By Karin Slaughter
Bestselling American crime writer Karin Slaughter has sold more than 35m books, including the Will Trent and Grant County series. Her latest book, the psychological suspense novel Pieces of Her, is published this month.
My office in Atlanta is over the garage, and while the inside is very comfortable, it had tiny dormer windows that basically rendered the backyard invisible. While I’m all for working in a cocoon, I like to look up from my computer and see nature. There’s something inspiring about being surrounded by greenery — and Morningside, the neighbourhood where I live, is known for its lush setting. It seemed a shame to waste such an incredible view, so I decided to open up the dormers and create a wall of windows.
Now, I feel like I work in a tree house. I love to sit and read on the deck. There are several cryptomeria and a stately oak in my line of vision, and I can smell the gardenias and olive trees below. Something people don’t realise about Atlanta is that the city has several urban forests and the older neighbourhoods were all designed around a series of parks that give the city a welcoming, laid-back feel. It’s hard to be stressed out when you’re surrounded by nature.
Where to live — and eat
From my house, I can walk to a main street-like area called Virginia-Highland. The quaint buildings are filled with coffee shops and bars. The Highland Tap is a steak house that my dad loves but one of my favourite restaurants is Murphy’s, which has the best grilled cheese sandwich in the city.
Where to shop
A brisker walk away is Ponce City Market, which used to be a distribution warehouse for Sears, the department store chain, but has been converted into lofts, apartments and cool shops where you can try a King of Pops ice lolly or try on the most flattering jeans for women of a certain age, the skinny high-rise at Madewell.
Where to relax
Next to the market is Atlanta’s BeltLine, a former railway corridor that links the city’s parks and neighbourhoods. Joggers, cyclists and families pack the trails, especially as you get closer to Piedmont Park.
The park’s biggest draw is the Dogwood Festival, which features artists from around the world. It also hosts one of the biggest free jazz festivals, the Festival Peachtree Latino, and Music Midtown, which last year featured Bruno Mars. I live so close by that I could hear “Uptown Funk” spinning the audience into a frenzy.
Where to discover culture
The High Museum of Art and the Fox Theatre are top attractions, but the Midtown Atlanta Segway Tour lets you put your fingers on the cultural pulse of the city. It goes through Sweet Auburn, which, during the scourge of segregation, was a beacon of African-American progress.
You’ll visit Martin Luther King’s birthplace and museum, dip into Cabbagetown and the Krog Street Tunnel, then wind up at a veritable test kitchen for new south cuisine, the 100-year-old Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
You can sample Miss D’s Pralines; real, legitimate soul food at Metro Deli Soul Food; Hawaiian fish poké bowls; Venezuelan empanadas at Arepa Mia; or enjoy a Caribbean spin on chicken curry at AfroDish. If none of these are appealing, there’s everything from barbecue and burritos to Popsicles and pig’s knuckles.
Where to borrow books
My greatest joy comes from visiting my local Decatur Library. It’s surrounded by trees, but inside you’ll find kids doing homework and seniors learning how to use the computer, and classes on everything from how to file your taxes to learning English as a second language. In a sprawling city of almost 6m people in the metro area, it’s easy to feel disconnected. The best gift any human being can give herself is to be surrounded by fellow readers.
Pieces of Her, published by HarperCollins, is out on 9 August.
Photographs: Johnathon Kelso; Alamy; Getty Images; Ullstein Bild via Getty Images