Rita Mae Brown

Not much gets past Rita Mae Brown. She can pick out a Yankee in any crowd– in this case, a Hook reporter who asks if she means Coca-Cola when she writes Co-Cola.

"I can tell you're not from the South," she says, before explaining that the acceptable Southern terminology for the soft drink is indeed Co-Cola. She then goes on to champion bourbon and Coke as the ideal baby soother, claiming that it never harmed the many Southerners who were raised on it.

As soon as she's said it, however, Brown is gone. She wears a lot of hats poet, author, and fox hunter among them but today it's Rita Mae Brown, runner of errands.

Running errands is a relative tame exercise for anyone, but especially someone with such a past as Brown. She first made headlines in 1973 with Rubyfruit Jungle, a coming-of-age story with a lesbian heroine. In the '80s Brown's relationship with tennis great Martina Navratilova made her a celebrity for all the wrong reasons. Brown felt herself becoming pigeonholed by the labels she attracted.

"Next time anyone calls me a lesbian writer I'm going to knock their teeth in," Brown once told an interviewer. "I'm a writer, and I'm a woman, and I'm from the South, and I'm alive, and that's that."

Nowadays Brown is famous for a more unusual partnership. She and her cat, Sneaky Pie, are the co-authors of eleven murder mysteries starring Mrs. Murphy, feline detective extraordinaire.

Brown hasn't slowed up since the latest Mrs. Murphy mystery, Catch As Cat Can, climbed the New York Times' bestseller list in May. Hotspur, which hits bookshelves on November 26, is a sequel to 2000's Outfoxed.

Set in central Virginia, Hotspur continues the saga of the fictional Jefferson Hunt Club. This time, "Sister" Jane Arnold tackles the 20-year-old murder of a beautiful young socialite. Brown will be on hand to discuss and sign copies of her book at New Dominion Bookshop on December 14 at 2:30pm.


Age: 58 on November 28

What brought you here? My father's family came to Virginia back when the Earth was cooling (to escape Cromwell in England), and my mother would bring me here in the summers to escape her mother-in-law.

What's worst about living here? Snobs

Favorite hangout? Back of a horse

Most overrated virtue? What virtue?

What would people be surprised to know about you? That I often understand the inner life of man.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My height. I'd love to be tall.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Being the first woman, that I know of anyway, to write in the Comic Tradition, a world view and a technique which goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. In English Literature, Chaucer brought it forward.

What do people find most annoying about you? My self confidence, which is exactly why I can write in the Comic Tradition.

Whom do you admire? Hannibal, the general

Favorite book? Memoirs of Hadrian

What subject causes you to rant? Since ranting doesn't do a bit of good, I don't do it, but I'll sure fight like hell for what I believe in, which is quite simple: America must live up to its Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? The chance that we may understand that we left Eden, animals didn't.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The exploding human population, which is becoming ever more urban and, therefore, in a way less human.

What do you drive? I haul with a Ford F-350, but I love my Porsche 911 with a foolish ardor.

What's in your car CD player right now? "The Brandenburg Concertos"

What's your next journey? Wherever my publisher sends me, which will probably be Denver.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? I spoke out for Civil Rights in 1963 in Gainesville, Florida. I lost my scholarship, I lost a lot of people whom I thought were my friends, and I saw an ugly side of America that I am sorry to say is not in remission only in hiding.

What do you regret? So far, nothing, but I'm not dead yet, so there's time. As to dying, if I can't do it making love or on the dance floor, I don't want to go!

Favorite comfort food? Ice cold Classic Coke in a glass with four ice cubes.

What's always in your refrigerator? Co-Cola and tonic water

Must-see TV? PBS, football

Favorite cartoon? Little Lulu

Describe a perfect day. Any day that I'm healthy and with my foxhounds, my horses, my wonderful friends, is a perfect day.

Walter Mitty fantasy? My life is so incredible I don't have Walter Mitty fantasies. But I do indulge in sexual fantasies, the most ludicrous of which is that everyone will find me alluring.

Who'd play you in the movie? I'd hate to foist me off on an actress.

Most embarrassing moment? In the receiving line during Cotillion (ah yes, that true Southern vice) I forgot my mother's Christian name. She thought I'd done this on purpose, and to be fair to her, the day before the ball, we had a fuss, and I made her a cat food sandwich, loaded with mayo and pickles and lettuce.

Best advice you ever got? "Ignore pain. Either it will go away or you will" –Seneca

Favorite bumper sticker? We don't care how you do it up North.


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