Fannie is no stranger to north Alabama. “I love Huntsville. I just think it’s the greatest place,” she told me during a recent online interview from her home in California, “I’m so proud of it and I hear it’s just going great guns and I’m thrilled. We just don’t want too many Yankees moving down there.” She smiled.
Known for her southern humor, Charm and stories, Fannie has visited over the years, whether it was talking to students about the importance of education or signing copies of her latest publication.
Fannie was planning to come to Huntsville to see old friends and sign her latest book, but the pandemic has her staying put in California. “And it has just been terrible. You have no idea,” she said, “I mean, I’m out here with all these Californian people. I can’t get a decent meal.” We both laughed. She misses the fried food from home.
Her latest book, “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop” is the story of Buddy, one of the characters from another novel, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.”
And it comes at a time when we can use a little good news right now. “Well, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it is because I thought if everybody in the world is as tired of politics and tired of being depressed over this thing,” Fannie told me, “I’m so tired of hearing about how terrible everybody is, I thought, well I’m going to write a book about people that aren’t terrible and that are not unhappy and they have a happy ending, and there you go.”
Fannie’s fans may be wondering, will this be her last one? She laughed when I asked her that. “Well, now Jerry, I’ve said that before,” as she continued to laugh, “I feel like, remember the old Frank Sinatra farewell tour again.”
Fannie has tried to slow down and just relax. “I retired, I think it was six books ago,” she said. She’s glad she wrote this one. “It did help me because I was able to revisit Whistle Stop and find out what happened to all the people down there,” she said.
Fannie credits a teacher with her success. “I am dyslexic and have ADD and I did very poorly in school,” she remembered, “And like everybody has, there was this teacher, my sixth grade teacher was so sweet with me and understood something was off and she encouraged me to write stories and I remember that the first thing that I did, I said but I can’t spell. She said that’s okay. She said I can correct that.”
That’s why Fannie is so supportive of the mission of Free 2 Teach. “Teachers, yes. They change your life,” she said gratefully, “and I have always loved Free2Teach because it was so needed.” Fannie’s doing a virtual book signing as a fundraiser for the organization that was founded by Eula Battle, the late wife of Huntsville’s mayor. Fannie is sending autographed copies for a donation of $35.00.
When I asked Fannie what’s down the road for her, she paused for a moment and said, “Um, you know. That’s interesting. I never know and that’s the joy of life.” There’s talk about a TV series with Reba McEntire and turning two of her other books, “A Redbird Christmas” and “The All Girl Filling Station” into movies. “Everything is like and it’s all come at this point in my life, which is like wow, what a surprise,” she said.
Fannie will be the first to tell you, she’s blessed. “That’s why I write happy endings, because I’m having one,” she said smiling. I responded by saying “There’s nothing better than a happy ending. She smiled again, gave me a thumbs up and said, “Absolutely.”
If you’d like to get an autographed copy of “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop,” click on the Free 2 Teach link. The group has information on its website on prices and delivery.