Catching up with Mary Alice Monroe in advance of her latest novel’s debut
It’s beach-reading season, and along our coasts, that means one thing: sandy bags toting the latest novel by New York Times-best-selling author and Isle of Palms resident Mary Alice Monroe. June 20 brings the release of Beach House for Rent, a stand-alone novel, but also the fourth in a series that began with The Beach House 15 years ago. Her latest tale about the Rutledge family and their beloved Isle of Palms cottage does what Monroe does best: weaves a story rich with intriguing characters, family drama, romance, and all that juicy fictional fodder with a serious environmental message, this time about threats to shorebirds—particularly pelicans.
CM: What keeps you coming back to Primrose Cottage and its characters?
MAM: The first novel in the series, The Beach House, changed how I wrote books—I decided to find a way to create a fresh, compelling story that would bring my readers intimately to Isle of Palms, where I live, and also to the magnificent sea turtle nesting saga that occurs here year after year. My goal was to raise awareness of threats facing the turtles not through preaching, but through the power of story. Readers have really come to care about the characters, and continuing the series allows me to highlight issues affecting wildlife.
CM: But in Beach House for Rent, you really focus on shorebirds—why is that?
MAM: For the past few years, I’ve been working intensely, confined to my office with my five canaries. I didn’t get outdoors as I usually do. All my books delve into our disconnect with nature and, being isolated, a light bulb went off as I realized the metaphor of a caged bird. Beach House for Rent is about a woman who suffers anxiety disorder. Heather rents the cottage to paint shorebirds for postage stamps, yet her anxiety keeps her indoors—until the birds lure her out. Shorebird populations have shrunk by an estimated 70 percent across North America since 1973. Through Heather’s point of view, the reader experiences the beauty and fragility of the animals we all love but take for granted.
CM: Tell us about the Hallmark movie based on The Beach House starring Andie MacDowell.
MAM: We’ve just learned that it will now be a Hallmark Hall of Fame film for Mother’s Day 2018! I’m thrilled.
CM: What’s up next, after your summer book tour?
MAM: For the past few months, I’ve been volunteering with several organizations, sniffing out my next book. This one will require extensive research. I’ve been working with shorebirds for two years and am still involved with sea turtles. Before that I was involved with dolphins for six years. Now, I’m moving into a completely new area, but I can’t share any hints yet! I have a few other projects I want to work on, too—in particular, a return to children’s books.
CM: We’ve heard that you’re connected to a fab new mural on IOP. Do tell.
MAM: Yes, my daughter, Gretta Kruesi, painted murals on the outside of the public bathrooms with sea turtles, dolphins, and a vintage postcard that’s now a popular photo backdrop for visitors. Like her mama, she’s helping bring visitors up close to our beloved sea creatures!
Lives: On Isle of Palms with husband Markus Kruesi, two dogs, one cat, and five canaries
Book count: Find Monroe’s 20 novels and two kids’ books at maryalicemonroe.com.
Summer reading list: ”Since I am on a book tour, I’ll be listening to audio books in the car. I’m excited for Patti Callahan Henry’s new The Bookshop at Water’s End.