• Where—Sullivan's Island, North Carolina, USA
• Education—Fashion Institute of America
• Currently—lives in New Jersey and on Sullivan Island
An author who has helped to put the South Carolina Lowcountry on the literary map, Dorothea Benton Frank hasn't always lived near the ocean, but the Sullivan's Island native has a powerful sense of connection to her birthplace. Even after marrying a New Yorker and settling in New Jersey, she returned to South Carolina regularly for visits, until her mother died and she and her siblings had to sell their family home. "It was very upsetting," she told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Suddenly, I couldn't come back and walk into my mother's house. I was grieving."
After her mother's death, writing down her memories of home was a private, therapeutic act for Frank. But as her stack of computer printouts grew, she began to try to shape them into a novel. Eventually a friend introduced her to the novelist Fern Michaels, who helped her polish her manuscript and find an agent for it.
Published in 2000, Frank's first "Lowcountry tale," Sullivan's Island made it to the New York Times bestseller list. Its quirky characters and tangled family relationships drew comparisons to the works of fellow southerners Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy (both of whom have provided blurbs for Frank's books). But while Conroy's novels are heavily angst-ridden, Frank sweetens her dysfunctional family tea with humor and a gabby, just-between-us-girls tone. To her way of thinking, there's a gap between serious literary fiction and standard beach-blanket fare that needs to be filled.
"I don't always want to read serious fiction," Frank explained to The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "But when I read fiction that's not serious, I don't want to read brain candy. Entertain me, for God's sake." Since her debut, she has faithfully followed her own advice, entertaining thousands of readers with books Pat Conroy calls "hilarious and wise" and characters Booklist describes as "sassy and smart,."
These days, Frank has a house of her own on Sullivan's Island, where she spends part of each year. "The first thing I do when I get there is take a walk on the beach," she admits. Evidently, this transplanted Lowcountry gal is staying in touch with her soul.
From a Barnes & Noble interview:
• Before she started writing, Frank worked as a fashion buyer in New York City. She is also a nationally recognized volunteer fundraiser for the arts and education, and an advocate of literacy programs and women's issues.
• Her definition of a great beach read—"a fabulous story that sucks me in like a black hole and when it's over, it jettisons my bones across the galaxy with a hair on fire mission to convince everyone I know that they must read that book or they will die."
• When asked about her favorite books, here is what she said:
After working your way through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, of course, you have to read Gone with the Wind a billion times, then [tackle these authors].
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley; The Red Tent by Anita Diamant; Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler; Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King; Making Waves and The Sunday Wife by Cassandra King; Islands by Anne Rivers Siddons; Rich in Love, Fireman's Fair, Dreams of Sleep, and Nowhere Else on Earth (all three) by Josephine Humphrey. (Author bio and interview from Barnes and Noble.)
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