Beach Trip: More to Discuss

flower summer seriesWell 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:

imageDB.cgi1.  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.”

99 Responses

  1. […] it! Jessica on Summer Reading Series: Beach …Beach Trip: More to … on Summer Reading Series: Beach …BookwormMari on Summer Reading Series: Beach …Diane […]

  2. Do any of these characters resemble you in any fashion?

    Mel-very abrasive and harsh at times…where did draw her from? People that you’ve encountered in your life?

    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?

    Where did the idea for Beach trip start?

  3. Margonas ARE totally real! I know because I’ve had them myself! They are oh, so delicious. My friend who made them for me didn’t tell me the secret ingredient until after I drank about 1/2 of it. They are delicious!

    Sheri
    A Novel Menagerie
    The Consummate Alcohol Expert

  4. I have to say, Lola is the character I never quite “got”. What heppened to her in the hospital after her “breakdown”? If it really was enough to make her that distant from reality, that is a serious case of malpractice. For her to voluntarily submit herself to her life as it happened from that point on is also pretty scary.

    Maybe she needed more details filled in– but that would have been a much less pleasant book.

    • I never thought she had a breakdown. She was basically kidnapped and held against her will, committed by her mother and future husband. Sick. I don’t think she voluntarily submitted to anything. Thoughts? Anybody?

      • I thought she was held against her will also. She had to be broken down so that she could see the “error of her ways”.

  5. Mel:

    With her betrayal of Lola, I think Mel had written her mental story of what was supposed to happen with Lola. When Lola went off-script, Mel tried to put her back on script, not thinking through the consequences. Mel was always very confident. Having her decisions turn out wrong never shook that🙂.

    About Lola’s forgiveness:

    Lola seemed to be at peace with her life. Until just before the book, it was a very foggy peace. By the time of the books events, she was already working towards moving beyond her past, so forgiving Mel was just one more piece of that.

    (I’m not sure how much we should say about pivotal events here– are spoilers allowed?)

    • Thanks for asking about spoilers!! The author would prefer we did not give away the ending. We can allude to it but let’s not outright give it away. THANKS!

    • Wondering how much of Mel’s decision to betray Lola had to do being raised in a wealthy family.

      • She didn’t want her to have to struggle, I guess. But Mel, more than any of them, should have known that money didn’t equal happiness. I still don’t really get why she did it. She was the one who felt she didn’t need a man to be happy (breaking up with JT) and the one who was ready to strike out on her own. She was the one who didn’t want her dad’s money. So it was kind of insulting to Lola that she felt the need to betray her like that, as if Lola was incapable of making a decision on her own.

  6. Talking about friends from the past and letting down your guard. I have several acquaintances that make me ‘scratch me head’. They try to hard to portray one thing when their past or family is so much different. Why is that? I am who I am, I know have flaws (don’t we all) but I try to be open and now growing up around women… I really enjoy talking with women (who knew some of you discuss the things you do!). I wonder if this played into why the 4 friends in the book were reserved.

    Question for Cathy: Did Cathy intend to write the friends to be guarded? If she did…brilliant since we are talking about it!

    • Sometimes it’s easier to be with people you’ve known forever- friends who know your past, but sometimes it’s easier to be a blank slate with someone brand new. You can be anyone you want to be. You can’t fool your lifelong friends who ‘knew you when’.

    • I wanted each woman to feel guarded in the beginning; you know how it is that first day when you’re at the beach….everyone has their mask on. But by the second or third day, you’ve begun to relax enough to let your guard down. You begin to talk about things you wouldn’t normally discuss because you’re comfortable with one another; you fall back into those old habits of friendship.

      • WELCOME CATHY!

      • I like this sense of “guardedness.” They have been apart for a while, I think it added a realness to the story right away. I say this as a very guarded person. Even with my close friends and family. It takes a while for me to open up about myself and let my guard down.

  7. Mel was the character that I was most diappointed in. I didn’t think she was a good friend to the others. Her betrayl of Lola in college is the most telling, but I think her drinking is a way of not having to deal with the hard parts of being friends.

    • I don’t know if I would judge her that harshly because I think she was trying to protect Lola – Lola was almost childlike and even though she was in love with Lonnie, she never had to worry about money a day in her life and I think Mel thought he was beneath her. She felt she was protecting her from making a really bad decision. Of course, she was wrong, but I think she had good intentions.

      The drinking- some might view it as an escape, but I didn’t get the impression Mel was a heavy drinker- only that she likes to party on vacation. If I was spending a week at the beach with no husband and no kids, you better believe I’d be enjoying a cocktail (or 3). She didn’t come across to me as an alcoholic or anything. What does everyone else think?

      • Would the comments about her drinking also be another way for Mel to be different? The “wild” single woman?

