Welcome to the beach, Liz! I heard you’ve been visiting another of our great Florida beaches recently in Pensacola. I hope you were able to draw inspiration for a future book from it. Spread out your blanket and say hello to our other guests.
Hi, Sandy. Thanks so much for having me today. Yes, we’re spending winter at Pensacola Beach. So far, it’s been pretty wintry, too, but compared to back home in Indiana, it’s downright balmy. We’ve vacationed here off and on for years and have family here. The beach, even when the wind is blowing you off your feet and your hands are freezing, is a mystical delight of a place. I’m not starting a new book, but am finishing one for Harlequin Heartwarming and having a very good time with it.
My second book, Because of Joe, takes place on this beach. I was walking today and recognized the house I chose for Tell and Rags. It’s still the color of strawberry ice cream!
If you ever decide to have a beach party of your own, what three authors, dead or alive, would make the top of your guest list?
Okay, with apologies to all my real friends who will have to go to the middle of the list, I would invite Kathleen Gilles Seidel simply because she’s amazing, Louisa May Alcott to thank her for getting me through a bumpy childhood and making me realize I was meant to write books, and…oh, gosh…I know! Gene Stratton Porter, who wrote Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost and many others. I think she taught me you didn’t have to be “from the city” in order to do things and go places--you could be a country girl from the Midwest.
They sound interesting. What would be three of the things you’d serve? I assume these would be your favorites.
Since this is a beach party, and it’s wintertime while we’re talking, I’d serve chili and hot dogs and s’mores and hot chocolate with a little “warming agent” added. (I’m not sure what warming agent goes into hot chocolate, but I’ve had it before and it’s good!)
If a movie was ever made of THE GIRLS OF TONSIL LAKE what actresses do you see playing the parts of your four adult characters?
My ages won’t really mesh up that well here, but just pretend… Vin, who is sophisticated and self-contained, would be played by Annette Bening, just because she’s so beautiful and so real at the same time. Jean, who is a little too much like me, would be played by Mariska Hargitay because--wow, do I even need a reason? She’s terrific and I love how she looks. Felicity Huffman would portray Suzanne, the pretty one, because Huffman’s so pretty but also so much more--just like Suzanne. Andie--oh, this one is hard, because Andie’s hair is white and I can’t “see” white on anyone. But Bonnie Hunt could do it, I think. She’s funny and, forgive me, Ed Asner, spunky. Yeah, that would work.
Everyone is dying to hear what advice you’d give about writing.
Give us your biggest DO and biggest DON’T.
Give us your biggest DO and biggest DON’T.
My second-biggest DO is to listen to your own voice and write with that. I wish, oh, I WISH I could write romantic suspense simply because it’s so popular and so many great writers write it and I’d probably make more money and…guess what. My voice is a baby-boomer voice, it’s loving and mild and vaguely funny and it fits women’s fiction and sweet romance like the proverbial glove. I’m not saying to write what you know, because that gets old and most of us don’t know enough for that. I am saying to write what comes naturally. And have fun with it. And there’s the biggest DO of all--if you’re not having fun, quit.
My biggest DON’T is never talk ugly in public about other writers, their work, or other professionals in the field. It will come back to bite you in the butt and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
The crowd is buzzing. They want to know about THE GIRLS OF TONSIL LAKE.
Four women whose differences only deepen the friendship forged in a needy childhood…
They were four little girls living in ramshackle trailers beside a lake in rural Indiana. They shared everything from dreams to measles to boyfriends to more dreams. As they grew up, everything in their lives changed—except their friendship. Through weddings and divorces, births and deaths, one terrible secret has kept them close despite all the anger, betrayal, and pain.
Now, forty years later, facing illness, divorce, career challenges, and even addiction, the women come together once again for a bittersweet month on an island in Maine. Staring down their fifties, they must consider the choices life is offering them now and face the pain of what happened long ago.
Secrets are revealed and truths uncovered, but will their time together cement their lifelong friendship—or drive them apart forever?
I love the idea of writing about older women! A few of us happen to fall into that category. We’ll need a taste of what we can expect.
Suzanne and I watched from the porch as Vin and Jean negotiated the path on either side of Lucas Bishop. They were singing “Hey Jude” at the top of their not-very-tuneful voices and all of them were carrying plastic shopping bags from Vin and Lucas’s trip to Bar Harbor.
Oh good, we won’t have to talk about this now. The relief I felt was immense, and a sideways glance at Suzanne showed it mirrored on her face. God knows what I’d been thinking when I brought it up in the first place.
“Look at Vin,” she said, pointing. “She’s all lit up.” Her relieved expression slid into a frown. “And Jean’s white as a ghost.” Fear threaded through her voice. “What do you think’s wrong with her, Andie?”
I shook my head. I wouldn’t go there; I couldn’t say out loud the thing that was hammering at the back of my mind. Ovarian cancer was still among the sneakiest and most lethal of killers. And Jean’s mother had been fifty-one when it had claimed her. Jean turned fifty-one in May.
Lucas greeted Suzanne and me and set his share of the bags on the porch. “I’m going to go home,” he said. “Jean, please remember what I said.”
“I will, Lucas,” she said, sinking into a rocking chair beside Suzanne and setting her bags on the porch floor. “Thank you.”
Lucas took off on the path to his house and Vin sat in the fourth chair. I gave Jean a hard look. “This is ridiculous,” I said. “You look like warmed-over death.”
“Thank you, Andie. I needed that.” Her withering look was interrupted by a flinch, and I wanted to run after Lucas, yelling for help all the way. I absolutely do not know how I used to make people afraid of me when I am the biggest chickenshit in the world.
