In her newest novel, And Then I Found You, best-selling author Patti Callahan Henry explored some new territory in her writing and her life. For the first time, she set her fictional story in a real place (Bluffton, SC) and used a true story as inspiration: her sister’s real-life adoption story. The result is a beautifully written page-turner laced with tension and meaning. We think it’s set to be one of the summer’s best reads.
Last night, after a party and book tour stop in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Patti sat down to chat about writing with friend and fellow best-selling Southern author Mary Alice Monroe (The Beach House), who has a new book of her own coming out in a few months: The Summer Girls, slated for June 2013.
Patti Callahan Henry: This story was inspired by an adoption reunion (my sister and the daughter she had placed for adoption). At first I thought writing it as a nonfiction story would be easier. It played out in real life so perfectly, a true love story. A true magical reunion. But I was wrong—it wasn’t easy at all, and it was my sister’s story to tell. So in the end I decided to fictionalize the story and tell the emotional truths.
Monroe: Years ago we spoke together about the “Soul of the Story.” I am often reminded of that talk.
Henry: I so often refer to that presentation. When we wrote it together, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me all these years later. That talk was a defining moment in the architecture of my own writing life. Now I don’t get so frustrated when I am halfway through a story and don’t fully understand the “theme” or “meaning.” I know it will come in the writing process.
Monroe: We stay at each other’s homes and brainstorm. Which brainstorming session has meant the most to you?
Henry: They all have meant the world to me. My writing and my life would be less than what they are today without these deeper talks.
Monroe: We both write about the Lowcountry and yet neither of us grew up there. What drew you to the setting?
Henry: Your writing is deeply rooted in the natural environment (and wildlife) of the Lowcountry. I became enchanted with the area in my teens and my family has always come here for the summer. I fell in love with the area and my husband and I have always had a small “getaway” place here (Daufuskie Island, SC and then Bluffton, SC). The Lowcountry is the place I come to rest and it is the place my characters grow and change.
Monroe: I know that in the middle of writing And Then I Found You, you moved from your home of twenty-six years in Atlanta, Georgia, to Birmingham, Alabama. How did that affect your writing?
Henry: Moving deeply affected this novel. I incorporated some of the emotions I experienced in making a major life change. I also partially set the novel in Birmingham, rooting both myself and my character to a new city and a new life.
The story behind the story: Catch up with Patti Callahan Henry on her book tour (find dates and cities here) and make sure to download her short e-book, Friend Request, which tells the true-life story that inspired the novel: After more than two decades of wondering and longing, Patti’s sister reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption. (It happened via Facebook!) The e-book may be the best $1 you ever spend on a story.
More authors on authors: Belle Boggs interviews Jill McCorkle about her newest novel, Life After Life.