Mark de Castrique at Book Club

Mark de Castrique was the guest speaker Monday night at the February meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. I heard him speak at the public library in Mint Hill, North Carolina two or three years ago and was delighted for the opportunity to hear him speak again.

The book club’s book this month was one of Mr. de Castrique’s earlier books, The Fitzgerald Ruse. F. Scott Fitzgerald spent time at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, so that is the novel’s connection with Mr. Fitzgerald. Mr. de Castrique has a talent for taking a tidbit of a true story and weaving a fictionalized story around it using the back drop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is a native of Hendersonville, North Carolina, so he has a familiarity and understanding of the region and its wealth of stories.

Since I am a writer and an aspiring novelist, I was particularly interested in hearing Mr. de Castrique from a writer’s point of view. He offered a number of pointers for those of us who wish to improve our fiction writing skills. Some I have heard before but it is always helpful to hear them again.

1. Write what you know.

2. Avoid information dumps.

3. Have a character ask questions in order to get information conveyed.

4. Add background information here and there in the book.

5. If I, as the author, am not interested in what happens to my characters, that’s a good indication that readers won’t care what happens to them either.

6. Hang in there and write what you can each day. That page or two per day will eventually be a 400-page manuscript.

7. Every book has a theme. You might not know what the theme is when you begin, but you should know in the end. At that time, you can go back and add foreshadowing and details that reinforce the theme.

8. No one wants to be preached to in a novel.

9. Life doesn’t have to make sense, but a novel must make sense.

10. One reason people like fiction is because it has to be plausible. Life isn’t always plausible.

If you haven’t read any of Mark de Castrique’s books, I highly recommend that you give them a try. You will be entertained while learning something about the rich history of the mountains of North Carolina.

The Wrinkled Egg

After my cousin suggested that The Wrinkled Egg in Flat Rock, North Carolina would be a good place for my book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to sell, I passed that information on to Arcadia Publishing. The sales department followed up with Virginia and she ordered a dozen copies for her store! I dropped by The Wrinkled Egg on Tuesday afternoon, although the fog was getting thicker by the mile and I hesitated to leave the interstate. Virginia was not in but I enjoyed talking to Patty. My book had not arrived, but I hope it will be available there before Christmas.

The Wrinkled Egg on a foggy December day in Flat Rock, North Carolina.
The Wrinkled Egg on a foggy December day in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

The Wrinkled Egg is a quaint gift shop in lovely Flat Rock. Across the street from the famous Flat Rock Playhouse of North Carolina, the shop is in a perfect location for the convenience of shoppers and visitors to this village that is tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Flat Rock. Carl Sandburg and his wife bought a farm there and lived out the last years of their lives there. Their home, “Cannemara” is a State Historic Site and is open for tours. Plan a trip to Flat Rock, where you can visit Cannemara, take in a play at the Playhouse, and shop at The Wrinkled Egg!

My two-day trip to Tryon, Hendersonville, Canton, Asheville, and Flat Rock was an energy booster for me. It was my first opportunity to visit the area covered by my vintage postcard book and see my book on store shelves there. I enjoyed meeting bookstore owners and employees and it was indeed a thrill to see my book on the shelf at several stores!