Mariana Williams would come to Hilton Head Island and be charmed by the finely manicured beaches and peaceful marshes. The island would be a perfect setting for a novel, she thought. All it needed was a little more romance and mystery.
"Stars or Stripes 4th of July" is Williams' latest novel, following her alter-ego, Veronica Bennett, in adventures that take her to Faces Day Spa, The Crowne Plaza Resort and some of the author's favorite Hilton Head getaways.
Williams is the wife of songwriter Paul Williams, who is a mainstay at the Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament, which starts today.
The California native describes her love of the Lowcountry.
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Question. How long have you been coming to Hilton Head?
Answer. We've been coming about five years. I've just come to love it. The warm water, the friendly people. I've rented a kayak. We've gone on the sunset cruise boat. Patricia Owen, who owns Faces Day Spa, has become friends with me. She took me around the island. We've just really done it up on Hilton Head. My husband talks of retiring there, but I'm the oldest of seven kids. Everybody except one lives within five miles. So I'm not in any hurry to leave.
Q. What made you want to write about Hilton Head?
A. I've written two novels, and I wanted to place a novel in that spot. I love the white sand, and I love how the green grass grows out of the white sand. And the warm water. Can't say enough about that. On the West Coast the water is so cold -- very different from west coast beaches. I wanted to write about Hilton Head, and within the first 20 pages my main character Veronica Bennett gets to Hilton Head.
Q. I saw you name drop a lot of local places in the book.
A. There's a lot of similarities. I used to be a piano singer. I'd sing at hotels. My character Veronica, who is essentially me, plays piano and sings in the lobby. Then she meets Patrice at the day spa, who's named after my friend, Patricia who owns Faces. Then they go to the Jazz Corner, where they meet a couple guys. I don't want to give much more away, but within this fun summer, Veronica is responsible for this ransom note. It becomes about who can you trust when you're new in town.
Q. What made you want to become a writer?
A. Because I was a piano lounge entertainer, I'd hear stories all the time, just like a bartender might hear stories. Songs bring out memories for people, and I'd get to hear all these personal details about people's lives. So I'm always telling these anecdotes, and I thought I'd write about them. With this, I thought it'd be fun to write about a location, so you can pick it up and read about the place you're in, just with some added mystery.