Where did you get the idea for Our Place on the Island?
Haley, let me first say thank you so much for inviting me to visit with you and your readers today—I’m thrilled and honored to be here!
I’ve always wanted to write a novel set around a wedding—but what if the bride was a beloved, widowed matriarch and her groom was someone the gossips were calling “the one who got away” fifty years earlier? How would her daughter feel about that? What about her granddaughter? The possibilities for romance and drama and heart were endless! And since few things make me smile more than the idea of a rambling beach cottage at the outset of summer, ready to be filled to the brim by family and friends, I knew I wanted to set the novel on the coast, so the idea of an island wedding was born.
Why was the “current” part of the novel set in 1999?
I wanted the back story to explore life after World War II for a woman who had been pulled into the working world when her uncle was deployed, found her passion in cooking in his restaurant then had to return to a more traditional role in the home when the war ended. Since that date had to be fixed, and I wanted to feature three generations of women, I let the math lead me and it turned out to be a wonderful match because the “present” storyline is set on the edge of the new millennium, which added its own layer to the story of three women at different crossroads in their lives.
What about the women in this book do you relate to?
Since this is a multi-generational story, I had expectations of which of the three Campbell women I thought I would relate to most (I had guessed Hedy, because, at almost fifty, she was closest to my own age) but I was surprised to find I could relate in different ways to all three women—regardless of their ages. I related to granddaughter Mickey because of her passion for her craft as a chef but also her stubbornness to admit that she couldn’t manage her restaurant, despite that it was causing strain in her equally-passionate relationship with her head chef boyfriend. In the novel’s matriarch, Cora—who we get to know as both as a seventy-something widow about to be remarried and a twenty-four-year-old new bride—I related to her desire to forge her own path and be true to herself when society and duty pressed her to stay the course of tradition.
Do you have your own relationship to the Vineyard?
I was fortunate to spend a summer there after my first year of college, living on the property of one of the old beach “cottages” that overlooked the water. I have such strong memories of the place, and the people I encountered there that season, which was why I was so excited to set my novel there. Even years later, the experience and the setting still feels fresh and close for me.
Did you create the food you write about in your book from your imagination or from memory? I would say a bit of both. Some of the more involved dishes, such as the ones Mickey and Wes come up with for their restaurant, or the wedding menu, I dug through cookbooks to come up with. Others, such as the cold meatloaf sandwich or the bluefish marinade that Cora makes in the backstory, I drew from the memory of dishes that were part of my regional menus growing up in New England.
Second-chance love is magical. What made you want to write about it? Interestingly enough, the concept of exploring second-chance love wasn’t the starting point for this story—rather, it came about later. I had been drawn to the character of Cora and wanted to explore the choices she made as a young woman and how she grew from those, as well as the expectations we have of our mothers and our grandmothers to act a certain way. So the idea of this matriarch shocking everyone with a fresh start intrigued me, and through that, the second-chance romance was born.
What is your writing routine like? I am definitely a binge writer. I write from the minute my family heads out the door in the morning until they return home, and if I’m on deadline with edits, I might write into the night. When I’m in the thick of a story, it’s getting me away from the computer that’s hard!
What books are in your summer TBR? Oh, there are so many! I don’t need a beach bag to carry them all, I need a beach suitcase, lol! At the top, though, are HOTEL LAGUNA by Nicola Harrison, and Diane Ladd and Laura Dern’s mother-daughter memoir, HONEY, BABY, MINE.
Favorite summer drink? Anything cold! I’m not picky. I’m thrilled with a simple gin and tonic, or a frosty glass of white wine or seltzer muddled with fresh mint. Sangria is always a treat for me in summer, especially when it’s chock full of chunks of watermelon and peaches. I actually made a signature drink for OUR PLACE ON THE ISLAND called a Lobster Daiquiri (it’s named for the color—no seafood included, I promise!) which is blended watermelon, peaches, lime juice and rum. It’s not terrible! (The recipe is posted on my website if anyone is inclined!)
Favorite summer food? Even if I’m not on the beach, I still gravitate toward foods that make me feel like I am: easy, rustic dishes that have a lot of flavor but aren’t fussy. Things like bean salads or grilled pizza topped with whatever is in the fridge, or maybe a pile of nachos drenched in queso and salsa.
What can we expect from you next? I’m just starting to flesh out a new story, so the details are still pretty loose, but I can say with confidence that it will be set on the water and there will be many delicious love stories explored in the pages. It seems I can never be satisfied with just one!
Bio: A card-carrying cinephile and native New Englander, novelist Erika Montgomery currently lives with her family in the Mid-Atlantic. She is the author of OUR PLACE ON THE ISLAND and A SUMMER TO REMEMBER.