Q&A: Author Dorothea Benton Frank's Books are Best Read at the Beach

Taylor Starek

Dorothea Benton Frank's novels are often referred to as the ideal beach read.

Their plots are relational and upbeat, with themes of friendship, mystery and coming of age.

Take her most recent book, All the Single Ladies, which follows the lives of three women, brought together by their shared grief. As they mourn, they reflect on the major milestones of their own lives, asking questions and offering comfort.

"The main theme is the importance of friendship as you age," Frank says.

The New York Times best-selling author, who also wrote Sullivan's Island, will visit Thurber House on Wednesday, June 24, at 7 p.m. to discuss her latest book.Tickets are $20.

We talked with Frank about inspiration, endings and what she's reading this summer.

What inspires your novels?

You know, every one is different. I mean I think my first one was about loss of sense of place and coming of age in the 1960s versus coming of age in the '90s. My second was about the loss of my mother. The third I guess I started to get back to my happy place and get back to the world, and I wanted to tell a story about starting over again. So each one is different. My most recent, All the Single Ladies, is about middle-aged people who can't afford to retire, and their friendships become very important. They make new friends when they're middle aged, which is surprising because normally you don't. These girls form a friendship that's wonderful. It's also about ex-husbands and finding love again and learning to trust your emotions. The main theme is the importance of friendship as you age.

Did you have the ending decided on before you began writing?

No. I decide what I want to talk about. I try to figure out who the characters are and what character do I need to deliver that message by showing it, showing the action as it unfolds. It's not so much about a conclusion as it about how the book makes you feel.

Are you working on another book?

I am. I'm working on a sequel to this book.

When you sit down to work, what's your setting like? Where do you write and how?

Well, I have an office in my house. I go to work in the morning like everyone else does. I just don't have to find a parking space. I read magazines and the newspapers, looking for things to talk about. I like to work in quiet. I can concentrate better. Fewer diversions are better. I write from 10 to 2 every day. I ask my friends not to call me unless there's an emergency.

What are you reading this summer?

I just finished David McCullough's book about the Wright brothers. And I just finished A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I'm reading Ann Patchett's new book, a collection of essays called This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

Photos courtesy Thurber House