Hey, YALLFest! These 32 Authors Know Who Their Southern Dream Date Would Be

YALLFest authors have arrived down South, so which famous Southerners do they want to be their BFFs?

YALLFest is the largest young adult and middle grade book festival in the country, and every November it offers book lovers a special brand of Southern hospitality in Charleston, SC. This year the shindig happens on Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14, and over 60 gosh-darn talented authors are fixin’ to get gussied up to sweet-talk their fans.

As the authors entered the land of grits and hushpuppies, we had a hankerin’ to go hog wild and pick their brains. We were much obliged when they provided enlightening answers to this question: If you could sit on a porch swing and sip sweet tea with any Southern person (from a book, movie, TV, or history), who would it be and why?

  1. Victoria Aveyard, The "Red Queen" Series

    "OPRAH. Or Dolly Parton. Or Pocahontas. She's technically from a Southern state. Oh, the entire cast of Steel Magnolias! This question is very difficult."

  2. Leigh Bardugo, The Grisha Trilogy

    "This is going to sound really corny, but my dad. He was from Mississippi and he passed away in 2008. I'd give anything to spend an afternoon catching up with him."

  3. Gwenda Bond, The "Lois Lane" Series

    "Oh, this is hard, because I am southern-ish, as a Kentucky girl (the ish is because we're technically 'the gateway to the South'). But, okay, so it's not hard at all, actually. DOLLY FREAKING PARTON. Runner up: OPRAH FREAKING WINFREY."

  4. Alexandra Bracken, "The Darkest Minds" series

    "Please sign me up for a one-on-one with Dolly Parton, one of the South's loveliest patron saints. I've loved her since I was a kid... I think because 1) that hair 2) I couldn't figure out how to do my make-up and hers was crazy in the most amazing way 3) she has a voice would make a baby unicorn shed rainbow tears, and 4) she just seems like the most down to earth, genuine, playful, and sweet woman alive. Also, I feel like she could impart some life and ladyhood wisdom. Call me, Dolly!!"

  5. Zac Brewer, Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

    "It would definitely be the Lady Chablis from Savannah, Georgia (and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), because she's funny and honest and I bet she has the best stories to tell....and honey, she is fabulous."

  6. Meg Cabot, "The Princess Diaries" Series

    "How is this even a question? Bessie Smith, blues singer and multiple Grammy Hall of Fame Award winner, circa 1920-1930s, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sadly, she'd probably find me quite dull. But I'd bring along a smartphone loaded with tons of Beyonce videos to entertain her ;-)"

  7. Rachel Caine, "Ink and Bone"

    "Eartha Kitt! A great singer, actress, and hey, she played a fierce Catwoman, too. I'll bet she'd have lots of great stories to tell."

  8. Rae Carson, The Fire and Thorns Trilogy

    "Alcide Herveaux from Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels, because holy hotness, Batman."

  9. Kiera Cass, "The Selection" Trilogy

    "Mammy from Gone with the Wind. Again, probably a good time. Also, just always enjoyed her wit and soulfulness."

  10. Soman Chainani, "The School for Good and Evil" Series

    "Ouiser from STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Can you imagine people-watching with her from that porch swing? The shaaaaaade she'd throw at people. The shade she'd throw at me! I'd love nothing more than to be brutally taken down by Ouiser."

  11. Susane Colasanti, "City Love" Trilogy

    "I would love to kick back with Willowdean Dickson from DUMPLIN'. First because that girl knows what it takes to make a good sweet tea and refuses to settle for anything less. But mostly because I admire her confidence and determination. Will is a role model, an advocate, and a badass. Cheers to her."

  12. Melissa de la Cruz, The "Blue Bloods" Series

    "Scarlett O’Hara for sure. Any woman who can turn curtains into haute couture is someone I need to be friends with for sure. We can strategize about how to get Rhett back."

  13. Daniel Ehrenhaft, The Wessex Papers Series
    Underwood Archives/Getty

    "Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon, so that counts, yes? If so: Harriet Tubman. Why: I'd want to know where and how she found the strength to be such a bad-ass real-life superhero."

  14. Michelle Falkoff, "Playlist for the Dead"

    "I'd want to hang out with Flannery O'Connor, no question. Her writing is amazing, and by all accounts she was caustic and witty and hilarious. I'd love to hear what she thought of the world today, from publishing to politics."

  15. Kami Garcia, The "Beautiful Creatures" Series

    "I would love to share a porch swing and a slice of Coca-Cola cake with Anne Rice. She is my favorite author and the reason I fell in love with Southern Gothic novels — and vampires. I met her once, for about a minute, at one of her signings. I stammered, and she smiled like the Queen of the Damned."

  16. Adam Gidwitz, "A Tale Dark and Grim" Series

    "Obviously Mark Twain. I bet he would just make fun of me for hours and hours, and then I would go home happy."

  17. Ryan Graudin, "Wolf by Wolf"

    "I would love to sit down and talk with Flannery O’Connor. She was such an insightful woman, both in terms of writing and faith. Plus it would give me an excuse to go down and visit Savannah, GA, which is always a wonderful weekend trip."

