Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beach Trip - Author Interview

Beach Trip by Cathy Holton is the story of four women who might never have been friends. Fate brought them together as roommates in college and now in their 40s, they come together again for a reunion at the beach. Lola, who organizes the trip, is the most enigmatic of the four women. She is unhappily married, seems drugged much of the time and exhibits childlike behavior. Mel is the strong one, an author, she lives the single life in the city and says what she thinks. Annie struggles with secrets in her past, and keeps her life orderly in contrast to the inner turmoil she feels. Sara is happily married, mother of two children, one of them who struggles. She was the most relatable character I felt, but she struggles with her past as well.

This is pure women's fiction. It's the sort of book that deals with heavy subjects and secrets with a light hand; there is sadness and regret but also humor and hangovers. The narrative goes back and forth in time as the reader gets to know the women in the present, and how their pasts shaped their lives.

This was a really good read for me. I enjoyed the writing style and the subject matter and whenever I saw the book on my nightstand, I looked forward to getting back to it, always a good sign. There was a plot twist that I picked up on right away - Holton waited until towards the end to confirm my feeling. I thought that would be the only plot twist but boy was I wrong! The ending contains a huge twist that I thought was well done and believable - it made the book for me.

Cathy Holton was kinds enough to answer a few questions from me. Her answers are fun and witty, and her next book sounds fantastic. Check it out:

What inspired you to create the four women Beach Trip centers around?

A friend of mine told me about a trip she was getting ready to take with some college friends; just six women alone in the Bahamas aboard a yacht with a Captain and crew (one of the women had married well). I said it sounded like fun and she said it was, just lots of drinking and lying in the sun and reminiscing. But then she qualified that by saying that the trip usually got kind of tense toward the end because there was something between two of the women, something that had happened in college and never been resolved and only surfaced at the end of the week when the sun and the close quarters and the martinis got to be too much. That got me interested.

Did you already have the idea for the ending in your mind when you started writing? (I wasn't expecting what happened at all - which I love.)

I knew something dramatic would happen and I knew it would involve Lola, but I wasn’t sure until the middle of the novel what it would be.

Would you talk a bit about your physical writing process? Where, when, on a computer or by hand, is it quiet or noisy, is there food involved?

There’s always food involved. And caffeine. Although I try to keep the food to a minimum; usually just a little something sweet around mid-afternoon when my brain begins to fog and I need that carb rush. When I’m working I try to stick to a structured routine; up at 8:00 and in front of my computer by 9:00. By noon I break for lunch, take the dog for a walk in the woods, and then get back to work by 1:00 or 1:30. I break for the day around 4:00. I try to average ten double-spaced pages a day. I write in a corner of my bedroom, near a pair of long windows, in front of a fireplace and a wall of bookshelves. It’s very cozy and very quiet.

Who are your favorite authors - for inspiration or just reading pleasure? What's on your nightstand right now?

I read constantly; I’m an eclectic reader. My list of favorite writers is long and changes daily but I always come back to Flannery O’Connor, George Singleton, Lewis Nordan, Alice Hoffman, Peter Carey, Hilary Mantel, Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, and Doris Lessing.

I love to read short stories, especially those written by John Cheever, Shelby Foote, Ellen Gilchrist and Isabelle Allende.

On my nightstand right now is Alice Munro’s “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You,” and Brock Clarke’s “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England.”

Besides books, I also write about cooking on my blog. I loved the fact that in Beach Trip you wrote about what the women were eating and drinking. Does that mean you enjoy cooking? What would you serve your girlfriends if they were coming over - feel free to include a cocktail!

Eating, yes. Drinking, yes. Cooking, not so much. I’m lucky though. My husband has a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management and, get this – he likes to cook. (Which helps explain why I’ve kept him around for thirty years.)

If my girlfriends were coming for dinner, I’d have him wear his apron that reads, Kitchen Bitch, and then serve something like Goat Cheese Salad on Field Greens with Toasted Pecans, Pan-Seared Tuna with White Bean Puree and Asparagus in a Crawfish Bernaise, followed by Strawberry Creme Brulee. And, of course, that delectable creation, the Mother of All Martinis – The Breathless.

(I hope he never reads this. If he does, it’s Beans & Weanies for me for a month.)

Finally, what are you working on now in terms of your writing?

I’m working on a novel tentatively called “Old Money”, about a Chicago girl, Ava Dabrowski, who marries into an aristocratic Southern family. While working on her first novel, a legal thriller, she agrees to spend a summer in her new husband, Will’s, hometown of Woodburn, Tennessee. Ensconced in the family’s crumbling mansion with Will and his two great aunts, Fanny and Josephine, Ava finds herself a stranger in a strange land, caught up in the dramas and intrigues of the characters inhabiting this small Southern town. Gradually drawn into tales of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Fanny’s first husband, Ava stumbles upon a decades old family secret, a discovery that causes an increasing rift in her marriage as she puts aside her legal thriller and begins instead to write about the enigmatic Woodburn family.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read Beach Trip and contact Cathy Holton!


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This was a great post and interview --very interesting. I 'd really like to read this book tis summer. Wish me luck.

bermudaonion said...

I'm about halfway through this book right now and I'm really enjoying it.

Lisa said...

Nice interview. The book reminds me a little of Lee Smith's The Last Girls, which I loved.

Staci said...

Great questions Tara!! I especially loved the one involving her husband and the apron!! The meal she would have him fix sounds heavenly!! I totally loved this book and thought your review was excellent!!

Iliana said...

I just love the cover for the book - wish I was there :)

Really enjoyed your review & author interview, Tara. You know I'm putting this one on my list!

LisaMM said...

Hi Tara, great review! The end made the book for me too.

Love the interview and I love how you always ask the food question. Thought the answer was funny, esp. about the apron! My husband would wear an apron like that, just for the laughs and comments he'd get from guests! Sadly, he can't do much more in the kitchen than boil water and hand people their drinks, LOL.

Thanks so much for all the time and effort that you put into reading and reviewing Beach Trip! It is so appreciated!!

Carrie K said...

Oooh, her current book and the one she's working on both sound like great reads. Love your review, Tara!

Tara said...

Diane, thank you. I hope you get to it!

Bermudaonion, oh, good! I look forward to your thoughts.

Lisa, thanks! I'll have to check out The Last Girls, I haven't read that.

Staci, thank you! That answer totally cracked me up, too.

Iliana, I know what you mean - the setting of the book was really idyllic. Thank you!

LisaMM, thank you! My husband is not so handy in the kitchen either! I enjoyed being part of this tour, with such a fun book to read it wasn't hard at all.

Carrie K, yes! I think the next book sounds great, I'll be watching for it.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

What a nice review and interview. Cathy Holton's personality really came thru.

The "beans and weenies" comment got a lot of us laughing. That's my go-to meal when my husband and I are heading out and I need to feed the kids first :)

Tara said...

Dawn, thank you! I though Cathy Holton's personality just sparkled through in her answers. My husband and daughter eat beans and weenies sometimes when I'm at work!