An interview with Dorothea Benton Frank
Author of All the Single Ladies: A Novel (William Morrow, 9 June 2015)
Columnist Anna Roins
In All the Single Ladies: A Novel, (William Morrow, 9 June 2015) Dorothea Benton Frank, returns us to the magic of the Lowcountry of South Carolina, where three remarkable women are brought together by the untimely death of their mutual friend. This novel explores with empathy the complexities of relationships, yet its wit and light makes it a perfect beach read!
All the Single Ladies
by Dorothea Benton Frank
Buy this Book
Ms Frank’s first novel, Sullivan’s Island: A Low Country Tale (Berkley Publishing, 1 Feb 2000) debuted on the New York Times list at number nine and went back to press over twenty-five times. Her subsequent novels were also all New York Times best sellers. She’s currently at work on her 17th novel.
AUTHORLINK: Ms Frank, thank you for talking with us today about your book, All the Single Ladies. It’s a terrific beach read. In your book, three women bond together over a mutual friends’ death. It poses the question; do we really know each other at all? What made you want to explore this theme?
|“Loneliness seems to plague older single women, and by older I mean any woman who feels like she is no longer anyone’s target audience. “
FRANK: Loneliness seems to plague older single women, and by older I mean any woman who feels like she is no longer anyone’s target audience. At a certain age we become cellophane. Salespeople, media, the vast majority of hip restaurants, fashion designers – this could be a very long list – they are no longer aggressively seeking our business. You stop telling your story because it seems the world probably doesn’t care. So, like Kathy Harper, you just do your job and keep your personal details to yourself.
AUTHORLINK: What a sobering thought! Did you know how All the Single Ladies was going to end before you put pen to paper? In other words, do you write a general plot-line before writing your books, or do you write by instinct preferring to see where the story leads you?
FRANK: I always know how my stories will end but I don’t know how the ending will feel until I get there. How it feels is of monumental importance because I’m asking my reader to spend ten to twenty hours of their time reading. I want it to be time well spent that entertains and satisfies. And if there’s a little take away value that’s good too.
AUTHORLINK: Quite right. Your impetus for writing your first book, Sullivan’s Island: A Low Country Tale was the hope that it would sell a million copies and be a best-seller (it did). In this way, you could buy back your mother’s home on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. You were around 43 at the time, and it took you six years to finally have your book published. What did you do in those six years to ready your book for publishing?
FRANK: I prayed, I dreamed and I wrote PLANTATION, my second novel.
|“Obviously I think it’s a stupid thing to declare. And, it’s simply not true. Funny sells like mad. People read to be entertained, don’t they?”
AUTHORLINK: That gives us hope. You once said about reputable authors whose books you read, “I do look to see if someone allows themselves to be humorous because allowing humor onto the page downgrades your literary efforts in some way — not by my definition but by the definition of people who criticize books — but I don’t care.” This is interesting. A witty friend of mine who is working on her first novel went to a writers’ festival in England recently and showed parts of her manuscript to some agents. The general feedback was that ”Funny doesn’t sell”. What do you think?
FRANK: Obviously I think it’s a stupid thing to declare. And, it’s simply not true. Funny sells like mad. People read to be entertained, don’t they? I think what the agent feedback should’ve been funny sells but you probably won’t win the Nobel Prize for Fiction. But! You will be able to keep a roof over your head. That’s nice to consider. On the other hand you may not be taken as seriously by literary critics as you’d like. Every writer has to decide why they’re writing and who they are writing for. In my case I am not particularly fond of pretentious writers or pretentious people in general. They’re boring.
AUTHORLINK: Very dull. Is it correct “that you taught yourself to write?” How did you go about doing that? What are some pointers that you might like to share with us about writing? Did you call on your vast employment experience in fashion buying and fundraising to help you, or did you focus on childhood issues that resonated with you?
FRANK: I took one class in creative writing at Bloomfield College in NJ and decided to write my first novel. In SULLIVANS ISLAND I wanted to show the difference between growing up in the sixties and the nineties. I came of age during the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement and the Viet Nam War. My children were growing up in a bubble? of peace and prosperity and I wanted them to know what my own life felt like. I wanted them to see what segregation, sexual harassment and the terrors of war were. Writing things down has greater permanence than conversation. And when it’s published people can’t change your words.
|“I spend at least four hours each day writing and when it’s going well I might write for six hours . . . “
AUTHORLINK: That’s interesting and very true. Do you have a special time to write? How many words do you aim to clock in a day? How do you relax?
FRANK: I spend at least four hours each day writing and when it’s going well I might write for six hours or so. To relax I cook, read or walk the beach.
