By Emma C. Woodham for The Island Eye News
New York Times bestselling author and Isle of Palms resident Mary Alice Monroe will welcome two distinguished guests for the Wild Dunes Author Series on Jan. 27, Patti Callahan Henry and Lisa Wingate.
“This is our island, and I’m always shocked when people don’t know about this event,” Monroe said.
Wingate and Callahan, also NY Times bestselling authors, are both close friends of Monroe’s, and she believes that their friendship will make the event even more special than it has been in years past.
“I think that’s what makes this whole series different. It’s more intimate. And this is going to be a very special year. Two of the hottest novels this year are these ladies’ books,” Monroe said.
Over the past 12 years, since the Author Series’ inaugural year, Monroe says it has changed drastically. In the beginning, the Series was only open to members of Wild Dunes, and Monroe often invited a larger number of authors to participate each year.
“We had four or five one year, and it was just too many. I couldn’t get the conversation that I wanted,” she said.
In the following years, Monroe hosted guests Pat Conroy and his wife, author Cassandra King, and Andie McDowell and Debbie Macomber another year. She quickly realized that two was the perfect number and decided to limit the number of invited guests to two each year.
“That’s why I retitled it a ‘conversation with Mary Alice Monroe’. It sets the tone that my Wild Dunes Author Series will always be a conversation,” Monroe said.
Monroe believes that the more intimate setting allows the authors to relax and share personal stories, both about their writing and their lives. During the event, she will ask questions to encourage the conversation.
“I want the audience to feel like they’re at the table with them, and I think we succeed,” Monroe said.
Henry, author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis and over a dozen other novels, says she prefers events like the Wild Dunes Author Series because it offers a more open discussion.
“Conversation brings out parts of the story and themes that don’t come from just lecture. The right question will often elicit an opening to talk about things that can’t be addressed in solo lecture alone,” Henry said.
“Even at more structured book talks, my favorite part is the question and answer portion. I’m always reminded of the most magical component of story, which, for me, is that no two people read the same book. The beauty of discussing a story is that we have the chance to see it through eyes other than our own,” Wingate said.
Wingate and Henry both made room in their busy schedules so they could be part of the Author Series, and their friendship with Monroe was a big factor in their decisions. Both had nothing but kind words to say about Monroe.
“Mary Alice is one of my nearest and dearest. Not only a mentor, but a friend,” Henry said.
“She is one of those amazing literary long-timers who is not only passionate and driven but generous with her time and energy. And she rescues sea turtles. She may be Superwoman. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling,” Wingate said.
The theme of the 2019 Wild Dunes Author Series is ‘Historical women of great strength and courage,’ and Monroe had nothing but praise for her fellow authors and their latest books, both of which embody the theme. Wingate’s book, Before We Were Yours, is a blockbuster hit that has been on almost every bestselling list and has won many prestigious awards.
“Patti Henry’s book is a beautifully told story of a woman’s conviction, and Lisa Wingate’s is a true history of children who were taken at birth or literally kidnapped and sold for adoption. It was a huge scandal,” Monroe said.
Both Wingate and Henry are generously donating their time for the event and a portion of the ticket sales and book purchase will support Reading Partners, a South Carolina literacy program. Monroe says she is passionate about giving to support literacy in the community.
“I think it’s a big point that these authors aren’t being paid. It’s getting harder and harder to get big name authors because the demand is so high, but Wild Dunes always takes very good care of them,” Monroe said.
“We’re going to chat, tell personal stories, and talk about our books. Because of the unique friendship we all share, it’s more comfortable. I think this will be a particularly good year,” Monroe said.
The Wild Dunes Author Series is on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Sweetgrass Pavilion. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at MaryAliceMonroe.com/events. Each ticket includes drinks, food, literary discussion, an author meet-and-green and a coupon towards the purchase of a book.