We’re back today with part two of our “Author To Author” conversation between Karen White and our own Marybeth Whalen. Since both of their novels were inspired by where they live, we thought you’d like to listen in on a conversation about how they turned familiar locations into tales of suspense. If you missed part one, just click here to read!
And if you’re looking for good books to share with your book club, with a reading friend, or just with yourself, look no further than The Night The Lights Went Out and The Things We Wish Were True.
Now, on with the conversation– this time Karen’s asking Marybeth the questions!
Karen White: In The Things We Wish Were True, you’ve set the story in small town North Carolina. Since you live in a small NC town, I’m wondering if that was your inspiration for the setting?
Marybeth Whalen: Not only was my town (a suburb of Charlotte) the inspiration, my own neighborhood was! If you read the book and then visited where I live, the setting would seem very familiar. All my neighbors know that I used our neighborhood– but I’ve had to assure all of them that I didn’t use any of the people. Any similarities are purely coincidental.
Karen White: There seems to be a fresh crop of “suburbia” settings in contemporary fiction over the last year or so. Why do you think this setting is so appealing to readers and why did you chose to move your setting from the NC coast, where many of your previous books are set, to the suburbs?
Marybeth Whalen: Actually my second novel, She Makes It Look Easy, was also set in a suburb of Charlotte, and back then it was something I wanted to explore further, but alas the publisher wanted more romantic beach books. So I wrote a few more of those and then circled back to this setting that I love, because it’s where I live– physically and emotionally. The suburbs are such rich places to mine for material– mostly because we all work so hard to be happy, yet inevitable life stuff sneaks in and strives to mess that up. Exploring how human beings react to this tension between perfection and reality gives a writer so much to dig into. There’s definitely a dark side to suburbia. I like to expose the darkness, but also, ultimately, to offer hope in the midst of it.
Karen White: Your book is about secrets from the past. Was there a real secret that inspired this book?
Marybeth Whalen: Gosh I wish I could say yes– that would make this interview so much juicier! But no, I made it all up.
Karen White: Since you’re writing a book close to home, were you tempted to use real people? And are there any characters inspired by real people in the book?
Marybeth Whalen: There is one scene in the book that was taken straight from real life, but I added some changes because, fiction. (I won’t tell you which one though.) Many of my situations/characters are created when I look at a real life person/situation and think “Ok, I see this or that. But what if…” And then I just let my mind go.
Karen White: Please share your secret for the juggling you do with your writing and blogging while raising six children. If there’s a recipe for a power drink please post the recipe in the space below.
Marybeth Whalen: There are two power drinks, actually. Coffee and wine. 🙂 And as for my secret, you can’t do it all. So just handle whatever is screaming loudest and let the rest go. It all comes back around eventually.
Thanks Karen– we so appreciated you sharing with us this week!