Mary Alice Monroe stopped by DCPLive to discuss her new book coming soon to DeKalb County Public Library. I first met her at a Georgia Center for the Book event while she was giving a talk on The Butterfly’s Daughter. I have had the honor to read and share some of her other books. Her most recent series is the Lowcountry Summer Trilogy, which includes The Summer Girls and The Summer Wind. It will end this year with the publication of The Summer’s End.
Thank you for coming! I am excited to discuss The Summer’s End. Could you tell our readers why it was important to tell this story in three different books: The Summer Girls, Summer Wind, and Summer’s End?
Mary Alice Monroe: This story required more words! Dolphins are an exceptional and beloved species. Dolphins excel in communication, have strong family and community bonds, and live in the present. Three issues face dolphins that needed attention: feeding of wild dolphins, water quality, and injuries. I needed a strong trilogy with memorable characters to carry through all the themes: communication in The Summer Girls as the estranged sisters reconnect; healing in The Summer Wind as Dora and Delphine heal from wounds, and release in The Summer’s End as each woman discovers her own voice and path.
How did you decide to focus your books around the lives of animals? Why is it important to tell their story?
MAM: The inspiration for my books is always some aspect of nature. I wait for some signal–either from a person or event–to alert me it’s time to write about that species now. For the trilogy, it was learning that 49% of Charleston’s resident dolphins were deemed “not healthy.” That number is 52% in Florida. I didn’t want to write Flipper but a book that was relevant today.
What do you hope it accomplishes?
MAM: I believe in the power of story to effect change. I’m a storyteller. I do not preach or tell my readers what to do. Instead, I create compelling stories peopled with rich, well-rounded characters that will bring my readers into the story world. When my readers connect emotionally with the animals, then they care.
The focus in this novel is the bottlenose dolphin. What other animals have you written about?
MAM: The list is growing. In The Beach House novels I’ve written about sea turtles. I’m still on the turtle team, so maybe another is in the pipeline. The monarch butterfly is in The Butterfly’s Daughter; raptors–hawks, owls, eagles–in Skyward; the shrimping industry in Last Light Over Carolina, and the disappearing grass and craft of sweetgrass baskets in Sweetgrass.
Can you tell us about your next project?
MAM: In the Lowcountry Summer novels I told the story of three women during one remarkable summer on Sullivan’s Island. There is an engagement, or two…so, you’re all invited to a wedding next summer! I’m writing A Lowcountry Wedding and having the best time. My daughter had a lowcountry wedding so I’ve a lot to share. It will be fun to bring back the summer girls, and especially the dueling grannies Mamaw and Granny James!
Do you think you would write another series?
MAM: Yes, when the story idea merits the time and effort. Each book of a series must stand alone and yet continue the themes of the series. It’s a complex, challenging process and not every story idea can or should extend beyond one book.
How can readers support your cause that you are so passionate about?
MAM: When I was young and overwhelmed with all I wanted to do to help the planet, my Daddy told me to just “light one candle.” It was very wise and has guided me throughout my life. My hope is that if a reader is inspired by my book, she will find her own path to help that species through volunteering or donations, or her vote–and, perhaps discover what candle she can light in her own life. One small change in one life can change the world!
Could they visit or support the Georgia Aquarium?
MAM: The Georgia Aquarium has several ongoing research and conservation programs that all make a difference for species and for the community.
Thank you again.
To learn more about bottlenose dolphins, check out these fine books: Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Dolphin Friendship told by David Yates, Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, and Isabella Hatkoff (and the related story Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again), The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner, Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival by Janet Wyman Coleman, and Dolphins by Anna Claybourne.