It was only a matter of time before best-selling author Karen White wrote a book set in Beaufort.
Nine of the author's last 18 novels have had South Carolina settings. Charleston, Edisto Island, Pawleys Island and Folly Beach have all served as backdrops for her stories.
The Lowcountry ambiance is "truly a gold mine" for a writer, White said. "The pluff mud sucked me in."
In her latest work, "Sound of Glass," a Mainer named Merritt Heyward is bequeathed her late husband's family home in Beaufort. There, Merritt uncovers Heyward family secrets as she tries to create a new life -- one that becomes more complicated when her step-mother and 10-year-old half-brother show up unexpectedly.
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White is currently on a book tour for "Sound of Glass" and will stop in at the MacIntosh Book Shoppe in Beaufort around noon on May 28. Before she arrives, we spoke with the author about the her love of South Carolina, the inspiration for the book and why you'll need tissues when you read it.
Question. Where did the idea for "Sound of Glass" come from?
Karen White. It's a little embarrassing to admit. I don't watch a lot of television, but I am religious about a few shows. I like watching the Investigation Discovery channel. All it is is a series of shows about true crime mysteries. I was exercising on elliptical one morning, and one of my favorite shows called "A Crime to Remember" came on. It was about a plane that blew up in 1955. A man wanted to kill his mother for her insurance money and put sticks of dynamite in her suitcase. He blew her up along with 39 other people. I was so horrified, but it stuck in my head. I didn't know how or when, but I knew I'd want to use it in a book. That became the first scene (in "Sound of Glass"). A woman in Beaufort is working in her attic when a plane explodes overhead. A suitcase flies into her back garden, and she finds something in that suitcase that will change her life and the generations that follow. And you don't find out what that is until the end.
Q. How did you decide on Beaufort?
White. I live in Atlanta and have never written about Atlanta. I love South Carolina. I will live there one day! Beaufort is ripe for stories. It's got the history, beautiful visuals, elegant architectural gems and the marsh and river. It's the perfect setting for a writer, especially for a writer like me who uses setting as a character.
Q. Did you stay in Beaufort to write or do research?
White. I came down a couple times to research. I did a few walking tours and spent time with local author Dee Phelps. We went to the Shrimp Shack on St. Helena. Oh my gosh, I don't care how many calories are in those burgers, I would eat a dozen.
Q. Is this book a quick read? A beach read? Will people need tissues?
White. It's definitely not a light beach read. It's really a story about two opposite women who share so much grief and pain, yet they learn to forgive. There's some serious subject matter, too. I put characters in tough circumstances, where they're not relying on anyone else to solve their problems. Everything may not end tied up in a ribbon, but they will be better off. You will need tissues, but you're going to laugh as well.
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