By Christine Jeanne’ for The Island Eye News
Photos by Barbara Bergwerf
With a beach theme and a local setting, three authors came together to share personal stories, characters in their books, and upcoming literature projects. Nearly 300 people attended the 11th Wild Dunes Author Series featuring three of the most celebrated beach writers; New York Times bestselling beach book queens, Mary Kay Andrews and Nancy Thayer, with acting moderator Mary Alice Monroe. The three authors are known worldwide for their novels inspired by their East Coast seaside homes. On Sunday, Jan. 21, attendees gathered at the Wild Dunes Resort’s Sweetgrass Pavilion on Isle of Palms. Each purchased ticket included a signature cocktail, provided by the local Firefly Distillery, appetizers, and a coupon toward the purchase of a book. The menu featured a sampling of dishes from Mary Kay Andrew’s own “Beach House Cookbook,” due out this spring. The event also featured a silent auction that included a resort getaway package from Wild Dunes and a painting from Lowcountry artist Mickey Williams, with proceeds benefitting The Pat Conroy Literary Center. The Author Series began with a welcome message and opening remarks by former local newscaster, Angela May. May now serves as Mary Alice Monroe’s assistant and introduced Monroe to the stage. Monroe was welcoming and warm to her audience of fans and neighbors as she proceeded to introduce the two honored guest authors. Before writing her first novel, Mary Kay Andrews worked for 14 years as a journalist. After leaving the newspaper business in 1991, Andrews published her first novel “Every Crooked Nanny,” followed by 10 acclaimed mysteries. Andrews’ skill translates in the kitchen as well, and she is set to release her first cookbook, “The Beach House Cookbook,” on May 2 of this year. Nancy Thayer is known for her likable characters and description of complex family dynamics and romance. She has written 29 novels and excerpts of Nancy’s work have appeared in magazines across the country, including “Redbook” and “Good Housekeeping.” Nancy is inspired by her seaside home on Nantucket, MA and plans to release “A Nantucket Wedding,” her thirtieth novel, on May 8. The Author Series event creator and narrator was Isle of Palms resident Mary Alice Monroe. When asked, “Why the author series?”, Monroe stated, “To bring a less formal, engaging platform for authors to have a personal conversation with readers. I get to bring my favorite authors to my community.” Mary Alice Monroe blends the captivating landscape of the South Carolina coast and her passion for conservation in her bestselling stories of complicated families and relationships.
“A Lowcountry Christmas” was awarded the Southern Book Prize in fiction by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and her 2011 novel, “The Butterfly’s Daughter,” received the International Book Award for Green Fiction. April 28 will mark a career highlight as Monroe will formally be inducted into the SC Academy of Authors Literacy Hall of Fame. Later this year, a movie adaptation of her novel The Beach House, starring Andie MacDowell, Minka Kelly, and Chad Michael Murray will appear exclusively on the Hallmark Channel. On May 22, Monroe will release her new novel “Beach House Reunion,” which is a continuation of the Beach House Series. The book tour will include a book launch party and fundraiser at the SC Aquarium. Questions asked to the panel of authors ranged in topics.
The question and answer format of the author series created many opportunities for authors to describe their literacy paths. “How do you write one book per year?” inquired Monroe. Thayer answered, “With a lot of support from my family.” Personal questions were posed as well, “How did you begin writing?”
Thayer had a sincere tone, centered around her family support system, referencing her husband and two children. Mary Kay Andrews had an honest sense of humor; with every question she had the attendee’s in laughter. When asked about book characters, Andrews responded, “My characters are real people, we are writing fiction, but we are trying to create a world that’s believable.” Following the hour-long question and answer author platform, began cocktail hour and book signings, which allowed the audience to interact with the celebrated writers. The featured recipes from Mary Kay Andrews’ “The Beach House Cookbook” included southern corn fritters with hot ‘n’ sweet dipping sauce, crab cakes with a tropical mango salsa, marinated beef tenderloin with fig-onion jam, fruit cobbler and decadent, dark chocolate-dipped cheesecake bites. Proceeds from the Wild Dunes Author Series will benefit the Pat Conroy Literary Center, named in honor of the beloved, late, Southern author. The center aims to celebrate the life, works, and legacy of Pat Conroy. In addition to providing space, classes, and support to area writers and readers, the center works to enhance the literacy arts. Writing workshops, book discussion and a mentorship program that partners with schools are all part of the Pat Conroy Literacy Center.