I had the idea to write Alabama Skye about five years ago. The main premise of the story has always been the same, although many of the details changed between when I first started writing it and when it was completed. I was writing another novel, my first, when the story for Alabama Skye came to me. I had to put the book on hold for a bit, and many things happened in my personal life that shaped Alabama Skye and made it what it eventually became.
Every single one of the characters in Alabama Skye is special to me in one way or another. The most special, however, is Sarah Guthrie Gannon, the matriarch and heart of the story. She is based on my own grandmother, a wonderful, loving and amazing woman whom I always called Mimi. Like Sarah, Mimi had Alzheimer’s and eventually passed away in May of 2013. Alabama Skye was published just a little over a year later. The book is dedicated to her.
Mimi and Sarah are not really that much alike in character. Sarah is feisty, the belle of the ball, and in her younger years I imagine her to be larger than life. Mimi was not that way, although she was, perhaps, the largest thing in my young life. Mimi was also the reason Cheney, another main character, turned out to be the way she is. Mimi had a fascination with all things Scottish, and traveled to the UK sometime in the ‘80’s. After her return, she had a poster of Eilean Donan castle on Loch Duich framed. It hung in her home for many years, and now it hangs in my office next to a poster for Alabama Skye. I think that Mimi and Cheney would have been very good friends. Mimi probably would have picked up some Gaelic from the Scotswoman while the two of them sat and shared a drink in a pair of Cheney’s beautiful white mugs; Mimi’s cup full of hot black coffee and Cheney’s with fragrant tea. I loved learning about the Isle of Skye and getting to know Cheney as I wrote. She is a complex character and one I feel quite fond of.
Alabama Skye is not autobiographical as some readers believe. There is not much of me in any of the characters, and I don’t have a whole lot in common with any of them save the relationship I shared with Mimi. That is definitely reflected in the relationship between Greer and Sarah. I am also a mother and know how it feels to be committed to your children just as Meara and Greer are committed to theirs. While I love to cook, I am not a successful chef, nor do I drive a sporty little Beetle by the name of Penelope. However, Meara’s book shop, The Cheshire Cat, was based on a store I frequented a lot as a child, and The Alice and Wonderland theme was taken from some favorite childhood memories.
I grew enormously attached to this group of characters. Much to my delight, many of my readers did as well. I have been asked many times if there will be a sequel to Alabama Skye. I thought their stories had been told, but I have, since then, been hearing them whispering quite loudly in my ears. It didn’t take much persuasion to get me to head back to Kelby, Alabama and pick up where I’d left off. In this second book, which is yet untitled, readers will follow Noah as she continues to build her business and finds out that she isn’t exactly who she always thought herself to be. Readers will also travel across the Atlantic and unearth some more secrets that Cheney and Meara’s father, Finlay, left for them to find in a small town in the lowlands of Scotland.
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“When tragedy befalls Cheney McGillvray, she decides to pack up and leave her beloved home on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. She travels to the beachfront town of Kelby on Alabama’s gulf coast and appears unannounced on her sister Meara’s doorstep with a plan not only for her own future but also for that of her niece.
Greer, fresh out of culinary school and two months pregnant, takes the advice of her headstrong grandmother Sarah, and agrees to a partnership with her aunt. Together they transform Sarah’s beautiful old home into a proper Scottish B & B right in the heart of America’s southland.
Both women realize the time to face their pasts has arrived in the weeks before they are to open Gannon’s Glen. Cheney finds it difficult to hide the darkness of her past when she begins suffering from debilitating nightmares that bring Greer to her bedside at night and a hurricane sweeps in more than stormy weather. News of the destruction of his childhood home brings Greer’s high school sweetheart and their unresolved relationship back into town. Although they are nearly strangers separated by a forty year age gap, Cheney and Greer lean on one another as they come to terms with their lives and realize the possibilities of their futures.
Sprinkled with humor and colorful descriptions of both the Gulf Coast and that of Scotland’s Inner Hebridean Islands, Alabama Skye is a story about the strength of four generations of women who discover that when things go wrong the ones who stand by you and the ones who carry you are the ones you call family.”
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