As Nice As She Is Talented–The Novels Of Mary Alice Monroe

SANY0020.jpgThis month in addition to being a novelist, I’ve had the pleasure of twice being a novelist’s fan.  And it has been a pleasure indeed.

I reported encountering the delightful Randy Wayne White earlier in January at the Sanibel Doc Ford’s, the upscale sports bar named after the sleuth in his mystery novels. Today I had the pleasure of attending a reading and signing at the Sanibel Island Bookshop for novelist and friend Mary Alice Monroe.

I’ll confess that I’m not always excited to meet the authors whose books I adore, in fact often, I avoid it.  This may sound odd, but truthfully, I’ve met a few whose books I could never pick up again with the same unadulterated pleasure.  Not because I despised the author on sight, but because I couldn’t reconcile the novels and the person.  The two seemed so different, that from the moment of our meeting, the author intruded, and I could never again lose myself in the novels.

Mary Alice Monroe is definitely not one of those people.  From the first time I met her I realized Mary Alice warm as warm-hearted and perceptive as her stories.  We met at a time when we were writing for the same two publishers, and we had the opportunity to share our publishing tales and feelings.  I felt richer for it.  I’ve followed her career with delight as she found her niche and began to write sensitive portrayals of life in the South Carolina Low Country, and to focus on environmental issues. 

Today I arrived at the book store just as she was reading a passage from one of her novels, Swimming Lessons.  The selection was emotional and thoughtful, and there I was, trying not to cry.  And not just because I was about to greet an old friend, either.

Are you a fan of Mary Alice’s, too?  Or would you like to become one?  Of course, I had Mary Alice sign Swimming Lessons for me, but I had her autograph another one of her novels, The Four Seasons for one of my lucky and loyal blog followers. 

For fun, if you comment on this post by the end of February, I’ll enter your name in a drawing for The Four Seasons during the first week of March.  Just tell us about a time when you met a writer or another public figure.  Or just tell us about the person you’d most like to meet.  Any “non-spam” and original post will count.  Comment as many times as you like, but only one comment per person will be entered.  So enjoy and share.

Meantime, want some good news?  You don’t have to wait to find out if you win.  Mary Alice’s books are available at a bookstore near you.  Read them and enjoy.


  1. Evie on January 24, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Mary Alice Monroe is one of my favorite writers as you are also. The only people I have met in person are The Smothers Brothers after they entertained at a church youth group convention in the early 60’s in Rochester, MN. A friend and I had coffee with them and missed bed check.

  2. Emilie Richards on January 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks, Evie, and may I say the Smothers Brothers would be well worth missing bed check for.

  3. Laney4 on January 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    You had me when I read that this book has a “narrative energy that will keep them turning the pages.” I sooooo enjoy reading stories that won’t allow me to put the book down, and I enjoy checking out “new authors to me”, as is Mary Alice Monroe.
    You also gained my attention when I read that the story followed a journey to find a teenager given up for adoption. I found out when I was 39 that I had a different biological father — but my “mom and dad” and “bio dad” were all dead by then. It’s a long story, but I DO know that I indeed was conceived from my mom’s long-running affair (which also produced my brother, five years my elder). It would make a great book or soap opera as well, but I am interested in reading THIS story and following it to its conclusion.
    As for meeting or hoping to meet famous people, I have met a few at conventions and various concerts, but to me they’re just people. The same thought goes for future people to meet — doesn’t matter to me. Not a big thing in my life.
    Now in my DREAMS is another story. George Clooney is prevalent there! I grew up dreaming about Chad Everett (Dr. Joe Gannon on Medical Center) many moons ago.
    Many thanks for offering a lovely blog and giveaway (as usual). You made my day.

  4. Deborah Tyson on January 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    My two favorite authors in one place! Wish I could have been there! One well-known person I have met is Jimmy Dean (county singer and sausage guy). I was grocery shopping with my two young daughters in tow. He saw I had a fist full of coupons and he gave me a “George Washington coupon”, better known as a dollar bill. I thanked him and he kissed me on the cheek. Of course, my daughters couldn’t wait to get home to tell their Daddy that some strange man kissed me at the grocery store.

  5. Robin F. on January 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I met Jennifer Weiner, who writes some of my fav books- she is just like her characters and I enjoyed it so much.

