By Cele and Lynn Seldon
When it comes to writing about the South Carolina coast, author and AAA Member Mary Alice Monroe certainly knows her stuff. From sandy beaches and sea turtles to the region’s unique people and places, Monroe’s bestselling books are steeped in pluff mud, briny air and salt water.
Monroe’s most recent novel, The Summer of Lost and Found, was released May 11. Of it, she says, “I shifted my focus from animals to the challenges and changes families and friends faced during unprecedented times of isolation, limited social interaction, economic strain and health concerns brought on by a pandemic.”
Set against the backdrop of coronavirus, this book explores the meaningful family and life lessons learned during a season of opportunities lost and found. The timely novel will likely be another bestseller for Monroe.
Monroe has stayed busy, including contributing a short story, “Mother and Child Reunion,” that’s featured in Reunion Beach, an anthology that came out in late April, as well as co-authoring a middle grade book called The Islanders with Angela May. (They’re already working on the sequel.)
The writer is also a voracious reader — some favorite South Carolina writers include Cassandra King, Signe Pike and debut authors Gervais Hagerty and the aforementioned Angela May. Up in the Tar Heel State, Monroe says she loves the work of Delia Owens, Ron Rash, Kathy Reichs and her fellow “Friends and Fiction” host, Kristy Woodson Harvey.
Of her writing style, Monroe says the old adage, “write what you know,” holds true for her. She says, “When I moved to Isle of Palms 22 years ago, the first thing I did was become a member of the Island Turtle Team. Those were important times of turtle light disorientation, turtle excluder devices for shrimp boats and education. I was in love with the beach, walking the sand as the sun broke the darkness and sitting by the nests at night, slapping mosquitoes and swapping stories. The five of us permit holders became fast friends — and still are today. I didn’t realize my interest in turtles would become a lifelong passion.”
Monroe says she wrote The Beach House as a mother-daughter novel set against the nesting cycle of the loggerheads. The book’s great success allowed her to continue a series that centered on the islands with the turtles, but also on dolphins, birds and other animals and environmental issues. She says, “My intention is to entertain and to hopefully provide a pleasurable, painless education by bringing readers to my beach through my story world. My personal experiences bring an authenticity to the stories and an intimate perspective to this gorgeous landscape I fiercely love.”
The Beach House was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, which is the premier branch of Hallmark films. Of the film, Monroe proudly says, “The great Andie MacDowell starred in the film. Andie had read the book, then sought me out to make the film. Imagine my delight in answering her phone call. Andie is a South Carolina girl born in Gaffney. She took great pains to assure the quality of the film.” McDowell and Monroe were executive producers and oversaw the details of the film.
Monroe is also excited to spill the beans to her fellow Carolinians that she has embarked on a collaboration with Charleston Coffee Roasters to produce the “Beach House Blend.” The coffee lover says, “I selected my own blend of French-roasted coffee to create a heady brew that I know everyone will love. It’s the perfect coffee for every beach house. Beach House Blend is for sale online. Best of all, a portion of proceeds goes directly to support the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center.”
Monroe has been a AAA Member for more than two decades. “Seeing my AAA card in my wallet as I set out on book tours is a breath of relief, because I know y’all have my back when I’m on the road.”