  8. I think the alcohol was a way for the women to let down the barriers they have and become the friends they once were.

    I wasn’t surprised by Mel’s betrayal, she was the most vocal about Lola’s decision and she felt a strong need to protect her. Mel felt Annie and Sara were preoccupied, so Mel took matters into her own hands.

    I think Mel will always need love and companionship. I think the trip helped her realize the kind of man and kind of relationship she truly wants.

    I like that Lola went to extremes at the end. She finally found a way to be happy.

  9. The drinking probably caused the ladies to open up in a way they wouldn’t have if they had stayed sober. Let’s face it, we are all just a little chattier if we’ve had a couple. But these ladies still seemed pretty good at holding things in.

    I think the ladies all played to their college-age script; they didn’t really have much choice since they didn’t know each other as adults. In particular, they all still assumed they had to watch over Lola.

    • Lisa, what an excellent point. They didn’t know each other as adults! What other assumptions do you think they made about each other?

      • I haven’t attended a HS reunion… I wonder if I would act like I did back then. I am the same person but more confident and comfortable with myself. The girls I wanted to be friends with didn’ t need new friends (remember being a teenager, ugh).

      • I haven’t attended a HS reunion either- too far away and too expensive, and really there are only maybe 3 people I’d really like to see!

      • That was the difficult part of writing the book; obviously, these four women “know” each other better than the reader can know, at least early in the novel. So much is revealed gradually; not just incidents from their lives over the past twenty-three years, but also incidents from their college days. To me, the drinking seemed symbolic of their desire to return to girlhood; and it was a catalyst, too, forcing them to confront their individual, and shared, pasts.

    • They were awfully secretive for being such good friends. Such good friends shouldn’t have to hold back information from each other.

      • But.. they weren’t really friends as adults until they’d spent some time together. They really didn’t know each other as adults. They hadn’t been around each other in 20+ years, so their guard was up.

  10. I saw Mel’s love for alcohol as an easy excuse for bad behavior. I you say something offensive while drinking… its so easy to just blame it on the alcohol. I also wondered if Mel kept pushing the alcohol on her firends because she wanted/needed them to open up and be able to talk about the past with her. What do you think?

    • I think she wanted to talk about the past, and alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions, conversationally and otherwise! But I still don’t think she was a heavy drinker. There wasn’t anything in there about her current life that lead me to believe alcohol was a problem. It think it was her way of relaxing and loosening up on vacation.

  11. Cathy, are you here? If so, Welcome! And thank you for giving us this opportunity to read and talk about your book. Obviously we’ve got a lot to talk about. What has been happening in your life since the book was published in May? It must be a really exciting time for you.

    • It’s been wild! I just got back from a quick signing tour in North Carolina so if I seem a little brain-dead, I’ll blame it on the travel!

      • When you do a signing, are you talking with people who have already read your book? I mean, are you dealing with fans or are you convincing people to buy🙂

      • It’s usually a little of both. Some people come to readings because they’ve read the Kudzu Debutantes books; some come because they’ve read Beach Trip and some are just there scouting for book club material. I’m always happy to see anyone who shows up, regardless of the reason!

  12. Cathy, here is a question from Donna:

    “I am from NC was distracted by some of the name changes for places. For example, why did you change Bald Head to Whale Head?”

    • I really struggled with the name changes. I’m a stickler for details and sometimes I feel as if using a real name, instead of a fictitious name, means I’ve got extra research to do. I was at a signing recently and a woman told me she’d read a book about Chicago and the author had described Michigan Street instead of Michigan Avenue, so she knew the author had never been to Chicago. I guess that’s one of the reasons I change the names; to make sure I don’t get anything wrong.

  13. Cathy, do you have anything you’d like to ask the readers?

  14. Cathy I’m curious about the cover. Did you have any say in the design? If not, are you happy with it?

    • I have nothing to do with the covers, but I’ve been happy with all of them. I suppose if I really didn’t like something I could throw a fit, but that hasn’t happened yet (knock on wood).

  15. Cathy wants to ask those of us in book clubs how we go about choosing books for the year. She’s also curious if we see this as a good discussion book. Anybody?

    • My book club votes quarterly. Everyone brings suggestions and then we vote- once to narrow it down to maybe 6 and then a second time to narrow it down to three choices for that season. We email the choices ahead of time so everyone can look them up on amazon or elsewhere and see what they think.

    • I would pick this one for my book group. We have been together for 7 years. We all live apart and actually have “beach trip” like gatherings. I think we might see some of ourselves in this book. I think we’d enjoy talking about the book also.

  16. Cathy, will there be a reading guide for Beach Trip? My face to face book club always uses them.

  17. I found my book club on meetup.com. Previously members made suggestions and then the group leader set up a poll with no discussion.

    Next month we are meeting at a member’s home. Everyone who attends will bring a book, or books, that they would like our book club to discuss. the group will decide the books upon which we will vote.

  18. A book guide would be great!

  19. There will be a reading guide for Beach Trip. I talked to my marketing rep at Random House yesterday and they’re working on it.

