Spend the summer with three generations of Charleston women in Victoria Benton Frank’s debut novel “My Magnolia Summer.” In this book, family traditions reign and the beauty of Lowcountry life takes center stage. Frank is proud to carry on her mother’s legacy as the queen of the southern summer beach read. As the daughter of beloved New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank, she remembers falling asleep to the sound of her mom clicking on the keyboard.
“I saw her set the example of how to be a writer and a public person,” Frank shared. “People say, ‘You seem so natural.’ Meanwhile, I’m sweating profusely and so nervous, but it’s because I watched her do it. I saw my mom’s work touch people’s lives.”
Frank’s genuine personality quickly captured the hearts of readers as she embarked upon her first book tour this spring. Though she learned a lot from her mother’s example, she didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer. “I always joke that I have no business being a writer because I have no fancy degree in writing,” she said. “I was a theater major and went to culinary school. The whole time my mother was telling me I was going to be a writer.”
Drawing inspiration from southern stories like “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” “Steel Magnolias” and her mother’s books, Frank knew exactly what she wanted to write. “I was a chef in New York and wasn’t really cutting it,” she said. “I realized it wasn’t a life for me, so I wanted to write a book about food and restaurants. I was also inspired by books about multigenerational women — how normal circumstances have not-so-normal twists and turns and how you rise to the challenges of life.”
The characters in “My Magnolia Summer” will stay with Frank as she works on the next books in the series. “The sky’s the limit for potential projects for me and these women, these characters.”
What readers don’t see is how Frank balances writing with the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mom of two young children. “I have a minivan and two demon children and dogs barking and dishes and laundry to do,” she laughed. “Being a mom is a full-time job — ballet, picnic day, soccer. I carve out time to be quiet at my desk, and then at some point during the day I try to get three pages done. Sometimes I get 15; sometimes I get one.”
Frank’s honesty in writing and life is refreshing and authentic. Though the business side of creative fields is often concealed, she offered this advice. “Be willing to learn from people who have gone before. Stay humble with an open mind — and my number one piece of advice for anyone in any business is to say, ‘thank you’ when it’s due.”
By Heather Rose Artushin