Author One-on-One: Dorothea Benton Frank and Adriana Trigiani
Bestselling author Adriana Trigiani's most recent books include the novels The Shoemaker's Wife and Brava, Valentine She lives with her husband and daughter in Greenwich Village.
Adriana Trigiani: Dorothea Benton Frank is a great storyteller, a ray of sunshine, and a fabulous party guest. If she were a cocktail, she'd be fizzy, and there would be a paper umbrella and a row of those cute plastic monkeys hanging around the rim. She's hilarious and so full of pep, you might want to bottle her. For now, we have a little interview about her latest book to share with her readers.
Dorothea Benton Frank: Thank you, Adriana. Yes, in fact, I am a great party guest. But darlin’? Lock up the medicine cabinet.
AT:Your books and your writing are so inspired by the South Carolina Lowcountry. What is it about the place that makes it such a muse to you? And please, tell us what is so low about "lowcountry".
DBF: The Lowcountry of South Carolina has been home to my family for over three hundred years. My ancestors, who were mostly respectable school teachers and merchants, fought in every single war of America’s history. It’s a blood soaked land steeped in all the important things that make us American but uniquely southern – stories of sacrifice, courage, determination, fortitude. It just seems more alive to me than any place I’ve ever been. Honestly? I feel that it’s a great privilege to be a Lowcountry Daughter.
What’s so low? Well, the Lowcountry is at sea level and it begins in north Florida with the banks of the Ogeechee River and travels north to Georgetown, South Carolina. It’s where rice was grown, using the fresh water tides with a series of gates and trunks to irrigate the rice fields.
AT: What gave you the idea for The Last Original Wife? That manhole episode that starts the novel is outrageous!
DBF: This is terrible but nearly that same thing actually happened to a great friend of mine in Rome – not all of it but she had a similar accident. And what about all the nuts who nearly get killed, texting while they’re crossing the street? Outrageous incidents are easily found. One personal weakness of mine is that I watch all the You Tube videos people send. My crazy brain invented the rest.
AT: In your novels there is always a close family relationship that you explore. For example, in The Last Original Wife the narrator Leslie is very close to her brother. What is it about family relationships that intrigue you?
DBF: So many things. I am the youngest of five almost by a decade. So I watched my siblings interact from the sidelines for many years. And I lost my father at a very young age, which has had an enormous impact on me all my life, informing many decisions, good and bad. I learned early on that life could change in a mere moment. And I learned about the price of staggering loss. Now I cherish my brothers and my sister and wish we all lived nearer to each other. It’s interesting that no matter how old I get, when we are all in the same room together, birth order takes over. Your friends can ditch you if you don’t act right. It’s more complicated to sever ties with blood relatives. At the end of the day, family is the most important thing we have.
AT:Your novels are set in today’s world and in The Last Original Wife it’s a virtual tour of Charleston, a must see destination. How did you know Charleston would become a mecca?
DBF:I didn’t. But it stands to figure that it would because who doesn’t want to visit the center of the universe?