  6. Emilie Richards on January 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Quite a story, there. I know you’ll enjoy the book whether you win this copy or not. As for George Clooney? Shall we have a show of hands to see who doesn’t want to meet him? I don’t see a one. đŸ™‚

  7. Emilie Richards on January 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Love the story, and must say, I also love the sausage, despite my vegetarian leanings. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Marilyn Seitz on January 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Marilyn Seitz Ok… goes…….would love to read her. I’ve had the privilege in meeting a couple of writers this year, but I suppose the most fun was a children’s writer Carolyn Reeder. She came to speak at my grandkid’s school and I invited her to stay with me while she was here. She’s a lovely lady and (as you mentioned) she is exactly who you expect… See More her to be when reading her books. Incidently, I read every one of her children’s books and loved them. Emilie…..she lives up near you in Northern VA. She’d be worth getting to know. Two other authors I met were also very down to earth and exactly as I wanted them to be……Adriana Trigiani and Ginger Clark (Ginger is also a children’s writer) Both of these women are also from Virginia.

  9. Karen L. on January 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    As a young teen, I met Luke Halpern (from “Flipper”)….and more recently, I met Paula Deen after waiting all day in line for her book signing. (I’ve never done that for any other celebrity!)
    And, I’ve not read any books by Mary Alice Monroe…but I LOVE your books (especially “The The Shenandoah Album series”) so I will be checking them out now with your referral.

  10. Miss Paula on January 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    I enjoy reading about the Low Country and so maybe I can reading some of her books. Always looking for a good author!! Thanks Emilie

  11. Judy M on January 24, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I have met two authors, Sue Grafton and Karen Kijewski. Both times were at book signings in Sacramento, CA. When I met Ms. Kijewski stands out the most because I was first in line and we started talking while she was setting up. Since her books are set in Sacramento and she used references to real places it was fun to picture the real place as I was reading. She often wrote about her office building and her grandmother’s house and when I would be driving in those areas I would try to figure which one she used as a model. I told her this and she laughed and said she never thought to go pick one out. She was such a nice person, so easy to talk to and of course, easy to laugh with.

  12. Emilie Richards on January 25, 2010 at 8:57 am

    From my own experience, friendly people at booksignings make them so much more fun. I bet they were both glad to have you there.

  13. Serena Miller on January 26, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I grew up on Jesse Stuart books about Kentucky. I was very young and working in Lexington when I heard he was in a local hospital recuperating from a heart attack. Made a little flower arrangement and took it to the hospital. Intended to drop it off at the desk, because in my innocence, I thought there would be news people packing the entrance to a hospital where such in my opinion at the time) a great author lay. Instead, I was sent upstairs to ICU where I was allowed to stand outside his room and wait for his wife to come out. When Naomi appeared, there I stood, flowers in hand, crying because Jesse was sick, and telling her how I had read everything her husband had ever written. She took the flowers straight into him, then came out and talked to me gently about how he was going to pull through. She wrote me a note later telling me that Jesse was writing again, and had my flower arrangement on his desk. Treasured that note. Mourned that old man and his yet-unwritten books when he finally passed away.

  14. Emily P. W. Murphy on January 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I totally understand your concerns, Emilie.
    When I was in high school, I was thrilled when one of my teachers invited me to an event where I could meet Jane Goodall. First I went to hear her speak– which was thrilling– and then I got to go to a V.I.P reception. I can’t tell you how excited I was when my teacher introduced us and I actually got to shake her hand!
    I was astonished, however, when instead of the firm, confident handshake of an explorer who lived with chimpanzees, she offered the limp, entitled handshake of an aristocratic lady. It was such a disconnect from the way I thought she would be, that it changed the way I looked at her after that.
    On the other hand, I went with my husband to a book signing by Terry Pratchett, and I thought he was exactly what I expected based on his writing.

  15. Kitty Tomlinson Wood on January 27, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    You asked for comments on meeting other authors. I would like to tell you about meeting author, Ronlyn Domingue.
    I work at the Iberville Parish Library in Plaquemine, Louisiana, just south of Baton Rouge. Several library staff members along with a few friends formed a book club called Entre Nous. We meet in each other’s homes every so often and discuss the book last chosen.
    One of our selections was Ronlyn Domingue’s The Mercy of Thin Air. We all felt that this would be a good choice since the novel is set in New Orleans with occasional forays into the Baton Rouge area. (Plaquemine is just south of Baton Rouge.) Also, Ronlyn is a Louisiana native who lives in Baton Rouge.
    One of our staff members/book club members heard that she was available to come and do meet and greets in the local area. She agreed to come to our library to the delight of the book club who had by this time finished her book.
    I can’t say enough good things about Ronlyn. Not only did she write a novel that kept us on the edge of our seats, but she was also a good speaker who was more than willing to discuss the writing of her novel, her character motiviations, character developments and her different writing strategies to this eager group. She related to us one on one–I think there may have been 15 of us max, so this was not difficult to do.
    I admired her work before I met her, but I admire her even more now for the way she allowed us to see the interworkings of her characters. Plus she’s just a flat out nice person.

