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Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

Let's give today's guest author T.I. Lowe a warm Seekerville welcome as she shares her heart for writing characters who are considered different by embracing the marginalized.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

I was asked the following question in an interview for my book Under the Magnolias and thought I would elaborate on it for you in this post:

Why did you choose to represent characters who are “marginalized” or “misunderstood” in this book?

My answer: I am just so tired of the labels and the unrealistic boxes society creates and expects you to live up to. That’s hogwash. If God wanted us all to fit in the same box, he would have created us as carbon copies. He didn’t, so that means it’s a gift to be different and I think differences should be celebrated. I did a lot of celebrating this in Under the Magnolias.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

That’s the blunt answer, and I feel like bluntness is needed for this question. No beating around the bush.

As a writer, I think it would be an injustice to write solely about cookie-cutter characters. I don’t know about you, but I’m a hot mess. I have issues. I’m pudgy. When I’m nervous, I cannot find eloquence to save my life. And those are just some of my issues. Other folks have other issues. Honestly, that’s what makes them interesting in my book.

My desire is to showcase differences, in all forms, and to have people realize how unnecessary labels and boxes are. The ones who are typically overlooked are the ones I always gravitate toward when investing in character studies.

Labels created by society come with scarlet letters of shame. Body-shaming. Race shaming. Gender shaming. Social views shaming. I could go on and on. If one person reads Under the Magnolias and can relate to one of the marginalized characters and realize they are perfectly acceptable as is, then I’ve done the job I wanted to achieve.

Here’s a sneak peek at the interesting mix of characters you will meet in Under the Magnolias.

As the piano came to life, I sat a little straighter and scanned the small pews and felt certain the ragtag congregation near about represented any walk of life you could think of.

A fortune-teller accused of being a witch doctor. Check.

An ex-con with a glass eye. Check.

An atheist believer with a Polish accent. Check.

The town’s undertaker whose sexual orientation was questionable. Check.

The town floozy with a penchant for neon-blue eye shadow. Check.

A poor farming family with way too many kids. Check.

A madman leading them. Check.

As you can see in this small excerpt, there is quite a colorful group of people just waiting to introduce themselves to you. Sadly, they carry labels and shame formed from falsities and gossip. Mostly because those characters didn’t look or act like the “normal” townsfolk. Surfaces can be deceiving, but with a closer look, my readers are going to meet a spectacular group of people.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe
It’s time to stop the shaming and start being encouragers. I know this sounds more like a soapbox speech, but I think it’s important to grasp, in real life and in fiction. And as a Christian author, I feel like it’s my duty to love as Jesus loved. That means encouraging and not shaming. I want people to read my stories and see themselves walking through the mistakes with my characters, and I want them to celebrate in the moments of redemption as well.

Sometimes our issues or the labels placed on us due to our issues hold us back from seeking help when we need it. Shame will send us into hiding. Readers will discover how detrimental this is in Under the Magnolias. My characters hide behind the labels, become prisoners to them actually, until it almost becomes their ruin.

As a writer I have the gift of giving the story a happy ending. Sadly, this isn’t always the case in real life. Please, if you are struggling with any form of mental illness or have been hiding some other issue, I want to encourage you to get help. As Austin Foster discovers in this book, you’d be surprised how supportive those around you can be if you just let them in.


Is there a marginalized character you’ve discovered in a book you related to? If so, what book and how did it affect you? 

Share your thoughts in the comments and one reader will win a print copy of Under the Magnolias courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers.


Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe
Under the Magnolias
Releasing May 4, 2021
 
This night not only marked the end to the drought, but also the end to the long-held secret we’d kept hidden under the magnolias.

Magnolia, South Carolina, 1980

Austin Foster is barely a teenager when her mama dies giving birth to twins, leaving her to pick up the pieces while holding her six siblings together and doing her best to stop her daddy from retreating into his personal darkness.

Scratching out a living on the family’s tobacco farm is as tough as it gets. When a few random acts of kindness help to ease the Fosters’ hardships, Austin finds herself relying upon some of Magnolia’s most colorful citizens for friendship and more. But it’s next to impossible to hide the truth about the goings-on at Nolia Farms, and Austin’s desperate attempts to save face all but break her.

Just when it seems she might have something more waiting for her—with the son of a wealthy local family who she’s crushed on for years—her father makes a choice that will crack wide-open the family’s secrets and lead to a public reckoning. There are consequences for loving a boy like Vance Cumberland, but there is also freedom in the truth.

T. I. Lowe’s gritty yet tender and uplifting tale reminds us that a great story can break your heart . . . then heal it in the best possible way.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

T. I. Lowe
is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories and is the author of nearly twenty published novels, including her debut, Lulu's Café, a number one bestseller. She lives with her husband and family in coastal South Carolina. Find her at tilowe.com or on Facebook (T.I.Lowe), Instagram (tilowe), and Twitter (@TiLowe).

Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe


Cooking with Love not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe on Seekerville

The South is steeped in traditions as rich as chocolate gravy over hot buttermilk biscuits, and we take our traditions just as seriously as our biscuits. An endearing custom of my small town is that we love on you with food. Are you sick? Soup is on the way. Did someone pass away in your family? Make room in your freezer, because an assortment of casseroles will be lining your countertops and any other surface we can find. Having a baby? Yep, more food is on the way.

Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
In my home, I have a giant sign over the pantry door that says GROCERY. I point to it when guests arrive and then to the fridge, while delivering a sweet yet firm warning that I’ll be offended if they do not make themselves at home. Seriously, a visit doesn’t seem successful if guests leave without eating or drinking something. And do not dare turn a Southerner down when they offer you some food to take home with you!

Do you even want me to get started about Southern holiday traditions? It’s all centered around the oven, I tell ya. Baked goods galore. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We love with food.


Although I think this tradition is charming, it’s given me pause at times. Especially when I sat down to write Lulu’s Café. The “loving on you with food” had to be there, but I decided to explore the possibility of presenting it in a healthier way. I’m sure this is making some of you gasp. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy concept, considering I’ve been raised in the Butter Belt. I’m known for my baked goods and give them out generously as my way of loving on folks.

While coming up with ways for Lulu to use healthier ingredients in her Southern dishes, I also pondered the entire idea of how people show their love to others—food being only one way in an infinite array of possibilities. Although we may all have a different perspective on this, there is one thing we all have in common that we can use to help show our love. We have a limited amount of this and do not know exactly when the supply of it will run out, but I’ve come to view it as one of the greatest gifts we have.

Time. We all have the gift of time.


Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
The twenty-layer chocolate cake I make on a very rare occasion for my family comes to mind. It’s a giant, super-decadent treat. No way can we eat all of it in one day. There will most likely be leftover cake to enjoy the next day, too. This is not the case with our time. Once a day is gone, it’s gone. There are no leftover hours or minutes or even seconds you can carry over for another slice of time.

I often wonder if I’ve loved my family with enough of my time. What will they remember me by when my time limit is up? Did I stop and listen enough? Did we laugh enough? Did I pay enough attention when they had tears in their eyes? Did they know they could depend on me for more than delicious servings of cake?

Lulu made a good point in the book—At the moment, the girl didn’t need to listen. She needed to be heard. If you’ve ever sat down with me over a cup of coffee, then you know I can talk your ear off. However, I also understand what Lulu meant. Listening is a gift. My children have things they need to say, and they need to be heard. Remembering this, I stopped while typing just now to go hang out with them for a little while, giving them the chance to speak. Honestly, I don’t always get this gift of love right. The busyness of life can get in the way, but it’s up to us to be mindful of not allowing it to take over.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m still loving on my family and others with food. It’s a part of my Southern makeup, after all. But when I deliver a casserole or cake to someone, I try to give them a serving of my time to listen as well. Suppertime in the Lowe house is always done together at least five days a week. My crowd is so spoiled—in a good way—that they wrinkle their noses at the idea of take-out most nights, but I don’t mind . . . mostly. I love cooking up nourishing meals, knowing they will enjoy them and it will be much healthier for their bodies. That, in itself, is a gift I love giving.

How about you? What gifts of love do you enjoy sharing with others? Any traditions other than food? And if it’s food, any unique dishes?



Celebrating release day for Lulu's Café!

Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
When a damaged young woman is given a chance to reclaim her life in a small South Carolina town, she must reckon with the dark secrets she left behind in order to accept the love she deserves.

On the run from a violent past, Leah Allen arrived in tiny Rivertown, South Carolina, battered and broken, but ready to reinvent herself. By a stroke of fate, Leah is drawn to the Southern hospitality of a small café, looking for a warm meal but finding so much more. Lulu, the owner, offers her a job, a place to stay and a new lease on life. Through Lulu's tenacious warmth and generosity, Leah quickly finds herself embraced by the quaint community as she tries to put herself back together. Given she's accustomed to cruelty, the kindness is overwhelming.

Soon Leah meets Crowley Mason, the most eligible bachelor in town. A lawyer and friend of Lulu's, Crowley is wary of Leah's sudden, mysterious arrival. Despite his reserve, something sparks between them that can't be denied. But after all she's been through, can Leah allow herself to truly love and be loved, especially when her first urge is to run?

Exploring the resiliency of both the heart and the spirit, Lulu's Café gorgeously illustrates how old scars can finally heal no matter how deep they seem.



Cooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe
Bestselling author T.I. Lowe sees herself as an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories. She knows she's just getting started and has many more stories to tell. A wife and mother and active in her church community, she resides in coastal South Carolina with her family.

For a complete list of Lowe's published books, biography, upcoming events, and other information, visit tilowe.com and be sure to check out her blog, COFFEE CUP, while you're there!

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. LoweCooking with Love, Not Lard: Lessons from Lulu with guest T.I. Lowe

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