'Where do your ideas come from' is probably a question most asked of an author. So it is fascinating to see how Dorothea Benton Frank has taken a disparate list of unrelated topics and tied them together to create her latest novel, Carolina Girls.
Over to Dorothea..
Like many, I love to read the newspapers and as a novelist I’m always on alert for details that can enhance the experience of reading my books. We call it take away value. And, as always, several things caught my eye at about the same time…
An app devised to help you fall in love, building and living green and the legalisation of recreational and medicinal marijuana. And I was thinking about some other things such as: how many steps are we away from homelessness at any given point in our lives? And having just lost a friend I was sort of moping around and dwelling on dying too soon.
To those who read for pleasure but don’t write to pay their way in the world, this may sound like a laundry list of hopelessly disparate topics. But to those who endeavour to publish a novel annually this was sufficient fodder. And that was the genesis of Carolina Girls. With that little handful of nuggets, I began working on tying them together.
Enter Lisa St. Clair, dedicated nurse in a retirement community facility and single parent with a great sense of humour. The humour is a good thing given the outrageousness of her ex-husband who sends her an annual lottery ticket for child support and alimony.
Her favourite patient, Kathy Harper, succumbs to cancer and she begins to realise that she has crossed the professional line. She mourns her deeply and comes to see that her own life is a mournful thing as well. She has barely escaped personal bankruptcy resulting from an ill-conceived business, she’s living in a house that’s ugly and depressing and she has very little to look forward to now that her daughter has teamed up with her ex-husband in a business she considers immoral. Then she meets green architect, Paul Gleicher who throughout the story works hard to bring her back to happiness.
The illness and death of this patient brought her in daily contact with the dear friends of the deceased and a friendship was formed. One of the friends, Carrie is recently widowed and the other, Suzanne, has sworn off men. Carrie is visiting Suzanne while her most recent husband’s evil children contest his will. And Suzanne, a successful floral designer is taking care of her 97-year old grandmother (a former chanteuse who can still belt out a song) in a sprawling old beach house on the Isle of Palms just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Together they ponder the young life of Kathy Harper and struggle to find meaning in it. In the end, they discover new purpose for themselves.
In addition to fun facts, I like to inject a lot of irony and humour into my writing because life is funny and we all need a good laugh. And I like to have a little romance going on because love still makes the world go ‘round.
I hope I have described the Lowcountry of South Carolina in such a way that readers will come pay us a visit. Charlestonians are unlike the rest of Americans because we are like the Chinese – we eat a lot of rice, drink a lot of tea and we worship our ancestors. And Charleston has always taken pride in being the most civilised and hospitable city in America. Travel and Leisure says it’s the best city in the world. I don’t know. London’s pretty fabulous. I’d settle for just being the best in America. But y’all come see us, you hear? (And, I hope you’ll enjoy CAROLINA GIRLS!)
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