Author Spotlight: Meet Laurie Beach!
And we have two winners! Audrey W. and Liz Flaherty, you’ve won Laurie’s giveaway! Laurie will be in touch. Thanks so much for stopping by!
You know, I adore Southern fiction and discovering debut Tule Publishing author Laurie Beach feels like a gift from the universe. I’m full of joy to welcome Laurie to the Author Spotlight today.
Laurie Beach is a former news reporter, advertising producer, and political press secretary who, after raising four children, is parlaying her love of reading and writing into a career as an author. She is a sucker for elderly people, grumpy animals, and happy endings. Having grown up in Alabama, she loves novels set in the South. Laurie now lives in California with her husband and their spoiled old dog.
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N: Welcome to the blog, Laurie. I’m so delighted to have you with us today. So, opening question, what comes first—characters or plot?
A: Thank you so much, Nan! I’m thrilled to be here, and I am a big fan of yours. Okay, characters or plot? For me, it’s neither, really. I tend to begin with the setting, (I’m in love with the South Carolina Low Country), and from there I begin to conjure up a story, and usually, the characters come last.
N: Your new novel, The Firefly Jar just released on April 27. Tell us how that story came about.
A: The Firefly Jar began with a location. My freshman year of college, I visited the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Preserve off the coast of Georgetown in South Carolina. That visit changed my life. I fell in love with an alligator named Grover, loggerhead sea turtles, Spanish moss dripping from centuries-old oaks, and the shrimping, crabbing, rich-with-history, down-home lifestyle of the sea islands. I knew I wanted to write something set there, but wasn’t sure how. I had the idea that there were similarities between the Regency era as portrayed in Jane Austen’s books, and the old societal rules of the deep South. So, I deconstructed Pride and Prejudice into an outline and used that to begin. From there, the book took on a life of its own.
N: What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing The Firefly Jar?
A: That I am actually capable of completing a novel! I didn’t begin with a wish to be published, I merely wanted to see if I had it in me to get it done. The Firefly Jar was my first novel, and the one I revised a gazillion times as I used it to learn and improve through online writing groups, coaching, and classes.
N: Can you speak to the whole concept of Southern fiction because it really is a genre unto itself.
A: Southern fiction is either set in the South or written by someone from the South, and it typically includes the dialect and cultural references. I was raised in Alabama (from second grade through college) and my books are set in South Carolina, so I guess that means my books qualify twice! I have always been drawn to Southern fiction because it tends to emphasize strong family ties and an appreciation for the outdoors. My three favorite works of Southern fiction are To Kill A Mockingbird, The Help, and Where The Crawdads Sing.
N: Give me three words to describe your heroine Charlotte Sinclair and three to describe your hero Will Rushton.
A: Charlotte: smart, hardworking, wounded
Will: family-oriented, ambitious, compassionate
N: What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
A: I hope my readers enjoy the story and are subtly reminded to reach out and include others, especially people who are new to town. It only takes one person to make a big difference in someone’s sense of belonging and community. We need each other.
N: What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
A: Getting started! Once I’m in “the flow,” it’s easy. I need to learn to write first instead of looking at social media, because I end up getting sucked in and waste way too much time!
N: In your life, you were a reporter, an advertising producer, and a political press secretary. How do those previous careers influence your writing.
A: Those careers were heavy with writing, but in a way that required a person to be succinct. It was really good practice for me.
N: Writing can be an emotional, stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
A: In a word: perseverance. It has been more than fifteen years since I wrote The Firefly Jar, and I received at least fifty rejections from agents along the way. In the meantime, I tried writing in various genres. I’ve written historical fiction, middle grade magical realism, and several other women’s fiction novels that I haven’t attempted to get published yet. All of that practice helped so much with the novels that come after The Firefly Jar in the Crickley Creek Series.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: A mother. And it is still the most difficult and most rewarding job I’ve ever been blessed enough to undertake.
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: I loved I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew by Dr. Suess so much that my dad made a cassette recording of himself reading it for me. Later, I couldn’t get enough of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and every Judy Blume book ever written. In high school, I was first in line for each new Danielle Steel novel. In later years, I fell in love with Pat Conroy and Nicholas Sparks. Now, I enjoy reading every author in the Southern women’s fiction genre.
N: And here is my signature question that everyone loves: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: This question is impossible to answer. There are so many living people I would love to meet! But, if I’m going to stick to the rules, I would choose my deceased mother, my deceased brother, and Jesus. I have a feeling we would have a lovely dinner party and there would certainly be hugs, questions, and tears. Maybe wine, too.
Laurie has a great giveaway for two lucky commenters. Up for grabs are two Rifle Paper Company clipboards and pen sets. Just tell her below if you’ve ever moved to a new place and felt like you’d never fit in.
The Firefly Jar
Welcome to Crickley Creek, where dreams are encouraged—as long as they fit within the proper rules of etiquette.
Sweet Charlotte Sinclair has no idea that “bless your heart” is the same as “screw you”—and she’s about to find out the hard way. After her mother’s death, Charlotte moved from free-wheeling California to her mother’s tiny hometown in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, longing to feel closer to her and searching for closure.
Charlotte loves her status as a popular coffee shop owner and is enjoying her budding romance with local hero Will Rushton more than she’d like to admit. So why is she still struggling to find acceptance within the Crickley Creek community? There’s a secret nestled among the plantation homes and Spanish moss-covered oaks—a truth her mother’s arch rival will do anything to hide.