  18. Curtis Jobling, The Wereworld Series

    "Dolly Parton. I'm not even hesitating on that one. I've been lucky enough to do a number of US book tours with my publisher Penguin, and on each occasion whenever I reach the southern states, I start to hear the Dolly tales. These are specifically fantastic in and around Nashville. Besides the fact that Dolly is of an indeterminable age (she gets younger each year according to her Wiki page), she has lived a life and then some. I'm not a huge country music fan. I am, however, a big fan of Americana and alt folk , and with her bluegrass roots Dolly's a bit of a grandmother to that particular musical genre. So I'd get all my gossip on the musicians of the last 50 years. But then there'd be the really juicy stuff, the tales she didn't share on chat shows to protect the reputations of the innocents, and the not so innocents. I bet she knows where all the skeletons are. Even her tame tales are pretty damned racy, so can you imagine what her X rated ones are like? Dolly's your favourite pottymouthed grandparent. And if a Who's Who character assassination of everyone in the music industry wasn't enough, she could then whip out the banjo and crack off a tune or two. Love her."

  19. Mercedes Lackey, "Hunter"

    "Cornelia Clark Fort. She was a US aviator who became famous for two aviation related events. While conducting a civilian training flight at Pearl Harbor, she was the first US pilot to encounter the Japanese air fleet during the Attack on Pearl Harbor, and narrowly escaped a strafing attack after landing. The next year, Fort became the second member of what became the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and was working as a ferry pilot when she became the first female pilot in American history to die on active duty."

  20. E. Lockhart, "We Were Liars"

    "Truman Capote was from New Orleans. He might be snide and complain about the tea, but I find him extremely fascinating."

  21. Alexander London, "Proxy"

    "My grandmother, who was from Virginia. She's gone now, I miss her, and it'd be nice to have one more chat. Of course, we'd both want to spike that sweet tea with something now that I'm old enough..."

  22. Carolyn Mackler, "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things"

    "I would so so so sip tea with Sarah Conley, Ellen Gilchrist’s protagonist. Righteous Southern babe. Can Ellen Gilchrist come along too?"

  23. Katie McGarry, "Pushing the Limits" Series

    "I would love to sit on a porch swing and sip sweet tea with Tennessee Williams. We read his plays when I was in high school and I was drawn in by his stories and characters."

  24. Mindy McGinnis, "Not A Drop to Drink"

    "Scarlet O'Hara, so that I could set her straight before tragedy does."

  25. Meg Medina, "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass"

    "Silas House, because his voice hypnotizes, because his work is flawless in capturing Appalachia, and because his heart is wide open."

  26. G. Neri, "Ghetto Cowboy"

    "Truman Capote and Harper Lee because they are the subjects of my upcoming novel, Tru & Nelle (HMH 2/16). They also happened to be two of the most colorful characters in Alabama, who solved small town crime together as kids. The fact that they were next door neighbors from the middle of nowhere and grew up to become two of the greatest writers in America is pretty astounding."

  27. Danielle Paige, "Dorothy Must Die" Series

    "I grew up in the south. There are so many. But I think i’d have to pick Faulkner. I would love just to learn how to spin a sentence like that by osmosis!"

  28. Brendan Reichs, The "Virals" Series

    "I’d love to sip sweet tea with Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. For one thing, he’s alright, man. Alright alright alright. We’d keep hanging out to a simple and uncomplicated science, probably by spending several decades in the same location. Just out there, L-I-V-I-N. Two, we’d probably spike the tea, and then go get Aerosmith tickets right after sunrise. Sounds good to me."

  29. Margaret Stohl, The "Beautiful Creatures" Series

    "Gregory Peck, does he count?"

  30. Carole Boston Weatherford, "Becoming Billie Holiday"

    "I'd like to pass an afternoon or evening with voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. She's the subject of my latest verse biography. Since it's written in first person, I'd to see if I got her voice right. I'd also like to hear her stance on legislative efforts to disenfranchise college students, senior citizens and people of color."

  31. Elizabeth Wein, "Code Name Verity"

    "I want to sit on a porch swing and sip sweet tea with Jackie Cochran! Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran, who was born in 1906 and grew up in Pensacola, Florida, was the first woman to break the sound barrier. A self-made woman running her own cosmetics business, she was also the force behind the Women's Airforce Service Pilots in the USA during World War II, and she also led a group of women who ferried aircraft to the United Kingdom and flew for the Air Transport Auxiliary in Britain before America entered the war. There's no room here to list Jackie Cochran's galaxy of amazing accomplishments (speed and altitude records, involvement in the space program, running for Congress), but I sure would love to spend an afternoon listening to her describe them."

  32. Scott Westerfeld, The "Uglies" Series

    "I'd happily sip tea with Zelda Fitzgerald. She was at so many of the interesting parts of the first half of the 20th century, and I'm sure she'd have all the gossip. (Though I doubt we would be sipping just tea.)"