  20. I think some of the comments regarding Mel have been interesting. I knew she would be the most controversial character.

  21. I thought Annie was interesting too. Kind of wound up tight, but wishing she weren’t!

  22. Do you think the book was overly long? Did you feel that the surprises at the end were effective, and “real”?

    • I thought it was a little bit long, but then what would be left out if it was shorter?? I don’t know. I loved the end- it made the book for me! I saw the JT thing right away so didn’t find that a surprise (although I see others did) but the Lola thing- WOW!

  23. I am so sorry but I have to bail early! My daughter is having a sleepover party this evening and the kids are starting to arrive. Have to talk with the moms, etc. I’ll be back.

    Cathy, this was great. Thanks so much!

  24. Although it took me awhile to get into the book I didn’t think it was overly long. While the J.T connection didn’t surprise me, I didn’t truly make the connection until the end. Truly enjoyed the surprise ending and strangely enough it did seem real. I truly enjoy a book that surprises me.

  25. So Cathy what are you working on next? Will you be coming back to NC for a book signing?

    • I’m working on a new novel called Old Money, about a Chicago writer who marries into an old Southern family with more skeletons in their closet than anyone can possibly imagine.

      • Well bless their hearts!! I’m looking forward to reading it. I’ve already requested your first novel from the library!

      • Sounds like that will be good. I’m a midwesterner who now lives in the south, and I love stories about southerners secrets. I think southern family secrets is almost a cultural thing here.

    • Great question! I’ll be watching for Old Money.. that sounds good. I do love me a southern family with skeletons in the closet!! LOL

  26. Cathy, Thanks for spending this hour with us. I know others will be coming around as time allows to post comments, etc. Perhaps you can check back now and then to see if there are more questions!

    Thanks, too, for giving us this terrific book to discuss! All the best to you!!

  27. Cathy and Lisa

    Thanks!!! I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you and reading all the comments!

  28. Dang…that’s what I get for cooking supper!

  29. I am really sorry I missed this discussion – but I just got home from work and so was late to the party. That said…just in case Cathy comes back *smiles*…

    I think this would be a great book club read. I didn’t find it overly long (but I like chunky books!). I heard about the book through TLC Book Tours🙂

    Thanks for sharing your way of writing, Cathy – I love hearing how authors write their stories and craft their characters.

    The questions:

    1. I think the alcohol helps break down their defenses.

    2. Lola forgiving Mel was right in line with her character – she would never NOT forgive her. I believe when Mel betrayed Lola she thought she was being helpful…it was only later that she realized her mistake. I respected Mel for coming clean and admitting what she did.

    3. I’m not sure Mel will find “love” but I think she is satisfied with her choices for the most part.

    4. I think that initially they fell right back into their old dynamics, but as the week wore on and the discovered who they had become, their friendships actually grew and matured.

    • So glad you could come by, Wendy!

      I respected Mel for that too. She could have left it alone and never said anything, but she needed to clear her conscience and be forgiven, I think. And you’re right about Lola- she was the forgiving type.

      Also agree with you about how their friendships grew over the course of the week.

  30. I’m posting another comment because I forgot to check the “notify me of comments” box🙂

  31. Thanks everyone! I enjoyed being part of the discussion, and hearing what other people thought about this book. A particular thanks to Cathy Holton for her participation and to Lisamm and Mari for organizing this event!

    I’ll keep my eye out for more discussion on Beach Trip, and I look forward to All We Ever Wanted Was Everything next month (I’ve already read it for a book club, and liked it quite a bit).

    I’ve posted my Beach Trip review on my blog.

    • Thanks so much for participating! I love group discussions- you get to see things from a different POV.

      Also looking forward to All We Ever Wanted…

      Thanks for the link to your review of Beach Trip!

  32. I had to work last night, so I missed the live discussion. I don’t know that the book is one that my book club would like. I think about half of the women would like it, but the other half wouldn’t be interested. I think the cover does the book a disservice. it makes the book seem fluffier than it is. But, since I am the group leader and I make up the reading schedule, I am going to at least put it on my long list.🙂

    • Some of the best discussions we’ve had in our book club is when 1/2 liked the book and 1/2 didn’t! Eat, Pray, Love comes to mind…

      I agree with you on the cover. I like it but I think the book would be better served with something a little less ‘chick lit’.

  33. I just wanted to say that the conversation here was magnificent. It reminds me of some of the good conversations I have with my online book club. I am sorry I got called away at work and I didn’t get to participate live. But I did really get to savor it today. Thank you everyone for great questions and stimulating book talk.

  34. […] If you get a chance, stop by TLC Book Tours where you can check out the "Summer Reading" discussion on Beach Trip and more discussion on Beach Trip. […]

  35. […] summer book discussions have been so fun!  You can check out our earlier discussions for Beach Trip in June and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything in […]

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