AUTHORLINK: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? How do you deal with either?
FRANK: I’ve been at this long enough to tell the difference between an authentic reader on line who’s genuinely dissatisfied and someone who, for whatever reason, would like to hurt you. Over the course of any author’s career there are going to be some books you like better than others. Fair enough. What can you do about nasty reviews? Nothing. In terms of editorial reviews in newspapers and magazines? Take it in stride and try harder next time.
AUTHORLINK: Great advice. You have built your career writing novels about the majesty the Lowcountry of South Carolina and are enjoyed by all ages, but perhaps especially appreciated by women in their fifties. It is refreshing to read a novel about women in this age bracket and to be privy to their thoughts and concerns. What draws you to this genre? Do you believe as a general rule that older women are more interesting characters in books and movies? I do.
FRANK: I write for all ages but I write about post-forty women because I am one. At the same time I write about daughters, mothers and grandmothers. Occasionally I’ll write about philandering husbands. Women beyond their childbearing years are wiser and sexier than their younger counterparts. Didn’t someone say, the older you get the smarter you get? And there’s no one sexier than a woman with wisdom. Unless it’s a man with wisdom.
|“You always feel like another tweak might clarify something or sharpen a point. But at some point you have to let it go.”
AUTHORLINK: A man with wisdom? Yes, very attractive. You have said that once you are finished with a book, you feel you could continue to rewrite. I’m sure this is felt by many successful authors! Why do you think writers are quite often not satisfied with their work?
FRANK: In a way, it’s like painting. You always feel like another tweak might clarify something or sharpen a point. But at some point you have to let it go.
AUTHORLINK: Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit? Do you then proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
FRANK: There’s not a lot of time for stewing when you publish once a year. My editor makes suggestions and has comments and my publisher has it professionally copy-edited but I proofread everything.
AUTHORLINK: What advice would you give to your younger self? Likewise, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
FRANK: Stay in college. Read everything you can.
AUTHORLINK: Thanks. If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
FRANK: Well, Pride and the Prejudice would’ve been great but then I’d be long dead.
AUTHORLINK: That made me laugh. What are you working on next? Is it still true that you’re working on a sequel to All the Single Ladies? Can you tell us a bit about it yet?
FRANK: It’s hilarious!
AUTHORLINK: We bet! Ms Frank, thank you so much for your time today! We wish you every success in the future for All the Single Ladies!
FRANK: Thanks so much!
|About the Author:||
Dorothea Benton Frank is a best-selling author, public speaker and nonprofit fundraiser born and raised on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. She graduated from The Fashion Institute of America and was employed as a buyer for various fashion companies for a number of years until around the time she had her children.
She was then involved in volunteer fundraisers, organizing events for various non-profit organizations in the metropolitan New York area. She is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The College of Charleston and a Doctorate of Fine Arts from Bloomfield College.
Her first novel, SULLIVANS ISLAND (Berkley Publishing 2000) debuted on the New York Times list at number nine and went back to press over twenty-five times, has well over one million copies in print and can be found in ten foreign languages. Her subsequent novels PLANTATION (Berkley 2002), ISLE OF PALMS (Berkley 2003), SHEM CREEK (Berkley 2004), PAWLEYS ISLAND (Berkley 2005), FULL OF GRACE (William Morrow 2006), BULLS ISLAND (William Morrow 2007), THE CHRISTMAS PEARL and LAND OF MANGO SUNSETS (William Morrow 2008), LOWCOUNTRY SUMMER (William Morrow 2009), RETURN TO SULLIVANS ISLAND (William Morrow 2010), FOLLY BEACH (William Morrow 2011), PORCH LIGHTS (William Morrow 2012), THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE (William Morrow 2013) were all New York Times bestsellers and may also be found in various foreign languages.
Ms Frank is an avid cook, enjoys fly fishing, reading and travel and is a frequent speaker on the creative process for students of all ages. She divides her time between the Lowcountry of South Carolina and New Jersey.
To learn more about Ms Frank, please see the following links: https://www.facebook.com/DorotheaBentonFrank?fref=ts, https://twitter.com/DorotheaFrank and, http://www.dotfrank.com/
|About Anna Roins:||
Anna Roins was a Senior Lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor in Sydney before she embarked on a career in writing seven years ago. As a freelance journalist, she has contributed to articles on social and community issues and edited a number of books, websites, and dissertations. She has continued her studies in creative literature with The University of Oxford (Continuing Education) and the Faber Academy, London.
Anna is currently writing her first novel and is a regular contributor to AUTHORLINK assigned to conduct interviews with best-selling authors.