Meet the Authors Event Today
The spirits of Maxwell Perkins, Sherwood Anderson, Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald may feel a little crowded in their favorite haunt, the former “Yankee Playtime Plantation” of author James Boyd (known today as Weymouth Center), when six real-life novelists and mystery writers move in for the week.
Diane Chamberlain, Katy Munger (aka Chaz McGee and Gallagher Gray), Sarah Shaber, Alexandra Sokoloff, Kathy Hogan Trocheck (aka Mary Kay Andrews) and Brenda Witchger (aka Brynn Bonner), along with their fictional sleuths Professor Simon Shaw, bounty hunter Casey Jones, the “Dead Detective” Kevin Fahey and antiques dealer Weesie Foley, will accompany their award-winning creators, elbowing the “ghosts of parties past” out of the way as they take over the 9,000-square-foot mansion, stepping over a body or two as they search for clues and jockey for page-time in their creators’ latest manuscripts.
On Monday, Nov. 8, at 2 p.m. at Weymouth (if the spirits allow), fans can meet and hear what their favorite authors are up to when The Country Bookshop presents “The Weymouth Six.”
“This summer, when Alexandra Sokoloff told us that seven of our customers’ favorite authors would be staying at Weymouth as artists in residence, we absolutely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to host a ‘Meet the Authors’ event for them,” says Bonnie Johnson, manager of the bookshop. “We were so sorry to hear that North Carolina’s beloved mystery author Margaret Maron won’t be joining her writing pals. She is recovering from injuries sustained in a recent car accident. Of course, everyone wishes her a speedy recovery and best wishes for her new Deborah Knott mystery, ‘Christmas Mourning.’ So this time the ‘Weymouth Seven’ will be the ‘Weymouth Six.’ Let me just say, having met most of the women, I know it is going to be one raucous not-to-be-missed event! We’ve been taking reservations, and we still have room, although seating is limited to 100. Customers can e-mail email@example.com or call the bookshop Monday morning to see if seats are still available.”
The authors have all stayed together before at Weymouth and have had “truly spooky encounters” there, Sokoloff says. “We all know the house is notoriously haunted. Maybe it is just the imprint of creativity. The whole mansion is constantly inhabited by writers and musicians. Every time I turned around there was knocking on the walls, weird manifestations and rooms that are just too creepy to go into after dark.
“One night I had to go all the way back upstairs, across the upstairs hall and around to the front stairs to get to a room I wanted to go to because I was too freaked out to cross the Great Room in the dark. And another one of us had the classic ‘Night Hag’ visitation: She woke up feeling that someone or something was sitting on her chest. Brrr….”
Undaunted, the “Weymouth Seven” have been coming to Southern Pines for years.
“We used to call ourselves ‘The Scribblers,’ but don’t like how ‘light’ that sounds,” Mary Kay Andrews says.
“We’re more a regular lunch group than a critique group,” Sokoloff says of her writing buddies, “but several times a year we go on retreat to the beach or the mountains or some generally fantastic place. That’s how I came to stay here and how I came to use it as the model of the haunted house in my thriller, ‘The Unseen.’”
“Weymouth is like a distant planet,” says Kathy Munger. “Last year, I spent four days living almost solely in other places in my head, crowded by my characters. I have the characters of my new series — they are just now taking shape and they are truly clamoring to be born. I have the characters of the new Casey, and I have even been revisiting my oldest friends of all from my Gallagher Gray series. It has gotten to the point where I feel like they are all walking with me on my morning and evening jaunts, perhaps spread out in a long parade behind me (and probably making faces at me behind my back).”
“The mansion is atmospheric, peaceful and a little bit spooky, as always,” Diane Chamberlain agrees. “But when we need a week of serious writing we go to Weymouth. The mansion is so large that we’re able to spread out and barely see one another during the day. Walking through the creaky old halls, though, you hear the speedy clackety-clack of computer keys coming from every corner.”
In the morning the women assemble for their goal-setting meeting for the day. Mary Kay Andrews is their “task master” who “cracks the whip.”
“People often ask us what a writer’s retreat is, and we usually liken it to a writer’s bootcamp,” she says. “All of us are multi-published veteran authors, so we are all serious and committed to our work, which is not to say we don’t have fun. We do. But work comes first! Our schedule usually follows a pretty set routine.
“We meet in the morning, we talk about the day’s work. We write down our concrete writing goals for the day, for instance, a plot point reached, or a page or word count achieved, and if anybody has an issue or problem with the work in progress, they ask for some brainstorming. The brainstorming is such a tremendous help! Together we’ve come up with plot twists, titles, subplots, character names and much more for each other’s books.”
“Then we go off with our laptops to various quiet nooks and crannies of this great old house,” says Margaret Maron. “If it’s warm enough, some will find spots outside conducive to writing. Lunch is an informal eat-when-you’re-hungry affair with very little midday socializing. Because the library is the only place we can get online, the Internet has not been the huge distraction it can be at home. And there’s no television.”
“It’s so interesting to me to see all the different ways each of us works,” Andrews says. “Sarah brings a huge poster, with outlines and diagrams, and Post-It notes telling her which chapters would have to be re-worked. Margaret’s manuscript is neatly spiral-bound. Katy uses schematics and flow-charts to plot her next book. The fact that she types with two fingers adds to the entertainment value. Diane tapes together file cards with hand-written notes and color-coded highlighting. Bren has journals full of notes and ideas. All I have is my wits and a yellow legal pad with some cryptic scratchings.”
“It’s hard to describe the synergistic effect of knowing that your colleagues are nearby, immersed in the creative process,” Maron says. “Pride is a sharp spur that keeps us at our keyboards when the muse wants to go wandering down to the kitchen or curl up for a quick nap. No one wants to have to face the others and admit that she hadn’t accomplished what she said she would.”
Not wanting to waste valuable work time by going out to dinner, the women usually eat in. Each is responsible for bringing one dinner for the group. For their other meals they buy groceries “enough for a Trojan army.”
“Over dinner we assess the day’s progress and again brainstorm,” Andrews says. After supper, they get in nightclothes, eat lots of M&M peanuts, and play the kind of words games “so dear to a writer’s heart,” like Taboo, Balderdash and Apples to Apples.
“Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve played Balderdash with a bunch of cutthroat writers,” Andrews says.
“It’s a good thing we’re here alone because our games can get a little raucous,” Maron admits, “especially when one of us who shall remain nameless has had a second glass of wine, forgets which team she’s on, and starts blurting out the answers for her opponents.”
For reservations or information about the “Weymouth Six” Meet the Author event, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211.
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