6/4/13

Why Dolphins, Why Now

 
MAM and Jax sharing a laugh at Dolphin Research Center

I get asked that a lot.  It’s a great question, considering that every novel I’ve published in the last decade is rooted in the natural environment of my surroundings, which we here in Charleston, South Carolina call the Lowcountry.  Sea turtles, birds of prey, butterflies, wild shrimp—the list goes on.  These natural elements aren’t the story themselves, but the inspiration.  I draw my story themes from what I learn from my volunteering.  My story world is authentic and the animals are so interwoven with my characters’ lives that they themselves become characters.  By the end of the book, you find yourself rooting for them—for their survival in both the story world and the real world.  


I’ve always loved dolphins.  Who doesn’t?  It must be that beguiling smile! Of all the species I’ve ever worked with—and I’ve worked with many—no other animal is self-aware or as intelligent as the dolphin.  If you are fortunate to get close enough to look a dolphin in the eye, you know you’re being just as closely regarded, even studied.   Because I live by the Atlantic Ocean, I'm fortunate to see dolphins leap from the waves, swim in pods on the creeks, and chase boats near the harbor.  I had been yearning to write a novel about a dolphin for quite some time. I have many species I want to write about, a long list.  I wait for some sign from the universe, some tapping on my intuition, a whispering that tells me "choose this one now." 


One day, during a special meeting for the board members of the South Carolina Aquarium, I got ‘the sign’ when guest Philippe Cousteau urged me to write a book set against the issues threatening dolphins today.  I had just seen the film, The Cove, and Dr. Pat Fair from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) had informed us that almost half of the dolphins living in Charleston's estuarine waters were sick.   Shocking!  So I cannonballed off that proverbial dock into the world of wild dolphins and after three years of research surfaced with not one story but three! 


This was a first for me—intentionally writing a trilogy.  The Beach House series was written over a span of years as my work with the sea turtles expanded.  I jokingly say it was a trilogy ten years in the making.   In The Lowcountry Summer Trilogy, I am setting out to write a trilogy of books in which all of my characters are touched by the harrowing journey of one charismatic dolphin, Delphine.  It's the story of three granddaughters, one seaside summer, and one dolphin.   Sweet Delphine is the thread that connects all the books.  The first installment—THE SUMMER GIRLS—comes out June 25th.  


In THE SUMMER GIRLS, the behavior of the dolphin and the interactions shared between Delphine and the women were inspired from my work with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida and research with NOAA in Charleston, South Carolina.  What the women do, out of love for the dolphin, is in fact dangerous to the species’ well-being. 


I've always felt that the signs and TV ads that inform the public DO NOT FEED THE DOLPHINS don't amount to a hill of beans when one is staring at that beguiling face in a boat or from the dock.  Everyone thinks, "Aw, I want to make contact.  I want to share a moment with this creature.  What harm can one fish, or sandwich, this one small something do?"  Now, imagine thousands of people thinking this...  This is my character, Carson's journey.  Through her eyes, I bring you to that very real moment and allow you to experience with her the natural consequences.  It's so much more powerful to experience the raw emotions and passions.  As a storyteller, I rely on the old adage: Show don't tell.


My hope is that when you finish the final page of THE SUMMER GIRLS, you’ll find yourself excited to see what will happen next to the sisters—Carson, Eudora and Harper--and to Delphine.  And through the characters’ intimate and emotional relationship with a wild dolphin, you’ll feel an even deeper love for the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and see that you can make a difference. 

Want more?  Watch this brief interview about what compelled me to write about dolphins. 
video


You can also read an excerpt of THE SUMMER GIRLS at www.maryalicemonroe.com or my Author Facebook Page.  

What is it about dolphins that you love so much?  Share your story in the comments section.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you Mary Alice. To me, this is what sets you apart from all other authors. I learn about the wildlife of our world while enjoying the woven fabric of a story - and neither could stand alone. This makes me think particularly of Skyward, wow, Birds and their rehab, a wonderful story and gullah history, whew, it doesn't get better.

    I hope this makes sense as I don't know how better to say it.

    I love your work and your wanting to share with us your reading fans.

    Kathy Poncy

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  2. Thank you Kathy. Skyward was a favorite of mine and each story about the birds--the eagles, the owls, the falcon, even the rooster-- were true! If you come to my area, you must visit the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw. Amazing place!

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  3. I am very excited to read this book. I just found you and I look forward to following your writings! Blessings!

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  4. Dolphins are just so delightful to watch and make me smile as they always seem to be smiling too!

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  5. I have enjoyed reading your post. It is well written. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort on your blog. I appreciate your effort. Please check out my site.
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All the best,
Mary Alice