Author's Corner: Magical Realism Author Em Shotwell

Today on Author's Corner, bestselling author Em Shotwell  talks about Southern food, her novel Blackbird Summer and offers up a delicious recipe for a "Mississippi Mud" desert.


Down South, food is the language of love. We show our affection with butter and sugar. Or with bacon drippings mixed into something savory. 

We bake it. Fry it. Baste it. Grill it. Then we always pack it up and give it away, filling the tables and fridges of our beloved.  We celebrate births with cakes and pies and dips. When a loved one passes, we drown our sorrows in gravy, and soups, and casseroles. We feed our happiness and our pain equally. Food is a huge part of our culture, ingrained into who we are.

When Blackbird Summer released earlier this year, I “went to eat” with many different groups of friends and family members eager to celebrate my accomplishment. My husband even had a cake made with my book cover on it (because he is the best ever). 

Blackbird Summer is southern-fried magical realism. It takes place in a tiny town in the Mississippi boonies and features a cast of colorful characters, some who will bless your heart while trying to ruin your life. Central to the story is Tallulah and her little sister, Delia. The young women are fighting for their place in a world that doesn’t have room for them. They don’t fit in with the “normal” town folk, but neither are they happy, stuck at home on their family’s compound (yes compound…intrigued yet?) The story has its tender moments, but I have been told it packs plenty of grit. If it was a dish—it would definitely be something savory. Something hardy, that “sticks to your bones”. 

So, to balance out the flavor of Blackbird Summer, I am going to offer you something sweet to eat while you devour the story (you see what I did there?) 

This recipe is for a desert called “Mississippi Mud,” and it will change your life. Seriously, it is a religious experience. We have it at every family reunion, every get together, and basically just any excuse we can find to serve the dish. I mean, it has butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, AND pudding! You can go into a sugar coma just reading about it…but it is well worth it.

This heavenly concoction (nope. I am not exaggerating) has three layers.

For the first layer, you will need:
1 stick of butter (room temperature)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
1 ½ cup chopped pecans
Pre-heat oven to 350. Spray glass 9x13 pan with Pam. Mix ingredients and spread onto the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20 mins until golden brown. Cool completely.

For the second layer:
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cool whip (buy the large tub)
½ teaspoon vanilla
Mix ingredients until smooth. Spread over completely cooled first layer.

For the third layer:
1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 small package chocolate instant pudding mix
3 cups cold milk
Add pudding to milk and mix until smooth. Spread over second layer. Top with remaining cool whip. Garnish with chopped pecans and/or chocolate shavings.
Refrigerate. Makes about 12 servings.

If you make Mississippi Mud, I’d love to hear how you liked it! You can find me on social media (twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram). 

In the cornerstone of the rural south, Brooklyn, Mississippi, no one dares make eye contact with the strange Caibre family. Until the rewards are worth the cost. The townsfolk come, cash in hand, always at night, to pay for services only a Gifted can provide.

No matter the Gifts prevalent in her family, at twenty-one, Tallulah is expected to follow the path laid out for her: marriage, babies, and helping her mama teach the family home school program. She’s resigned to live the quiet life and stay out of trouble…until she meets Logan.

An outsider and all around rebel, Logan doesn’t care about her family’s reputation. Yet after a tragic loss wreaks havoc on the crumbling relationship between the Caibres and the townsfolk, Tallulah must decide if love and freedom are worth risking everything.

 Em Shotwell is the author of Blackbird Summer (CityOwl Press, 2016). She lives in South Louisiana with a husband who spoils her and two mini-superheroes who call her mom.

Em thinks the most interesting characters are the ones who live on the sidelines, and that small towns often hide the biggest secrets.She is inspired by tall tales and local legends.

When she's not writing about misfits and oddballs, Em spends her time outdoors hiking, or indoors daydreaming and wishing that she could play the banjo.