionalist when it comes to reading, preferring a hardback book over a paperback or an e-book. He also believes that a cover is important. Readers have to be intrigued by the cover otherwise they will never pick it up to read the blurb or the first few pages. If the reader doesn’t follow those steps, then a purchase is not likely.
John Achor is a former U.S. Air Force pilot who also spent many years working as a real estate agent. Now living in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, Achor is devoting his time to writing. One-Two, Kill a Few, the first book in his Casey Fremont series was released in 2014. Three, Four, Kill Some More is scheduled to be released later this year, and he is currently working on his third book in the series.
Achor says his character Casey Fremont is relatable because she has faults and foibles like most of us. Casey Fremont is a lady detective, recovering from a contentious divorce and rebuilding her own self-esteem. She would just rather keep to herself and make a little money to pay her bills. In One-Two, Kill a Few, Casey finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery that she must solve lest she becomes the third victim.
Jenny B. Jones describes herself as a “word nerd” who loved to diagram sentences when she was in school. Her books are generally geared toward women who like a fast read, want an escape, are up for a few laughs, and like a romance that has some fun tension, but isn’t rated R and wouldn’t shame your grandmother.
Jones finds writing to be the hardest part of writing. Sitting down every day to face the empty page can be difficult to do. Jones also feels that the act of sitting is hard to do day in and day out and has been known to write on her treadmill. She jokes that we all know that’s going to end badly!
Jones’s first novel In Between has been her most popular. It’s about a teenage foster child who gets sent to live with a pastor and his wife. Once she gets there, she finds life isn’t perfect inside the house and family is about more than DNA. It has a good mix of heart, humor, and a memorable cast of characters. In Between is currently FREE on all digital retailers.
Jones’s most recent work is the romance novella collection titled Just One Summer. This collection features Wild Heart Summer by Jenny B. Jones. Just One Summer was published in June of 2015.
Born and raised in the Arkansas Delta, Charlaine Harris, who was always a good student thanks to her strict parents, went on to become a truly successful author. Harris enjoys snacking on rice cakes while she works and feels that the most stressful part of writing is the sole responsibility for the outcome of the book.
Harris has always been drawn to the paranormal in her writing and often wrote poems about ghosts in her late teens. Her popular Sookie Stackhouse series that began in 2001 with the book Dead Until Dark, followed the life of a telepathic barmaid who was interested in inter-species dating. The genre was later labeled as “urban fantasy” and followed Sookie through a series of adventures involving vampires, werewolves and other creatures. The Sookie Stackhouse novels inspired the very popular HBO series True Blood.
Charlaine Harris is currently working on her Midnight, Texas series. Day Shift, the second novel in the series, was released in May. Day Shift follows the life of the beautiful and dangerous Olivia Charity, a girl who is living with a vampire.
Lela Davidson is balancing a whole lot these days. By day she leads the media and entertainment team at America’s leading country lifestyle destination, Country Outfitter. Writing time is divided between actual writing and promoting her latest book, aptly titled Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life. Davison writes short, hilarious essays for women who have better things to do than impress the PTA and fold their fitted sheets.
Ayden K. Morgen works full-time as a 911 dispatcher but makes time in her life to write. She has been writing since she first learned how. She finds it cathartic and finds that knowing she can share something with others is what motivates her to make a commitment to writing.
Morgen thinks one of the things that makes her books unique is that they don’t shy away from harsh realities or try to sugar coat them. She writes romance, but there’s always an underlying issue that people deal with in the real world every day. In All Falls Down, for instance, Savannah Martin finds herself trying to move on after escaping an abusive relationship. You see a lot of the self-doubt, guilt and blame that so many domestic abuse victims deal with. All Cried Out, the sequel, deals with the reality that domestic abuse victims tend to be in the most danger after they leave.
Morgen loves a good paperback but is warming up to the idea of the e-books and has lately done most of her reading on a Kindle. She loves to sip sweet tea and snack on dried cranberries while she is writing. She would love to have dinner with her character Arionna Jacobs from the Ragnarök Prophesies series. She’s been working on the third book of the series forever and would love to have an hour or two to convince her to cooperate!
Ayden K. Morgen currently has five novels. Fade and Fall, the first two books of the Ragnarök Prophesies series, have been the most popular. Fade has been an Amazon best-seller a couple of times, with Fall not far behind. In terms of reader reaction, All Falls Down has been the one she hears about the most. Morgen loves it when readers reach out to her regarding things that resonate with them. All Cried Out is Morgen’s latest novel.
Check out these additional Arkansas authors that were recommended by the authors featured above:
Vance Randolph – Famous folklorist who studied the folklore of the Ozarks.
John Grisham – Well-known author of books such as The Firm and The Pelican Brief.
Joan Hess – Known for her Maggody Mysteries and her Claire Malloy series, both set in Arkansas.
Laura Castoro (DD Ayers) – Writes romantic suspense, historical romance and women’s fiction.
Robin Caroll – writes southern stories of mystery and suspense.
In researching this article, I discovered that there are hundreds of great authors who reside or grew up here in Arkansas. It was impossible to feature them all and I am sure I missed several of your favorites. Please leave a comment to tell us your favorite Arkansas author!
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