“Did David enjoy the island?” Vin’s fingers were light on my arm, but I recognized a signal for me to shut up.
Jean’s eyes got kind of dreamy, and she seemed to look a little healthier because of it. “Yes, he did.”
“You two need to come back sometime on your own. You can use the house any time,” said Vin. She flushed. “Even if I’m in it, you can use it. I hope you all know that, that I want you to come to see me when this time is over whether I’m here or in New York. I’d love for it to be an annual thing, sort of like our drunken brawl at the Tonsil Lake Tavern only longer and soberer. We owe it to your children and grandchildren to show them fun can be had without throwing up on your Birkenstocks.”
Oh, we had come a long way on this sojourn.
“I think we always have known it,” said Jean quietly. “Even though you never invited us, and we did wonder why, we knew we were welcome if we ever came.”
Suddenly I understood. It was as though someone had written the truth in the stars and I could finally read the message that had eluded us for years. “Mark didn’t like us, did he, Vin? Or at least one or two of us, and when he died you would have felt disloyal if you’d let us come to you.”
Vin was silent for a long moment, and when I looked over at her, I saw that a tear had trickled from the corner of one eye. Damn, I had done it again. I really do get tired of feeling like a shit because I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. “I’m sorry,” I said.
This was something new with me, apologizing for my bluntness. I wasn’t sure I liked it, but I was positive I didn’t like making a good friend cry, even Suzanne who wept at the drop of a hat. “I didn’t mean—” I stopped. Exactly what didn’t I mean?
“No,” she said, putting her hand on my arm again and leaving it there. “He didn’t dislike you, but he didn’t feel comfortable with you or with our friendship. You knew he called me Vincent sometimes, didn’t you?” She looked down the row of us and we all nodded. “It was because he didn’t feel comfortable with Lavinia, either.”
The tears came fast then, heartrending in their silence. “After this afternoon, with Lucas,” she said, “I realize that perhaps Mark never loved me at all, but this version of me that was only real in his mind. He was happiest when we were in New York or Palm Beach, only tolerating the time we spent here, and this was the place I loved best. He wouldn’t even come to Indiana, remember?”
“Oh, Vin, of course he loved you.”
It was Suzanne speaking, and we all looked at her. I felt familiar “oh, Suzanne, what do you know?” impatience welling up inside, but I had learned in the past few weeks that she knew a lot, and if I’d kept my mouth shut a little more often, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to figure it out.
“Okay,” she went on, “so he didn’t like the island, but he bought you this house and handed you the deed with just your name on it so that it was yours no matter what happened. And he wasn’t crazy about us, but he never tried to stop you from being with us.” She grinned. “His not loving us only showed that the man’s character had limits, not that he didn’t have any.”
I remembered Suzanne’s first husband, Trent, who’d thought he could have one life in Indianapolis and another in Lewis Point, and of Phil, who had hidden from his colleagues the fact that his wife was a beauty consultant. She knew what she was talking about when it came to men’s character.
I just wish she knew about Jake.
“You know, she’s right,” I said. “And let’s be honest here, you hate Palm Beach and I don’t think you’re really happy in New York. Does that mean you didn’t love Mark?”
Vin snatched her hand from my arm. “Of course not,” she said indignantly, spoiling her hauteur with a sniffle. She looked down at all of us again. “Do you think he did?”
“Yes,” Suzanne and I said together.
“Sure do,” said Jean, who seemed to be getting a little color back. I don’t know whether it was the conversation or the bottle of Mylanta she’d pulled out of her purse. “After all,” she went on, “the man thought you were a C cup when he met you. If he still wanted you when the falsies came out, I’m sure it was love.”
Our laughter seemed to bounce off the rocks below, coming back to us in the stillness of the night. We stayed on the porch, going in only for sandwiches or glasses of something cold, until darkness crept in and slid into the water. We slapped at mosquitoes, but none of us wanted to go inside. Jean finally found a can of repellent and we sprayed each other down and resumed our seats.
It’s been said that time heals all wounds, but sometimes friendship does, too.
It’s obviously a must have read. Our guests can find it by going to
Everyone wants to get to know you better. Tell us a little about yourself.
The Girls of Tonsil Lake is my eighth book, and it is no less thrilling than the first one was. Since I retired from the post office, I spend non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else I want to. My husband Duane and I live in the old farmhouse in Indiana we moved to in 1977--when we’re not on the beach. We’ve talked about moving permanently, but really…36 years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening!
I’d love to hear from you at
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You’ve been a terrific guest, Liz. I can see myself and my kindle sharing a little time on the beach reading THE GIRLS OF TONSIL LAKE. I hope you’ll come back for more parties in the future.
Thank to everyone for stopping by the beach to visit today. It’s such a fun place to come. I hope you leave comments and questions, but let me leave you with one while you’re here. Oh, not a hard one--this is a party after all--but just one that might make you feel like smiling. Okay, how about this? Have you had an aha moment about something in your life that changed things forever (even if you don’t realize it at the time).
For instance, my own was when I was about nine or ten and was reading Little Women for the first time. Jo March wrote in the garret, sitting on an old sofa with papers all over the surface of a trunk in front of her. She ate apples and wrote and stared out the window into her future and wrote some more. When I read about Jo, I knew I was going to be a writer with a garret of my own. (Okay, it’s not a garret, but I have a really nice room I write in. J)
Before everyone runs off, feel free to ask Liz questions or give a comment below. Thanks for coming to the party!