Well the conversation has gotten off to a great start (check out the comments HERE) but now, let’s go deeper! REMINDER: Author Cathy Holton will be here at 4pm PST to answer our questions. Please come back if you’d like to ask her something, or just to say hello.
More questions for readers:
1. The women drink too much on more than one occasion. Do you think the alcohol helps their conversation flow, become more honest, or just cause hangovers?
2. Mel’s betrayal of Lola in college surprised me, considering she seemed to be the most free thinking of the four friends. Why do you think she did it? If you were Lola and you found this out during the trip, would you have been quick to forgive her?
3. Mel is still looking for love. Do you think she can be satisfied with her life the way it is?
4. Do you think the four friends treated each other as the people they are now, or as the people they were in college? When you are with people who have known you ‘forever’, do you feel like you revert back to old habits and old dynamics within the friendship?
5. Mari asks: Did Lola really need to go to such extremes in the end? If I allow myself to think about Lola and/or if one of my friends did something like this I might think they were cowardly. Life can be tough but is love worth losing everything? Did I miss something? (Mari, I edited your question to avoid a major spoiler).
Questions for Cathy, with her answers:
Margaronas- real or made up? Have you tried them?
“Yes, Margaronas are real…and surprisingly good, although the recipe sounds vile (and you don’t want to go anywhere after sampling. My husband and I usually just sit around and giggle.)”
What is your writing process? Do you start with an outline and stick to that or do you start with an idea with no idea where it will take you? Or do you, like John Irving, know how the story will end and tailor it to that ending?
“I used to start with the characters and put them into conflicting situations. But over the years, I’ve changed. I still start with the characters but I think a lot about plot now before I begin writing. I’ve been reading Kate Atkinsons’s series about Detective Jackson Brodie; I like the mystery element to those novels and the way the entire story only comes completely into view in the last few pages. I knew I wanted that same element in Beach Trip; you don’t really understand the novel in its entirety until that last piece slips into place.”
Are you reading anything right now? What kinds of books do you enjoy? What books can you recommend?
“I’m reading Alice Munro’s short story collection, “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You,” and Brock Clarke’s novel, “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England.
I like books that entertain, amuse, or so captivate me by the writer’s style or imaginative plotting that I can’t put the book down. Literally. I don’t like mindless reading. I want to be engaged and challenged. I love Alice Hoffman, Peter Carey, Hilary Mantel, Alice Munro, and Kate Atkinson. My favorite Southern writers are George Singleton, Lewis Nordan, Flannery O’Connor, and Ellen Gilchrist.”
Where do your characters come from? Are they based on people you know or part of your imagination? Do you have a favorite character?
“I think that, initially, each character comes from the author’s own psyche. But the way that character grows, changes, or reacts comes from some place else. Writers are like big sodden sponges; we soak up bits of dialogue, atmosphere, the way people walk, talk, or express themselves in groups or alone. And later all these bits, these observations, come through in the writing. I don’t consciously create characters based on people I know.
I have a special fondness for Mel in this novel. She has a fearlessness, a certainty of purpose in her life that I admire. She understands early on that she can’t “have it all”, that in her life, at least, the desire to be a writer takes precedence over everything else. I think it’s a dilemma many writers face; do we sacrifice family for the discipline and solitary demand’s of a writer’s life? Or can we, indeed, have it all?”
Do any of these characters resemble you in any fashion?
“My mother says she sees “something” of me in both Sara and Mel. Certainly I identify with Sara’s love of her family, her desire to be a good wife and mother (and feeling, sometimes, like she’s not quite up to the mark.) I also identify with Sara’s more quiet, introspective character. I share Mel’s dark sense of humor; and certainly the fact that she’s a writer, has wanted to be a writer since an early age, parallels my own life.”
Mel-very abrasive and harsh at times…where did draw her from? People that you’ve encountered in your life?
“People either really seem to like Mel, or they don’t. She’s entirely fictitious. Mel is a strong, intelligent woman and she makes no apologies for who she is. She says what she thinks and is brutally honest. I kind of like that aspect of her personality. She is overbearing at times and I think were it not for her sense of humor, I’d have a much more difficult time with her. She makes me laugh, so I forgive a lot. She’s had to grow up tough in order to survive Leland, but it’s that toughness that helps her later through the difficult time of her illness. “
I love the dynamics surrounding these women and how after 20+ years apart they fell right back into perfect sync with each other…do you have any friendships like that?
“You know, it’s interesting, but my entire high school class seems to have discovered Facebook at the same time. So I’ve gone through almost thirty years of sporadic Christmas cards and emails to suddently reconnecting with this group of friends I had throughout grade school and into college. When we talk to each other now, it’s as if we’re sixteen again; we fall back into the same patterns of friendship, the same slang, the same playful or antagonistic relationships. And it’s really lovely. It makes me feel youthful and optimistic again.”
Where did the idea for Beach trip start?
“It started over a martini night with some friends (imagine that.) One of the women was talking about a beach trip she takes every year with some of her college friends. She was describing how much fun it was, how they all acted like girls again; and then she mentioned quietly that it always got a little tense towards the end of the week because there was something between two of the women, some incident that had occurred in college that everyone else had forgotten about, something that only surfaced after a week of drinking and constant togetherness.
And that got me wondering what it could be, what could go unsaid for so long and yet still crop up years later when the women let their guard down. It got me thinking about friendship and memory and forgiveness, of the importance of honoring the past and yet letting it go, too.”
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