“Down and Out in Bugtussle: The Mad Fat Road to Happiness”, the third installment in McAfee’s best-selling series hits the shelves on July 2 and the author will visit Tupelo on July 12 at 4 p.m. for a signing event and celebration at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore.
The new adventure brings Ace back to her small Southern hometown of Bugtussle, Miss. as she seeks to put her life back together after breaking off her engagement with her fiancee and seeing her dream life in Florida go up in flames. Ace wants everything to be just like it was before, but it’s not to be as a pretty young newcomer has taken her former job at the local high school with no plans to give it up.
Her efforts to find peace lead her to try to restore her grandmother’s gardens, but the project sparks a search for answers when she discovers a collection of old love letters in her grandmother’s gardening book hinting at an unknown secret life.
McAfee said the book is filled with Jones’ trademark attitude and humor and she believes fans of the first two books will love the latest chapter in the saga.
“I really think this is the best one yet,” she said.
McAfee’s own story has been as big a whirlwind as that of her trademark character. A native of Prentiss County who graduated from Booneville High School and taught school in the county for five years before moving to Colorado in 2007 with her husband who was in the U.S. Army, the author found a labor of love in the creation of her first novel.
Mixing her small town roots with a sharp wit and a feisty attitude, her unique view of the craziness of small town life resulted in her debut novel “Diary of a Mad Fat Girl”. Originally published as an electronic book on Amazon.com and other sites, the novel quickly caught the attention of major publishers and led to a multi-book deal with New York-based Penguin Group and a quick rise to the top of the charts for the small-town Southern girl.
Her next book in the series, “Happily Ever Madder”, was released last year and found similar success as readers clamored for more of her trademark humor and sharp observations.
At the center of it all has been her heroine, Graciella “Ace” Jones, a big-mouthed, trouble-making Southern belle whose larger than life persona and willingness to say whatever is on her mind regardless of the consequences has resonated with readers across the country.
McAfee said she created Jones with the goal of making a character everyone could connect with. She faces the same challenges and beneath the outsized personality deals with the same struggles everyone does.
“I really really wanted her to be a character that people could relate to,” she said.
Jones also gives voice to many of the thoughts most people keep buried inside.
“Everybody has a little bit of Ace Jones in their personality. She’s kind of a release,” said the author.
McAfee said the past two years since the release of the first novel have been a whirlwind and she’s just now been able to take some time off and start thinking about the next chapter in her life.
“I feel like I’ve been running to catch up,” she said.
That next chapter will include the Mad Fat Girl, at least for one more book.
“There’s at least one more. There may be more. Her story’s just not done yet,” she said.
She’s also already planning future projects including a humorous look at relationships between men and women and another novel or series of novels with a new cast of characters.
She also stays busy connecting with readers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/booksbystephanie and on her blog which can be found through her Facebook page.
McAfee said she gets back to the area regularly to visit family and friends and she’s excited about the upcoming event at Reeds.
She said she’s extremely grateful for the strong support she’s been given from her hometown friends and understands she has the opportunity to live the life she does because of that support.
“Thank you. Thank you for the support and for the encouragement. I couldn’t be where I am without it,” she said.