And if Charlotte doesn’t learn how to overcome the damage some well-placed gossip can do to her reputation, she might lose everything, including her rose-colored memories of her mother. But is it possible for an outsider to belong in the deep South and still remain true to her own roots?
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I’ve moved a few times. The worst was moving to a new job and a new city a year after college and right after getting married. Talk about an adjustment! I’d never lived in a big, big city like Milwaukee. I had to start a new job and my husband had to finish grad school. Free time was limited.
Luckily I joined a softball league and made a few friends via that route.
When I moved to Maryland, it took a while to find friends. Most I found after becoming a mom.
Having kids truly does help forge friendships. We end up with our own playdates!
Great Interview! Congrats on your debut novel. I like Southern Fiction too, I always say I must have been a southern belle in a past life. I grew up in in Indianapolis, IN, moved to Colorado Springs, CO at 19, and now have called So CAL home for over 30 years. I Thought I would have a hard time making friends both times I moved, I only had my mom with me at both locations. I can say that I am still friends with a few people from CO, and my first California friend is still a friend.
Thank you, Kimberly! I’m happy you have long-term friendships. What a blessing! And, I hope you wear a hoop skirt some day just for fun. 🙂
haven’t felt that
That’s fantastic! I hope you never do!
Roseann McGrath Brooks
Congrats on the release! I lived in Aix-en-Provence, France, for a semester in college, and although it ended up being a great experience, it took a long time to adjust. I’m an extrovert who talks a lot, but because French wasn’t my first language, I had difficulty making new friends. Once I got the hang of it, though, I developed friends for life. I learned to be patient.
Yes. When I moved to a major city for college.
Moving to a major city is hard enough, but going to a college where you don’t know anyone is difficult in so many ways–especially when you’re at an age where friends are so important!
So excited for you! A debut novel is magical.
I got married to a divorce who had custody of his two kids and moved into a neighborhood where I was not a good fit. Though the mother had run off, like Kramer vs Kramer, I was never good enough for the rest of the women. I lasted 7 years, then had to bail and take care of myself.
It’s sounds like you went through a lot! I hope that during your self-care, you have found that you are more than just good enough!
Thank you so, so much, Liz!
Congratulations on your debut novel with Tule. Yes, in my current location. I think a move will be in the making sooner rather than later.
Thank you! I hope the move is a good one and you love it there!
We moved from the suburbs of Chicago to rural Kansas. Our kids were in junior high so it was a little easier to make friends. We were so nervous moving away from home where we grew up. Our kids did well.
Moving is nerve-wracking! So glad you and yours kids did well!
Congratulations on your new release! I have never moved anywhere where I didn’t feel I fit in. I’ve always lived within Illinois. However when I went away to college it was to a small town, more rural type setting whereas I’d always lived in a city/suburban setting. There were many others in the same situation so I never felt uncomfortable.
Thank you! I’m happy you have had positive moving experiences! Sounds like you have resiliency and a great attitude!
Congratulations, Laurie, on the release! The cover and synopsis hooked me. The storyline sounds so good for these lazy summer night coming up in 2023. 🙂
Oh, yes, moving and not fitting in has happened! But I love where I “fit” now, and I hope your heroine in the book gets her happily-ever-after, too.
Thank you! Tule did me such a favor with the beautiful cover and synopsis! So happy you have a place that fits!
I have never moved to a new place that I never felt like I would fit in. I do go from a public elementary school to a strict Southern Baptist junior high and high school. It was a small school. My graduating class was 50. Most of the kids knew each other as well as went to church together. It was a cultural shock to me. I grew up Methodist. I withdrew into myself. I never thought I would fit in. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.
A graduating class of 50! Not many people can say that anymore! God bless you, too!
I loved this interview as much as I loved The Firefly Jar. I am baffled by all those rejections. This is an amazing book. There are not a lot of books that say with me long after reading them, but this is one. I am already ready to read the next books in the series. I am so glad you are writing for Tule where I was able to find out about your books.
To answer your question, yes, I did move someplace I thought I would never fit in. When I was 10 years old, my family moved from New York to Texas. For the longest time kids made fun of me because of the way I talked. They didn’t like the “yankee” accent and let me know. 🙁 I even had a teacher put me in speech classes, as she said, I didn’t talk right.
Oh, my goodness! Speech classes for your “yankee” accent! That’s hilarious!
Janine! You are wonderful! Thank you.
It sounds like a scene from a comedy movie.
That teacher would be proud of me now. I sound about as Texan as they come. LOL! People are actually surprised when I say I was from New York. But then again, I have lived here for 47 years now.
I’ve only moved twice. The first time, I was just a few months old so I don’t remember it at all. We had to move from Maine because of my brother’s and my lungs couldn’t handle the cold so we moved to Florida. About 9-10 years ago, we moved back to Maine and luckily I don’t have a problem with my lungs in the cold weather now. Fitting in or not was never on my mind because for years I’ve been kind of isolated/keeping to myself because of how bad my migraines are.
I’m glad you don’t have that problem with your lungs anymore! But migraines! UGH! I’m sure you’ve tried everything, but I can tell you that with my daughter’s migraines, the only thing that gave her any kind of relief was a hot towel on her forehead and something cold (we used a can of soda from the fridge) behind her neck. Then, complete darkness and rest.
I have moved many times.
I hope you’re happy where you are now!
A wonderful interview. I think you’ve nailed the charm of southern fiction, Laurie.