Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

EMILIE RICHARDS | Where Everybody Knows Your Name

July 15, 2010

Look back on your life for a moment, okay? Just close your eyes and remember the people who were most influential in helping you become the person you are. Your parents, who may or may not have been role models you could follow. That special third grade teacher who realized you needed a little extra help learning to spell. The librarian who led you to novels you still remember with a catch in your throat.

And the friends.

With sixty-something books to my credit, one day I realized that I’d never really written about friendship. Sure, there were lots of friendships in my novels. That person a main character tells her life story to. That person who insists a main character get his act together. The walk-ons who serve a limited purpose before they stroll into the sunset. Lots of friends, but never a novel about friendship.

Enter the women of Happiness Key, a shabby beachfront community on Florida’s Gulf Coast who don’t know they need friends, don’t recognize each other’s potential, and are reluctant to spend more than a moment in each other’s presence. Ah, a writer’s dream scenario.

Happiness Key, the resulting novel, explored the ways women come together, sometimes against their wills, and form lifetime bonds. My mission was accomplished. By the story’s end, the women of Happiness Key had found their own keys to happiness and each other.

Then my publisher asked for a sequel. Hmm. . . I knew immediately I had to avoid the soap opera solution. You know the one I mean? Solve a problem, give the viewer a sense of happily ever after, then destroy it. Had I chosen this, I would have thrown a cog into the wheel of the friendships I’d worked so hard to develop. I didn’t want to, just didn’t. I’d struggled, they’d struggled. Tracy, Wanda, Janya and Alice deserved that particular happily ever after.

But there were loose ends. When you have four main characters (a blog all to itself) wrapping up each facet of their lives is impossible. Novels end. We can’t follow characters to the grave, nor do we want to. We solve the big stuff and leave the little stuff to our readers’ healthy imaginations.

This time, though, the loose ends intrigued me, as well. Did Janya and Rishi’s arranged marriage strengthen and turn into a love match? Did Marsh and Tracy overcome all their vast differences and end up as a couple? Did Alice and granddaughter Olivia recover from the traumas they’d undergone? Was Wanda going to serve fried oysters for the rest of her days? Then there were characters looming in the background, characters who had only been mentioned but figured prominently. Didn’t they need a few moments on stage, as well?

Call me a wuss, but I believe in friendship. So do the women of Happiness Key. Fortunate Harbor is the result. What happens when good friends are confronted by a new addition to their number, a woman with secrets? How far can friendship stretch? Fortunate Harbor is about so many things, but none more than friendship and its boundaries. I hope you have friends like these women, and that both Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor remind you how lucky you are. I’ve enjoyed them so much, I’m now working on the third and final installment. Stay tuned for Sunset Bridge, coming next summer, and enjoy.

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