Since 1994 Janice Daugharty has published a volume of short fiction, six novels, and numerous short stories and essays. She has built a national reputation as a chronicler of life and people in south Georgia and is one of the state’s most popular and prolific contemporary authors.
Janice Staten grew up in Echols County, the second of seven children of Frances and G. F. Staten. She married her high school sweetheart, Seward Daugharty, in 1963. She attended Valdosta State College (later Valdosta State University) for two years, performed the duties of a devoted wife and mother until her children were grown, and at the age of thirty-nine began to write. She credits Joyce Carol Oates, whom she calls her “fairy godmother,” with her initial success in the publishing world. Oates bought the first short story Daugharty sold, and Oates and her husband, Ray Smith, published a collection of Daugharty’s short stories, Going Through the Change, in 1994 under the Ontario Review Press imprint. In the same year Baskerville Publishers printed a hardback edition of the novel Dark of the Moon and HarperCollins issued the paperback edition. In the following five years HarperCollins published both hardback and paperback copies of five other Daugharty novels: Necessary Lies (1995), Pawpaw Patch (1996), Earl in the Yellow Shirt (1997), Whistle (1998), and Like a Sister (1999).
Daugharty uses the fictional community of Cornerville, a typical south Georgia town, as the setting for most of her works. She models her characters after people in Echols County, where she has lived all her life. Most characters are composites of people she has known, but some are fictional recreations of specific people. Daugharty says she based Alamand in Earl in the Yellow Shirt on her late brother and Willa in Like a Sister on her mother. She claims that she patterned the dead woman who appears at the beginning of Whistle after herself.
Daugharty published her first historical fiction in 2004. That novel, Just Doll, is a romance set on a plantation in the wiregrass region of southeast Georgia in the 1880s. It is the first of what Daugharty plans as “the Stanton Bay trilogy.”
Though Daugharty writes primarily to entertain, she often deals with such social issues as religious hypocrisy, rigid class structure, and racial prejudice. She explains, “I look around me at all the evil and ignorance and feel that niggling to preach again, to try to make us all look inside at who we are and what we are in danger of becoming.”
The theme of art and its redemptive power underlies much of Daugharty’s writing. Her fictional artists include musicians (Merdie in Dark of the Moon) and visual artists (Alamand in Earl in the Yellow Shirt). Other characters are lovers of the written word—for example, Archie Wall, the small-town attorney who appears in several works, and Loujean in Earl in the Yellow Shirt. Often misunderstood and isolated, these characters find happiness in art and come to terms with reality through the creative process.
Janice Daugharty claims that she “can’t quit writing.” She is currently writer-in-residence at Valdosta State University.