Q&A with Mary Alice Monroe, Author of On Ocean Boulevard

by Heather Caliendo
mary alice monroe interview - book club chat
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Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of 23 novels, including On Ocean Boulevard, which is the sixth installment of the Beach House series.

Mary Alice Monroe is a 2018 Inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame, and her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, the International Book Award for Green Fiction, and the 2017 Southern Book Prize for Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Beach House is also a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.

On Ocean Boulevard will be the first book I’ve read by Mary Alice Monroe and really looking forward to it! The coastal southern landscape is a strong and important focus of many of her novels.

Here’s the synopsis: 

It’s been sixteen years since Caretta “Cara” Rutledge has returned home to the beautiful shores of Charleston, South Carolina. Over those years, she has weathered the tides of deaths and births, struggles and joys. And now, as Cara prepares for her second wedding, her life is about to change yet again.

Meanwhile, the rest of the storied Rutledge family is also in flux. Cara’s niece Linnea returns to Sullivan’s Island to begin a new career and an unexpected relationship. Linnea’s parents, having survived bankruptcy, pin their hopes and futures on the construction of a new home on Ocean Boulevard. But as excitement over the house and wedding builds, a devastating illness strikes the family and brings plans to a screeching halt. It is under these trying circumstances that the Rutledge family must come together yet again to discover the enduring strength in love, tradition, and legacy from mother to daughter to granddaughter.

Get to know Mary Alice as she talks favorite novels, story influences, favorite part to write and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

The Life of Pi, Pride and Prejudice, The Shell Seekers, Shogun, Of Mice and Men.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I wrote my first book when I was 8 years old.

Can you talk about how your conservation experiences influence your novels?

My conservation experiences inspire my novels. I always begin with a species or environmental issue, say turtles or habitat. I begin my academic research, talk to experts, then I begin volunteering hands-on with the animals. My story is organic to my experiences. I like to say the animals tell me what the story is.

How do you decide on which species to focus on for each book?

There is no one way I come to the decision. I keep my antennas up at all times. Sometimes I hear something or read something and I feel my blood bubble, like I’ve caught scent. Other times a person might say something. My neighbor was involved with the local shrimper’s association and one day he came to me and said, “Mary Alice, if you’re going to write about the shrimpers you’d better hurry up!” That was because so many shrimping families have been driven out of business. I felt the tingling that told me it was time to write about that particular species and industry, NOW. I wrote Last Light Over Carolina, and it is still to this day the only family sage written about this facing Southern industry.

What was your favorite chapter or part to write when you were working on On Ocean Boulevard?

My favorite part to write was the end. This is always an emotional part for me; intuition plays a roll. In this particular novel, the end brought the conclusion of the first five books of the series, from Cara’s point of view.

What do you hope are some of the key takeaways?

I hope the theme of the continuity of life is a key takeaway. Like the yearly cycle of the sea turtles nesting on our shores, the family must face and manage the vicissitudes of life through perseverance, loyalty, faith and love.

What is the best way for book clubs to reach out to you for a live video visit?

I welcome book clubs! Please ask all to go to my website, maryalicemonroe.com, where they will find a form to fill out. 

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

It is summer and there are lots of summer books I can’t wait to read! Hello Summer, Mary Kay Andrews; The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate; Feels Like Falling, Kristy Woodson Harvey; The Book of Lost Names, Kristen Harmel; 28 Summers, Elin Hildebrand. 

You can buy On Ocean Boulevard on Amazon. Or you can support your favorite indie bookstore by buying On Ocean Boulevard on BookShop.

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