Marina Brown's "Lisbeth" Plumbs Dark Depths of the Old South

May 19, 2017

America’s Deep South has inspired more than a few dark tales. A Tallahassee writer has set her latest work in that often-sinister locale.

Author Marina Brown
Credit Tom Flanigan

Marina Brown has been a word smith in various versions over the years.

“I’ve always written, even when I was not a writer. But I somehow became a features writer with the St. Pete Times, and then always writing short stories and poetry,” she recounted.

Today, Brown’s journalistic output can be found from time to time in places like the pages of the Tallahassee Democrat. But she said it was a Caribbean pilgrimage years ago that drew her into the intoxicating delights of dark fiction.

“I think it was having gone to Trinidad, onto this remarkable island of Chacachacare – an old leper island – that was rife with mystery,” she recalled with obvious fondness. “It was kind of coming up out of the jungle and these characters began to emerge and I started to write them down and my first novel, ‘Land Without Mirrors’, showed up.”

That would be followed by the books, ‘Walking Alone Together: An Anthem for Caregivers’ and ‘Airport Sketches’. But Brown remained literally haunted by the spirits she’d met in Trinidad. Slowly a new set of characters began visiting her from a similarly troubled place in America’s Deep South and telling their story.

“It takes place in a small rural area of Mississippi in an area of Tupelo,” she said, setting forth the basic story line of her new book “Lisbeth.” “It crosses time and space as a fairly sophisticated woman goes back to the small rural enclave where she was born and tries to rebuild the house where her mother had been banished – Lisbeth – many, many years before.”

Not surprisingly, that renovation project had some unexpected consequences.

“And as she does that the secrets of the past that are weaving black and white families together and unusually a German man who’d been a prisoner of war in Mississippi that happened during World War II, weaves all of their stories together and in the end brings her a special kind of peace and growth for all the people involved.”

And, as she’d done in advance of her first novel, Brown logged a lot of miles doing first-hand location research.

“I had made several trips to Mississippi to be in those very woods and stay at a B&B very much like the one described and meet people who are not real people, but have that cadence in their talk. But then there came a point where things just kind of stopped and I had to wait and it was probably six months before the rest of the story began to happen and those people started to move again.”

Newly re-energized, the characters in “Lisbeth” ultimately divulged all their secrets. Their finished story contains vivid images and a restless rhythm. Brown attributes this – at least in part – to the other aspects of her creative skill set.

“I guess because other things I’m interested in, like music and painting and so on,” Brown said. “I think all of those arts analogies kind of overlap. If you’re playing a piece on your cello, probably you’re seeing colors and maybe hearing words played out and the same for any of those things. And that’s how it is in the book. I at least tried to have allusions to color and there’s a certain rhythm and music in the flow of the words.”

Brown said, in a manner of speaking, this is “Lisbeth’s” birthday. “It’s available on Amazon as of today (5/19) and you can order through Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, or through the publisher, Southern Yellow Pines Publishing. Or, I’m having a book lunch where they will be available. That’ll be on the 19th, this Friday, from 5 until 8 at the Union Bank Building.”

Where, by no small coincidence, Brown is exhibiting “Brothers and Sisters”, a large collection of her African-American themed paintings presented by Florida A&M University’s Meek-Eaton Black Archives.