BY PATRICIA DUFF
Whidbey Art Source Editor
One can imagine the particular joy writer Andrea Hurst felt at her book signing yesterday in Coupeville. Every writer dreams of producing that first novel, and Hurst’s smile at the party said it all.
Hurst’s fiction debut, “The Guestbook,” the first of the author’s planned Madrona Trilogy, is now available at Moonraker Books in Langley, Anchor Books in Clinton and will be available at stores in Coupeville and Oak Harbor shortly. It’s also at Amazon.com and on Kindle.
As a literary agent with Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management, Hurst is used to combing through the manuscripts of other authors, and has already published two non-fiction books, including “The Lazy Dog’s Guide to Enlightenment” and “A Book of Miracles.” But writing fiction is something special, and Hurst said she is hooked.
“Everything I read teaches me and inspires me when I write,” Hurst said.
When it comes to fiction, she has some particular favorites.
“I admire Andre Debus’ ‘House of Sand and Fog,’ Hurst said.
“I think the writing in ‘White Oleander’ is brilliant and the first 50 pages of a ‘Reliable Wife’ are spellbinding.”
Hurst was inspired to write the book while visiting the Farm House Bed & Breakfast in Clinton when she saw the owner reading the guestbook. After reading as many guestbooks as she could get her hands on, the idea morphed into a novel.
In describing “The Guestbook,” Hurst succinctly sums up what readers might expect from her own style.
“I think it has the heart of Nicholas Sparks’ book, the charm of Debbie Macomber and a sprinkle of the romance found in Nora Robert’s book.”
In “The Guestbook,” Lily Parkins, the new proprietor of the Madrona Island B&B, has come a long way from her glamorous but lonely life in Los Angeles as the trophy wife of a wealthy and overpowering husband.
When her grandmother passes away, Lily makes the first real and self-affirming decision of her life … to leave her husband and get her life back. Lily returns to the only place that still holds happy memories for her: Grandma Maggie’s farmhouse-turned-B&B perched on Madrona Island in the Puget Sound. The lush and majestic setting of the Pacific Northwest calls to her and offers a place of refuge and the hope of renewal.
The character of Lily also happens to be an excellent cook and one special bonus of the book is the recipes for Lily’s mouthwatering dishes featured in the story are in the book.
For Whidbey Island readers, another charm of the book goes beyond style and good food. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the Madrona Island of the book is a stand in for the Coupeville author’s home turf and Hurst said several of the characters in the book are inspired by real-life folks.
“I used one woman who has a house in Greenbank to model Betty after,” the author said.
“She was such an amazing character in life; I just had to do it. Some minor characters are loosely based on friends here. Whidbey offers such a wonderful community and I wanted to include some of that feel in the book.”
Inspiration, however, can only go so far. Fiction is hard work and Hurst said every part of the process was challenging.
“It is so different than nonfiction; so many pieces to pull together,” the author said. Nonfiction is a fairly linear form, she said, and very different from a novel in which the through-line must be sustained or the story will sag.
“I have taught fiction, edited fiction and sold fiction as an agent, but nothing compares to writing fiction,” Hurst said.
Judging from the slaked smiled on Hurst’s face at the Bayleaf book release party, writing a novel is quite a satisfying thing indeed.
For more about “The Guestbook,” visit the author’s website.