  16. Emilie Richards on January 28, 2010 at 8:53 am

    No writer could ask for higher praise, Kitty. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes on a long book tour, authors feel like wet rags by the time they get to a signing, and may not seem to be the people we hoped they were. I always give the benefit of the doubt. If the experience is less than stellar? Well a lot of writers are introverts, and large crowds make them squirm and exhaust them. Just things to keep in mind.

  17. Sharon on February 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Just call me a late comer to the 21st century, but I have not been much into “Blogging”. Just been too busy, I guess. But since I am enchanted with all of your books, and the variety of themes and places, I had to write. I belonged to a writer’s guild at a community college and each month we met local writers. It was always a great learning experience to hear how they write and what inspired them. I just finished Paradise Beach — just what a hospital waiting room needs. I got some real strange looks when I burst out laughing at our latest “poor little rich girl”. No one has talked about that idea like that before. And now I have another author to look for. Thanks, Emily. I am a great promoter of your books! Mary Alice Monroe into my “Wanna Read” notebook!

  18. Pat on February 4, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Some years back when I lived in NJ, our local library had Mary Higgins Clark there for a presentation. I got to meet her briefly since I was teaching and ESL class of adults at the time she was there. I was so happy to tell her that I was pleased she wrote books that I could happily share with my teenaged daughters, because her writing, while interesting and entertaining, was also “clean”. (Many books I read were not so easily shared with my young girls.) Ms. Clark seemed very happy when I said that to her and gave me a hug. I’m not familiar yet with Mary Alice Monroe, but I will take your recommendation and look to read a book of hers soon.

  19. Su on February 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Morning Emilie,
    How fun for you to meet Mary Alice! I have met her at a few of her book signings. We attended her kick-off party for Last Light over Carolina in McClellanville, SC last July. GReat story, but Beach House and Time is a River are my favorites.
    Meeting an author is a great excuse to take a road trip. My husband and I have traveled to the beaches of SC to meet Mary Alice, Dorothea Benton Frank, and Mary Kay Andrews. I’ve also met them in Charlotte, NC.
    We’ve traveled to Charleston, SC and Georgetown, NC to meet T.Lynn Ocean, and to Chicago to meet Debbie Macomber.
    Of course I met you in Font Royal, VA and then traveled down Skyway Drive to experience a bit of what your characters knew in the Shenandoah Album series. Please tell your publisher to let you continue their stories. Endless Chain is my favorite.
    Several years ago my family took a two week road trip and traveled the east coast, destination Prince Edward Island to experience the locale of the fictitious land of Anne of Green Gables. Of course, I couldn’t meet Maud Montgomery but it was certainly wonderful to walk where she had walked!
    I’ve met Joan Medlicott, in Asheville, She writes the Covington ladies series. If none of your readers have read her books I can recommend them.
    Jennifer Chiaverini has written a series of delightful novels about quilting and a quilt camp in Pennsylvania. I met her in Charleston, WV at their Book Festival.
    Oh, the first author we met was my husband’s favorite, Clive Cussler, author of the Dirk Pitt books. We met him at his home in Golden, CO. He entertained us for two hours.
    We’ve met Tim Stout, a local (in Lansing, MI) TV and radio sports broadcaster who authored a book about Michigan State’s Magical Season (1979 NCAA champions).
    There are many author’s who I enjoy, still on my book signing/travel list. I watch their websites to see if where they will be next, and plan my road trips accordingly!
    Best wishes to you. Looking forward to our paths crossing again soon..But you have to get back to the U.S first. Have fun in New Zealand.

  20. Kate Mutch on February 27, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    oh – I just loved her book Sweetgrass – it just really grabbed me and I recommended to so so many people- and thanks to your comments, I realized I’ve missed two of her titles – yippee- something to look forward to reading!

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