Dollar Daze

Metro Spirit | July 5, 2007
It’s never too late to start living, and you’re never too old to start loving, those chatty, catty women of Cayboo Creek discover in “Dollar Daze,” the newest novel by Augusta author Karin Gillespie.

Gillespie spins her hometown charm into colloquial comedy with this third in her series about very different women in the fictional town of Cayboo Creek, S.C. — which is supposed to lie between Augusta and Aiken.

Through dialogue packed with Southernisms and stories rife with rituals that remain in all rural American areas, Gillespie weaves the tapestry of a town full of endearing, quirky characters.

Fans of the first novels will see their favorite friends again, reunited at a dance that sparks some outrageous behavior from Attalee Gaines, an 80-year-old matron who finds herself infatuated with a younger man. Mavis Loomis, Birdie Purdy and Gracie Tobias, widows in their mid-sixties, certain that their dating days are over, watch her with a mixture of horror, jealousy and fear.

“Then they decide, ‘hmm, maybe not,’ and go on a little bit of a quest — a little bit of a manhunt,” Gillespie said.

The first two books focused on the younger women in the group, like Elizabeth, who faces her own life changes in this novel. But the older ladies, previously relegated to the background, are the focus of this novel.

“They were telling me, ‘It’s time for our stories,’” she said, sounding dangerously like she hears voices. “When you write a series you get to know the characters so well that they kind of live inside your head.”

Part of that may be because Gillespie has a close relationship with her mother — and as all Southern girls know, you can never really purge mom’s voice from your mind. Without ratting her out, Gillespie implies that her sexagenarian mother still lives life to the fullest.

Unfortunately, as in life, the number of available older men in Cayboo Creek is “as picked over as a garage sale at noontime,” according to Gillespie. So the landscape for love looks desolate until a high school heartthrob returns to town. Two of the ladies begin preening for his attention while one of them takes up with a rugged local doctor — a “duct” doctor, that is. Suddenly, everyone seems to be catching Cupid’s arrows despite their advanced ages.

“Last month, Good Housekeeping claimed that sixty is the new forty,” says Mavis, in the novel, and soon the ladies begin to act like it, reentering the realm of romance and setting tongues wagging in their small town.

Readers might recognize that town and more, in bits and pieces. Sprinkled throughout the novel are landmarks and descriptions that glorify Gillespie’s adopted home town of Augusta. Hey, they say to write what you know.

“There’s lots of local Augusta landmarks in it, like First Friday is in it, Washington Road is in it,” she said. “There’s lots of disguised places too, for instance, there’s a Savoy Center, which is an affluent shopping center, and you sort of have to guess.”

The novels are partially set in Augusta, and readers might wonder on whom the characters are based. Gillespie’s not telling. But look around you, and you’ll be sure to find a Gracie, a denizen of a certain well-heeled area overlooking the hamlet. You might see yourself in Elizabeth, a new mom who looks around for day-care centers and finds what she thinks are torture chambers.

That might not be the way Gillespie designed it, but then that’s just how she works.

“I’m not the kind of writer who plans everything out. A lot of people outline meticulously. I just sit down and start writing and then whatever happens ends up surprising me a lot,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie enjoys riding along on her characters’ adventures, discovering what’s going to happen as she goes. To do otherwise would be like stealing an early peek at her Christmas presents.

“To me writing a book is fun, to discover what’s going to happen,” she said.

Gillespie, a former freelance writer and area journalist, now makes her living writing full-time. She counts herself lucky but challenged in new ways.

“When you’re a fiction writer you never know when your next contract is coming up. So far so good for me because I keep getting contracts, but it’s frightening,” she said.

Besides her own novels, she worked with writer Jill Conner Browne on her first novel. The chronicler of the real-life “Sweet Potato Queens” and their lives and loves recently co-wrote “The Sweet Potato Queens’ First Big-Ass Novel.”

Gillespie has also optioned the rights of her first book, “Bet Your Bottom Dollar,” to actor James Woods.
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Address: 3124 B Washington Road, Augusta, GA 30907
  • Phone: (706) 496-2535