Natchez author Greg Iles hears the question all the time: Why are you still living in Mississippi?
His reasons are simple – his children’s grandparents are here, and he wants his family to grow up with that influence.
“I want my kids exposed to aunts and uncles and grandparents,” said Iles.
As a best-selling author, Iles finds himself in the company of other Mississippi writers like John Grisham and Donna Tartt.
But Grisham and Tartt have left their Mississippi roots behind, and Iles is still living in his hometown – and, occasionally, making it a setting for his novels.
Iles is in the company of famous writers figuratively, on the bestseller list, and literally, in a unique band of musically inclined authors.
But staying in Natchez presents challenges, as it has for many families these days.
“We’ve stayed here even through some obviously difficult economic times,” Iles said.
But Iles is in a unique position as an author whose popularity grows with every book he writes.
Recounting a story about one of his gigs with the literary band, he was amazed first to find three or four fans waiting to talk just to him.
He was even more amazed when he met a Seattle reader whose affection for “The Quiet Game” – the novel set during the Civil Rights movement in Natchez – led him and his wife on a 3,000-mile journey to the South, and, of course, to Iles’ hometown.
“You have no idea what effect you have on people,” Iles said.
For Iles, though, the effect is not just on readers but on Natchez. He knows residents enjoy the notoriety of having a best-selling author living here – and he takes his role as an “ambassador” seriously.
“Wherever I go, there’s always somebody who knows about Natchez,” he said.