Monday, September 21, 2015



The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.  

Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.

Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.



What five things would you never want to live without?
Red wine, dark chocolate, Chapstick (I’m an addict), reading classes or cheaters as we call them in the South (I’m older than most giant tortoises), and red wine. Did I already mention wine? Well, who cares? It deserves more than one mention. 

What would your main character, Toni Lee Wells, say about you?
She would say, “We aren’t the same people,” but in a way we are. I based Girl Meets Class on my experiences teaching at an inner city high school, where a good day was when someone didn’t throw a chair at me. But Toni Lee used to be a semi-pro tennis player, and when my tennis racket isn’t collecting cob webs in the closet, I use it to kill flies. Also she likes horror movies, whereas as I hide under the bed when the Wicked Witch of the West comes on in The Wizard of Oz. We both like wine. Her favorite is Marilyn Merlot; I’ll drink most anything as long as it doesn’t come in a jug. 

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing? How did you deal with it?

Heavens! What haven’t they said? Someone claimed that my first novel, Bet Your Bottom Dollar, wasn’t worth a dollar. A reviewer called my novel set in heaven “hellish.” I could go on but I won’t because my skin’s gotten so tough you could make it into a set of Samsonite luggage. I did boo-hoo over the first bad one, but now it’s like what the dentist says when he comes at you with the needle. “This will sting a bit.” And it does, but it’s over in a flash. Now if I got a whole slew of reviews all saying the same thing, I would pay attention. 

What is your favorite movie?
The Matrix, because it’s structured beautifully and I think it’s a metaphor for life. (Aren’t we all blind to some of life’s most important truths?) Also, who can resist Keanu Reeves in black leather and dark shades? 

Do you have a favorite book?

I think the Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler is the most perfect novel in the world. It’s beautifully written and well-plotted with unforgettable characters, but it’s also funny. I don’t think there are enough funny novels in the world.

Do you sweat the small stuff?

No. Because it’s all small stuff. Except when I’m out of wine.

If you had to choose a cliche about life, what would it be?

Don’t worry, be happy. I honestly do believe that joy is our natural state and the universe is most supportive of our endeavors when we are content and appreciate of what we already have. Every time I get into a snit, I try to meander on back to a more positive mental state.

How long is your to-do list?
It can wrap around the circumference of the globe three times with a few hundred feet left over. Authors are one of the hardest working people I know, but at least we can do most of it in our footie PJs.


Karin Gillespie has lived in the South for over forty years and is still trying to get the hang of it. She’s the author of six novels including her latest, Girl Meets Class, which is based on experiences teaching at an inner-city school. She’s written for the New York Times, Washington Post and Writer magazine. She has book column in the Augusta Chronicle and a humor column in Augusta Magazine.  

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