05-31-2013 10:28 AM
Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.
Early Praise for A Hundred Summers
"Novels as masterfully done as A Hundred Summers come along only about that often. Beatriz Williams delivers an intricately woven tale of friendship, betrayal, old families, and closely guarded secrets. It is what every beach book should aspire to be — smart and engrossing." — Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times-bestselling author of Beautiful Day
"A candidate for this year's best beach read — the period story of a derailed love affair seen through a sequence of summers at Seaview, R.I." — Kirkus Book Reviews
"Smart, delicious writing... Williams adds a signature touch of historic drama." — Library Journal
"A Hundred Summers sparkles like the New England summer sun. A brilliantly told tale of love lost and found, of friendship, and of family ties that strangle… Definitely a book for my keeper shelf." — Karen White New York Times-bestselling author of Sea Change
Please welcome back Beatriz Williams who’s fast becoming my favorite author.
I’ve had the immense pleasure of reading both her novels and I can’t sing her praises loudly enough. This is our third interview together.
Beatriz, Hi! Welcome to my blog.
Debbie, thanks so much for having me! It’s always a pleasure to talk books with you!
Tell your many fans here about your latest novel A Hundred Summers.
Well, my agent calls it “High Society meets A Perfect Storm!” Like Overseas, it’s a love story, set in the wealthy beach community of Seaview, Rhode Island, in the summer before the great New England hurricane of 1938. Lily Dane returns to her family’s generations-old Seaview cottage with her mother and young sister, as she does every year, but this time she’s confronted with a heartbreaking pair of neighbors: her childhood friend Budgie and her old flame Nick Greenwald, with whom she shared a passionate courtship six years ago. As the story alternates between Lily and Nick’s romance in 1931 and the sticky, hot summer of 1938, all the buried secrets start simmering to the surface, until the famous storm crashes into Seaview with all its potential for destruction and redemption.
How did the original novel idea come to you?
I’m from Seattle originally, so I came as an outsider into this whole East Coast culture of clubs and summer houses and intricate social relationships. As I writer, I find it so compelling, because so much takes place below the surface, which is how I tend to write my books anyway! Meanwhile, I’d always been fascinated with the legend of the 1938 storm––it came without warning and swept away entire shoreline communities. So I started combining these two ideas in my head, a secret love affair among the insular WASP upper crust of the 1930s together with a cataclysmic end-of-summer hurricane, and A Hundred Summers was born!
This is your second novel.
Does the writing get easier or harder?
What’s the biggest difference as a “now published” author from an “aspiring” author?
The writing is definitely easier! I’ve often described how I wrote Overseas in six weeks, but I had to follow that six weeks with months of editing to get the prose and the story where I wanted it. I drafted A Hundred Summers in about the same time, but I felt much more comfortable in my voice this time around, so I could polish and self-correct as I went along. Of course, as a debut author, you get a certain amount of publicity mileage just for appearing on the scene, fresh and dewy-cheeked. This year, I’m probably much less exciting!
Both your novels have been historical but this one happened during the time of an actual natural disaster.
When researching the novel did you discover anything about the hurricane that surprised you?
What shocked me most was the suddenness of it. Back in an age without satellites or Doppler radar, no one had any way of knowing that this particular storm was shooting straight up toward Long Island at sixty miles an hour instead of hooking rightward over the Atlantic, as hurricanes were expected to do. So coastal New Englanders heard this forecast for sunny skies in the morning and a bit of bluster in the afternoon, and they went about their business. By the time the winds cranked up to a hundred and thirty miles and hour, and a fifteen to twenty foot storm surge rolled in like a tsunami, it was too late to prepare, let alone to flee.
On your bio it says you divide your time between writing and laundry because of your 4 children. I love your humor in your interviews, in your novels and on your website.
When writing such poignant and serious scenes, how do you think humor helps the plot line?
Oh, I think a bit of humor is an absolute necessity, in life as well as in books! You can’t have three or four hundred pages of uninterrupted pathos; you need something to pace the tension. I think that’s why it’s called comic relief! But writing humor can be a lot harder than writing drama. Your timing has to be perfect, your rhythm has to be perfect. Delivery is everything!
