Mary Alice Monroe is best known for her New York Times bestselling series The Beach House. While beaches and the ocean can be a relaxing getaway and a magical place to live – the beach can also pose a significant risk, especially in Hurricane season.
Monroe moved to North Carolina after growing up in the Midwest and experienced many storms living on a barrier island. However, Hurricane Irma in 2017 was a storm that would stick with her the most and inspired her most recent book, The Summer Guests.
The book takes place during peak hurricane season as a storm forces a group of strangers to escape and take refuge at a horse farm in the mountains of North Carolina. Based off of Monroe’s own experience working with rescue horses and escaping Hurricane Irma at a horse farm in the mountains, The Summer Guests not only gives a look into the lives of people taking shelter, but also their equestrian world.
"It was amazing to be there, in a 'hurri-cation,' where you're caught away from the coast but you're feeling safe, but not safe at the same time," Monroe recalls.
What's unqiue to her books is that Monroe doesn't write a story until she has volunteered with an animal. And helping on the horse farm as people brought everything from rescue horses to million-dollar equestrian champions, Monroe says she felt the universal love for the animal.
"Everyone in America, I think, feels a kinship to this icon in our culture," she says. "For me I don't know the story until I volunteer with the animals ... I have a species first and then I work with them, and after I work with the animals the story comes to me."
Ultimately with hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters becoming more frequent and more powerful, Monroe says putting a personal note on a harrowing evacuation experience can bring better awareness and preparedness. Because while nature can be beautiful, it can be devastating for both people and their animals they care for.
"What I’m really after is that we all feel connected to this beautiful planet that we share and the animals on it," says Monroe. "Because if we connect to nature, I honestly know that we will have better relationships with those people in our lives we connect with on a daily basis."
Mary Alice Monroe will be at Books & Company in Oconomowoc on Monday, June 24.