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.
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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