The characters in both novels are unforgettable for me and yet both sets of heroines and heroes are so different.
As an author how do you put one set of characters down and pick up another, is it intrinsic or do they tend to mix if you’re not careful?
I’m certainly guilty of falling in love with some of my characters; it’s how I’m inspired as a writer, and how I keep myself glued to the page so that––well, fingers crossed, anyway!––readers stay glued to the page. By the time I sit down to write a story, I’ve usually been thinking about it for some time, so the characters are like real people in my head, with their own histories and personalities and voices. Sometimes they even surprise me, once they appear on the page and start interacting with each other, but confusion is never the problem!
Of all your characters so far do you have a favorite?
I can’t play favorites! The hardest part is starting a new book before I’m completely over the book I’ve just finished, which I had to do recently. I have to force myself to feel something for these new characters and to care about their problems. Once I get going, of course, I slip into the story just fine. But it was definitely tougher to start writing before I felt I knew my characters well enough. It’s like when you’re at a dinner party with a bunch of people you’ve only just met, and you’re trying to make interesting conversation with them. Hard work.
As you know I reviewed A Hundred Summers for RT Magazine (below)
How much credence do you put on reviews either editorial or reader?
Reviews are tough for me! I’m a second child and have that pleaser personality, and unfortunately you can’t please everyone in this business: What one person adores is another’s pet peeve. So I tread carefully over at Goodreads and Amazon, although I do try to listen to the thoughtful, constructive reviews, whether good or so-so. And trust me, we writers really do appreciate the good ones! It means so much when a reader or reviewer (like you, Debbie!) really connects with what I’ve written. I have a lot of fan mail I take out and re-read when my writerly mojo needs a boost.
Will you share your road to becoming an author with us. Are you an overnight success or did it take a little longer?
Like most authors, I’ve wanted to write books since the moment I could read them, so to me that road feels very long indeed! But I really didn’t pursue the craft seriously until I was home with my kids and felt my time had come, and I was ready to face all the challenge and rejection and criticism that I knew would come my way. I started off with a few failed efforts, as I learned how to tell a compelling story, but everything clicked with Overseas and things started happening pretty quickly after that. But I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like a success, overnight or otherwise! I’m too much a perfectionist. I can hardly even read my books once they’re out in print and I can’t change anything!
Okay it’s time to get into your “writing cave”. Does anything or anyone suffer while you’re on deadline?
My kids and my house! I’ve come to accept the fact that while I adore my husband and his many sterling qualities, he’s no housekeeper. (Not that I’m Mrs. Beeton myself, mind you!) He’ll pitch in willingly when I ask him to do something, but it just won’t occur to him to do things like pick up the clutter on his way upstairs, or wipe our four-year-old’s sticky hands before her fingers hit the computer keyboard. So when I’m in the homestretch of a book, the kitchen winds up littered with detritus and the kids wander around unwashed. It’s pretty grim, and it’s usually when my in-laws decided to pop in for a spontaneous visit!
Beatriz, it’s just us friends, you can trust us.
Tell us a secret.
My hair is seriously growing gray! It’s horrifying. It must be all the kids and writing deadlines. I have to touch up my roots at home, or I’d go broke.
My review is courtesy RT reviews magazine
A HUNDRED SUMMERS
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, America
4.5 TOP PICK RT Rating
Williams’ historical masterpiece is an all-encompassing, period-perfect read. Set in a historically accurate Rhode Island summer community, her narrative delivers visions of Gable and Garbo, and her storyline is a medley of political incorrectness, intrigue, debauchery and scandal. Her entire cast shines, but it’s her unsinkable, timeless couple who awes with their tenacity and integrity in the face of every unscrupulous act against them.
In the fall of 1931, the country stews between the ‘29 crash and WWII. Against all odds, Lily Dane and Nick Greenwald meet and fall in love. With much working against them, some obvious factors and some unknown, a personal tragedy proves too much for their fragile love and tears them apart. They reacquaint in 1938, during a perfect social storm, when the secrets and scandals that separated them come to a crashing climax that will seal their fates one way or the other. Will they weather the tempest or become its victims? (PUTNAM, Jun., 368 pp., $26.95)
Reviewed By: Debbie Haupt