Four women, friends since college, live in a charming southern beach town. One of them, Penelope, has more money than God. Which may be why she insists on playing the deity from time to time. Despite her beauty and inherited wealth, she becomes preoccupied with what might happen to her husband and children if she died. So she talks her husband into signing a codicil to her will. If she should die, he won’t remarry unless the new wife (and more importantly) mother, has been approved by her sister and three best friends. Years go by, the codicil gathers dust, and more than its share of hilarity, until the unthinkable happens and everyone she loved must find their way without Penelope. Simply told, it’s old money in the New South, romantic confusion, legal entanglements, and the unbreakable bonds between four women – and a
What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think ‘I have to write this’?
For the full story, readers should go to my website and click on Backstory. But the short version is this: in some states, if a parent hasn’t named a guardian in an official will, their children can be taken into foster care if the parents die. I was talking to a friend about how difficult it is to make the choice of who, among my siblings and friends would be the best replacements for my husband and I. Suddenly, I said, “Oooh. You know what would be worse? What if I died and John fell in love with someone who was just awful?” I thought for a minute more and said, “I know. What if he couldn’t remarry unless my sisters and best friends approved?” I knew, deep down, that whatever happened, as long as my friends and family approved of the new wife, then she’d be good for my kids. So I began to imagine a character like me, except she’s really rich, has had even more reasons in her life to become a bit of a control freak than have I and she is so charming in her ridiculous catastrophizing that her husband and friends finally say, “Enough, already! You’re not going anywhere, but if it makes you feel better, we’ll sign the damn thing.” So begins the premise for my novel, the plot of which is set into action by my character’s codicil. It’s about motherhood, wifehood, childhood, and most of all, the sisterhood of great friends who’ve come of age together.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline or are you more organic?
I usually start with a character, their name, and one or two quirks they have. I am a dismal failure at outlining, I just write and get into their heads and they will often tell me what happens next, even when I’d planned something entirely different.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
Get up, make lunches for my family, say goodbye, drink coffee, head up to my room, try not to go on the internet, try to get directly into my work-in-progress, try not to answer the phone, try not to get up and walk around the house straightening things up, try not to go on the internet. The procrastination progress is lengthy and most days I fail to resist one of the temptations. I work until about noon, then I work out, then eat lunch, then try to go back to my work. By 3 I go to pick up my daughter from school, tend to whatever needs to be done around the house, answer emails, get dinner started and have a cocktail with my husband when he returns from the office. I almost never work at night, because my brain is fried.
Do you have a vice that you’ve given up, but long to continue?
Well, this is odd, because I really didn’t intend to give this up but since having radiation treatment for cancer last winter, my taste buds have changed to the point where I can’t drink more than a glass of beer or wine. I should be very happy since my love for festive beverages really worried me, but I miss being able to go out with friends and get that happy buzz I once did.
How do you promote your books?
For my first book, Diana Lively, I traveled to cities where I had friends and they threw big parties. This year, since I’ve been sick, I’ve cut back on travel plans a little, but I am going to have parties in Tallahassee, Atlanta, Sarasota, New Hampshire, New York and Denver. I am doing readings and signings at local bookstores, which I’ll be sure and post on my website. Right now there’s one July 7th at Barnes and Noble in Tallahassee on July 7th, a fundraiser July 9th at the Tallahassee Garden Club with my dear friend Julianna, and a reading at Barnes and Noble in Jacksonville. I’d be delighted to do phone interviews, chats or skype visits to book groups. Most of what I’m doing this year is through the Web, because I’m still a bit weak.
For you, what is the most difficult part of being an author?
The only difficult part is the feeling that it’s up to me to find enough readers to get enough word of mouth to keep getting paid to write novels.
What do you love about being an author?
I love the process of having an idea and following it out, of getting to know and love my characters and getting lost In their lives. In some ways it’s like playing ‘house’ when we were little kids, letting go and living in an imaginary world.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a novel set in mid-town Atlanta, among transplants who’ve settled there around a small, lovely park. It’s very germinal at this point. I’m getting to know my characters, researching their occupations and so forth. I may also eventually write a family memoir that combines generational dramas and traumas with my siblings adventures with cancer. That’s just playing in the back of my head right now and may come to nothing, but someday I will translate the extraordinary experience of growing up in the world I did. It may be a novel, or a memoir, and it might not get written for a long time.