BY EMILIE RICHARDS
Meet four women who think they have nothing in common except the oyster-shell road that runs between their ramshackle beach cottages on a spit of land called Happiness Key.
When her husband is sent to prison, pampered Tracy Deloche is left with twenty-five acres of Florida Gulf Coast sand, five tumbledown beach houses and no idea how to start over. An exile in a strange country, Janya Kapur has left her wealthy, close-knit Indian family for an arranged marriage to a man she barely knows. Plainspoken Wanda Gray is tired of watching her marriage fail, so she takes a job guaranteed to destroy it-if her husband cares enough to discover what she's doing. Since her daughter's death, widow Alice Brooks has grown forgetful and confused. Her son-in-law and granddaughter have come to stay, but Alice isn't sure she's grateful.
When the only other resident of Happiness Key dies alone in his cottage, the four women warily join forces to find his family. Together, they discover difficult truths about their own lives and the men they love and uncover the treasure of an unlikely friendship. Meet four women who think they have nothing in common except the oyster-shell road that runs between their ramshackle beach cottages on a spit of land called Happiness Key.
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR-EMILIE RICHARDS
Hello, Emilie. Thank you for agreeing to do an interview for my book blog, BOOKIN’ WITH BINGO. That is where I will share all the good news about you and your writing. Is there any personal information you’d like to start out with…like a picture or website?
Website is Emilierichards.com http://www.emilierichards.com/index.htm
1. What is the next or current book you are working on?
FORTUNATE HARBOR, the sequel to HAPPINESS KEY from MIRA in 2009, is what I am working on. MIRA and I were so happy with the outcome of HAPPINESS KEY that a sequel just made sense although I hadn’t intended one when I was writing it. I’ve found, though, having done this before, that I always leave tantalizing threads in the original novel I can follow up on. Stories mentioned but not yet embroidered characters from the past who suddenly reappear, themes I didn’t have time to explore. So there was a wealth of material to work on, and I was delighted to have another rendezvous with these characters, whom I so thoroughly fell in love with.
2. What have you just finished reading?
3. What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
As a child I read everything I could get my hands on. I basically swept through our small public library and read indiscriminately. I loved Jane Eyre and Gone with the Wind and other popular novels about strong women overcoming incredible obstacles. I think it’s clear that theme left an indelible impression on my work.
4. What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or….?
Yes to both and almost anything else. Titles are often a catalyst for me. Although I knew from the onset that Happiness Key was going to be a friendship novel, something I’d wanted to write for a very long time, the actual story was suggested by the title, which I came up with first and loved. In fact I loved it so passionately that if my publisher had said no to it, I would have written a different book for them and kept this one for another time. I’ve actually done that. Titles are very evocative for me.
5. What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably
Yikes, without boring you to death? Hmmm…well, if you read my blog, you’ll see I bake all my own bread and love to share recipes. I’m cultivating a sourdough culture that runs my life but makes great bread and pancakes. I do this as much for the sentimental connection to all those people who’ve used it in the past as for the great bread I can make. Anyone who reads my books knows that connections to the past are one of my indelible themes.
6. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
First, congratulations to you on such an important job. And what a joy it must be to read their work (referring to my teaching job of 37 years that I just retired from). I have two things to say, actually. One, never let anybody tell you it’s not practical to pursue writing or any of the arts. Maybe you will need another job to supplement, at least at first, but you should always follow your heart and do what you love. Always. Two, pay attention to your own rhythms and find the best time of day to practice your craft. Set aside time and a quiet place and let the muse have its way. Invite it in, and listen to what it teaches you.
7. What did this book mean to you? Did it change your life? If so, how?
From the moment I began writing Happiness Key I began to think about all the keys to happiness. Happiness Key wasn’t just a title, but a question, too. Exactly what does make people happy? Not “fleeting smile” happy, but bone deep, all’s-right-with-world happy? I don’t think this is a question anyone can answer quickly or lightly. And it’s not an answer we can parrot, based on teachings we follow or other people’s experiences. The answer is individual, emotional, vital.
One of the answers my characters come up with is friendship. And thinking about that made me realize how little time I spend with my own. We’re all so busy, and if we’re lucky, we shoot off the occasional email or less often, indulge in a quick phone call. Now that I’ve thought this through, I’m trying harder to make time for friends, as well as the other things that make me happy, like more time to read and quilt and bake bread, more uninterrupted time with my husband, becoming a better listener when my children want to talk. Enjoying my walks with our crazy beagle instead of resenting the time they take.
Happiness is something we too often take for granted but maybe we always need to be thinking about it and making adjustments in our life with happiness as the final goal. Is that selfish? Because I can hear women, in particular, wondering the very thing? I don’t think so. Because when we’re happy with our lives, then we make other people happy, too.
Something my characters learned. Something I learned. Something I’m still learning.
Thanks for this interview, Karen. It’s always a pleasure to talk about my books. Actually, it makes me happy.
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