Duncan's first novel, "Moon Women," is about a family of women living in the hills of Madison County. Drawing from the stories she heard from her grandmother and from her own background growing up in Black Mountain, Swannanoa and Shelby, she has created her own distinctive flavor of regional literature.
"I write about blue-collar folks. It's not magnolias and Southern belles, but it's also not trailer trash. It's somewhere in between," she said.
Apparently, Duncan has a storyteller's power. Her tale of 80-year-old Marvelle Moon, her middle-aged daughters, Ruth Ann and Cassandra, and Ruth Ann's 19-year old daughter, Ashley, who is fresh out of rehab, unmarried and pregnant, has already received high praise. It has recently been nominated for the Southeastern Booksellers' Association Award.
"I've had a pretty good response to be an unknown writer and (received) mainly good reviews," Duncan said.
Duncan picked up her ear for realistic dialogue during her journalism studies here at UNC -- in fact, she developed them working at The Daily Tar Heel on the University Desk.
"It was wonderful training for a fiction writer. I learned a lot about writing, found out I didn't want to be a reporter, but I had a great time and learned a lot."
She's also drawn inspiration from some other notable Southern writers, including Jill McCorkle, Larry Brown, Lee Smith and Doris Betts. It's safe to say that Duncan is joining the ranks of an esteemed tradition.
She is working on a second book that depicts similar characters and setting. The story centers on a group of women working in a textile mill in North Carolina.
"There was lots of pressure (writing the second book). All of a sudden I had a two-book deal," Duncan said.
All the pressure is simply an indiction that Duncan is a writer to watch -- she's receiving a lot of positive feedback. In fact, amid all the praise, the only complaint critics have offered about "Moon Women" has been against her style of writing dialect. Duncan captures on paper the way people in the Southern mountains talk.
"Some people don't approve of dialect outside of quotation marks," she said. "But I'm trying to preserve a voice."
And it is the ability to capture this distinctive North Carolina voice that sets Duncan's work apart.
Duncan will be reading from "Moon Women" at the Meet the Author Tea at 4 p.m. March 15 in the Chapel Hill Public Library.
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