Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Texas RulesBy Susan McBride, Author of THE DEBS

Even though I now live in St. Louis, I resided in Texas for nearly half my life, probably one of the big reasons I set my books there. The Lone Star State makes for such a great setting that it’s always tempting to use it as a backdrop, which I did with my Debutante Dropout Mysteries for five books (those took place in Dallas) and am doing now with my YA series, THE DEBS. My four debutantes--Laura, Ginger, Mac, and Jo Lynn--live in Houston, where I spent 11 years during junior high, high school, and college. Not only do I have lots of vivid memories of the environment—lush and green with plenty of rain and humidity, even a hurricane that knocked down the back fence—I have even more colorful recollections of the people. It helps, too, that I had friends who were debutantes, so I understand the process pretty darned well for a non-deb. And I adore all the not-so-subtle nuances about the state that make it more like an extra character in my books than just a place.

For fun, I thought I’d list some of my favorite things about Texas that make it so danged fun to write about. Take, for instance, the reverence for high school football. Even Kinky Friedman, in his GUIDE TO TEXAS ETIQUETTE, mentions how newspapers across the state provide much less space for international and national events than they do for high school football, which he claims takes up at least 10 pages. He’s got that right. When I was in school in Houston (go, Memorial Mustangs!), Friday night lights meant Tully Stadium was packed to the gills with rabid fans and being a “blue chip” player equaled rock star status. For girls, the equivalent aspiration was to make the varsity cheerleading squad (at Memorial, there was only varsity). Talk about cut-throat. Now you know why some cheerleader’s mom tried to hire a hit-man to get rid of her daughter’s competition (seriously!).

Another specialty of Texas is Big Hair. When I was in high school, I had a stylist who kept begging me to let her tease my hair like Reba McEntire’s. If any of y’all remember country queen Reba’s hair from the ‘80s, it was as big and red as a barn. Needless to say, I declined, although I did allow her to perm my hair once and I looked a little like Meg "When Harry Met Sally" Ryan does Little Orphan Annie. Not a pretty sight.

If you love hanging out in the sauna, you’d like living in Houston. It’s not called “The Bayou City” for nothing. Because of the tropical climate, the flora is gorgeous. When we moved from Connecticut to Houston when I was 13, I could hardly believe we had honest to God palm trees growing in our yard (and beside our pool, which we could swim in nearly all year-round even without turning on the heat). The downside: if you like your Big Hair, you’d better stock up on the hairspray and the frizz eliminator. The upside: you pretty much bypass winter altogether (actually, a downside for me, as I adore winter!). Once in the eleven years I lived in H-town, it snowed a trace. The whole city shut down. I’m sure Midwesterners had a good laugh over that.

Oh, yes, and let’s not forget the deep attachment to beauty pageants. I do believe Texas has had more Miss USAs (or maybe it’s more Miss Americas) than any other state. If memory serves me, butt-tape or boob-tape was invented by Texans. Well, c'mon now, if everything’s bigger in Texas you’ve got to have a way to hold it all in place.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried (and I do try—after all, making up stuff is my job). Which is why I can’t imagine setting THE DEBS anywhere but in my former home state, a place that’s larger than life, just like my debs.

Susan McBride's YA series debut with Random House, THE DEBS, features four prep school seniors in Houston clawing their way through their debutante season. A Fall 2008 Kid’s Indie Next Pick, THE DEBS has been called GOSSIP GIRL on mint juleps. The second DEBS book, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS, will be out in June of 2009, and Susan's busy writing the third. Susan has also penned five Debutante Dropout Mysteries for Avon, including TOO PRETTY TO DIE and BLUE BLOOD.


Ladytink_534 said...

After reading so many reviews about The Debs I picked up Blue Blood from my library (they don't have her latest and I'm on a book buying ban until I read at least 50 of the books in my TBR pile that I own).

Kris said...

ladytink_534 - her mystery series is one of my favorites! I hope you enjoy.

Tessa said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.