AUTHOR SARAH ADDISON ALLEN IS BACK
By Myra Schoen
Published in Black Mountain News: March 20, 2014
You’ll discover 100 fascinating and whimsical things about The New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen on her website. Author of the recently published magical romance, Lost Lake, Allen in person is as “Light, sweet and sparkly,” as her latest novel was described in a recent review.
For instance, Allen, who grew up and lives in Asheville, wrote her first novel at 16, “just to prove I could.” While she promises that that novel will “never see the light of day,” her next work, Tried and True, was published as a Harlequin romance under the pen name of Katie Gallagher.
Since then, Allen has written a half-dozen bestsellers, including her latest, Lost Lake, a romance about a grieving young widow rediscovering love, an 8-year-old girl with a zest for life, and an elderly woman seeking her last great adventure. Their lives intersect at a collection of lakeside vacation cabins in hot and steamy Georgia, where magic spins dreams into reality.
More than anything, Allen writes about hope. “That is first and foremost in my mind, what I want readers to experience in my stories,” she said.
Writing Lost Lake was a special challenge for Allen.
“I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2011, and it was a dark time,” Allen said. “Cancer is too hard, too mean to write about. You have a base fear of death, of failure. It’s hard to describe the journey, but it changed me. After completing a round of chemotherapy later that year, I didn’t know if I would get back to writing and touring. I couldn’t control the disease, but I knew I had to let go of the fear, and embrace hope.”
About two or three months after treatment, still in a fog, with “chemo brain,” Allen found it hard to focus.
“I thought I’d lost it,” she said. “Lost Lake was a hard book to write. I was determined not to write about cancer. Instead I wrote about grief. We take a journey of grief and come out on the other side of it, and life is still there waiting for us to live it.”
It took Allen a year and a half to complete Lost Lake. “By the time I finished, I felt whole. It taught me a lot. I could write a book after something traumatic. It didn’t have to be an anxiety-ridden process. Lost Lake helped me heal.”
Inspiration for her novels, Allen said, comes initially from a setting. “It can be the name of a town, the atmosphere, a sense of place. The place is the cornerstone for everything else. For Lost Lake, it was an image of Spanish moss, a wet swampy place.”
While Kate Pheris, the central character, was the first to inhabit the novel, Allen likes to introduce elderly characters into her stories. “I love them. They’ve had life experiences, and have a lot to offer the younger characters. They provide the moral compass.”
The Lost Lake resort may be fading and run-down, but its elderly owner, Eby Pim, is as young at heart and dream-filled as Devin, Kate’s young daughter.
Allen earned a B.A. in Literature at University of North Carolina at Asheville. She thought it “…amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate.”
A shy and daydreaming child, Allen’s desire to write comes from a lifetime of reading. “The books we read in childhood influence our imagination even into adulthood.” Her literary heroes include her Zack Allen, her father and a retired award-winning reporter and columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, Fred Chappell, Alice Hoffman, and Harper Lee, and others in the genre of magical realism touched by romance.
What’s next for Sarah Addison Allen?
“Fans have been asking for a sequel to Garden Spells, published in 2007, for the past seven years,” she said. “That’s what comes next….”
And after that…certainly another compelling story spun with romance, mystery, and unforgettable characters.