I spent my summers growing up on the point of Garden City Beach, South Carolina, across from Murrells Inlet, where the mouth of the Inlet meets the ocean. We went string crabbing and mud-hole punching. We sailed our sunfishes and pulled each other behind our johnboats on anything we could find that floats—surfboards and hydroslides and innertubes. And I spent many a day in the Gulf Stream deep-sea fishing with my father. We left the dock before dawn and returned late in the afternoon. We ate well—fresh from the ocean seafood nearly every night. My father taught me how to fry fish and shrimp and scallops, everything but soft-shell crabs, which I’ve only just learned to appreciate.
Every summer I make my annual pilgrimage to South Carolina to see my family. On a recent trip, my brother took my children and me offshore fishing. We caught a boatload of fish. Nothing we wanted to eat, but a type my brother was able to sell to the local seafood market. During that trip I was reminded, as I am every year, of how much I love the coast of South Carolina. The moss-draped trees and ocean breezes. The friendly folks with their laid back attitudes and lazy drawls. The long days on the water and the restful nights listening to the waves crash against the shore. Between novels at the time, the lowcountry seemed like a natural fit for the story I’d been plotting about three sisters and the challenges they face in middle age with family and work.
Oftentimes setting takes on an identity, almost like another character in some cases. I loosely based the setting in Her Sister’s Shoes on Murrells Inlet. Creating a fictional town closer to Charleston afforded me the freedom to manipulate the components of my story to accommodate my plot. It is not uncommon for an author to use a fictional town for more than one novel. While I’m currently working on a novel set in Alabama, I plan to revisit Prospect one day soon. Perhaps I’ll use the same characters. Perhaps I’ll create some new ones. Writing a novel is like painting a picture. You start with a blank canvas, and then add colors and shapes to bring your imagination to life.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Yellow Umbrella Seafood Market in Richmond, Virginia. They offer so much more than seafood, including fresh produce, a fully stocked butcher counter, and an array of prepared meals. Everything is served up with a smile and a recipe. The Yellow Umbrella served as my primary inspiration for Captain Sweeney’s Seafood Market in Her Sister’s Shoes. If you’re ever in Richmond, be sure to stop on by.
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The Yellow Umbrella
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