Friday, March 28, 2008

Guest Interview: Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorothea Benton Frank (or the “Dottted One” as Pat Conroy calls her) has a new book out called Bulls Island. It’ll release on April 8.

Twenty years ago, Elizabeth "Betts" McGee was engaged to JD Langley, a member of South Carolina's original (and wealthiest) blueblood family.Neither respective kin, however, seemed all too pleased about the impending (and mismatched) nuptials. Then, one night, Betts' mother is killed in a horrific car accident - and, with social tensions running high, fingers are pointed, voices raised, and hearts forever broken. Now, two decades later, Betts must venture back to the hometown she fled in order to save it from overzealous land developers. However, when she is finally reunited with all she once cared for, more than memories come rushing back. In a land where tradition runs deep - and secrets even deeper - Betts wonders if she wants to do more than just remember
for the rest of her days.

Kirkus Reviews calls it "A warming tale with a side order of Southern magic.”

Q. What was the inspiration for Bulls Island?

A. Inspiration for BULLS ISLAND arrived the same as it did for my other
books - it's that little voice in your head that says What if? I was
reading something in the NY Times about protected islands being
decommissioned and made available for public use and I thought well,
that could never happen to Bulls Island. Or what if it did? And how
could that actually unfold?

Then I started thinking about the story and knew it should be a struggle
to save it, to preserve its pristine habitats, and that the struggle
should expand to the people determined to develop it versus the people
to whom it was unclear if this was a sound idea - was it environmentally
ethical? Or was it just another case of greed? And what if those
opposing teams were comprised of star crossed lovers, long separated and
perhaps by a tragedy? What if they happened to bump into each other
across a conference table?

And what if every character in the story had a secret - some bull they
were hiding and on the bull scale it could go from zero to a billion?

That's how the process starts . . .

Q. You now live in the New York area. Why did you make the move and
what are some of the things you miss about the South when you're gone?

A. I have lived in the New York area for almost thirty years. I moved here
for career opportunities and because my husband and I divide our time
between here and Charleston where we own a home and our two children are
in college spending every last dime we earn, we sincerely thank you for
your support. I don't miss Charleston too badly because luckily I am
there all the time. And I adore New York. Who doesn't? It's a
Disneyland for adults!

Q. What are some of the wonders about the low country that intrigues
you so?

A. So many things - too numerous to list but certainly there are standouts
such as all that blue sky, all the stars at night and all the glistening
water. I love the bird song, the sultry heat but perhaps most of all I
love the history of the Lowcountry. As you might already know, it's the
blood soaked land of my ancestors and probably some of yours. I like
the quiet and the serenity of it. And I love the idea that you can drop
a hook and catch a fish.

Q. How long does it take you to write your novels and what is your
process? Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?

A. Finishing it on time and then letting it go. As usual I always wish I
had another three or four months to work on it, to tell more, to be with
those characters longer. I really loved the folks in this book, even
the bad guys, and I hated telling them goodbye. Sequel? You tell me!

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of writing BULLS ISLAND?

A. It takes forever and then it's over in an instant. Basically, I write a
book every year which, in addition to all the related activities that
come along with that, is a challenge. I am very organized - note I said
very and not extremely - and I really like what I do. Thinking up plots
is great fun and being finished is fabulous. The time in between is
very hard work. I use an outline that is constantly revised. My novels
are too populated and busy not to have a road map.

Q. Have you already written your next book? What can readers expect

A. Merciful mother! No! But I am in the outline stage and it is a sequel
to SULLIVANS ISLAND, my first book.

Q. What books are on your bedside table right now?

A. THE POSITION by Meg Wolitzer, RUN by Ann Patchett, CHESIL BEACH by Ian
McEwen and ALL HE EVER WANTED by Anita Shreve.

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