Easter Eggs in Beneath the Marigolds
One of my most frequently asked questions is how much of my writing is based on my real life. The short answer is: not much.
To me, part of the fun of writing is stepping into someone else’s shoes, going on a new adventure, and seeing life from a different perspective. Additionally, it’s much tougher for me to receive criticism on writing that’s based on my own personal experiences—it feels like a critique on my life and choices, as opposed to my work. However, I do like to make references to people and places that are important to me. A subtle nod, if you will. Here is a list of some of those nods in Beneath the Marigolds.
1. Nashville, TN: Ann’s hometown (p. 9)
I grew up in Nashville, I live in Nashville, I love Nashville.
2. The main characters’ names, Reese and Ann (p. 9)
Reese Witherspoon and Ann Patchett are two of my heroes. My characters are in no way reflections of those two real-life people, but I was trying to channel some local inspiration when first writing this story, and I had just watched Ann Patchett interview Reese Witherspoon during the Whiskey in A Teacup tour. They were so witty, so sharp, and so accomplished, and I hoped using their names would trickle some of their greatness into my first story.
3. Ann’s profession as a corporate attorney (p. 9)
I decided to make Ann a corporate attorney for several reasons. I needed her to be successful, intelligent, and knowledgeable of the law so she could afford to attend the retreat and be able to extricate herself from a dicey situation. A corporate attorney checks all of those boxes. But, on a personal note, my dad is a corporate attorney, and he is my hero. Since Ann is also my hero, it seemed to be a fitting profession for her.
4. Pat Higdon, the P.I. Ann hires (p. 30)
University of Florida, 1956. Emily Higdon (L) and John Higdon (R).
Higdon is my mother’s maiden name. My maternal grandparents, Emily and John Higdon, also helped fund part of my education, without which this book wouldn’t have been possible.
5. Ann’s parents’ jobs: art teacher and lumber business owner (p. 117)
Whitson Lumber Company, 1969. Buddy Whitson (L) and Al Whitson (R).
Another reference to my parents. My mom loves art history, and she’s a fabulous docent at the Frist Museum. (Everyone go see her!) My grandfather owned a lumber business, Whitson Lumber, for a long time, and my dad worked there for eight years when he wasn’t working as an attorney. I still ask him names of trees when I’m writing about a particular place; it is super handy for me, super annoying for him.
6. The Back Room Group (p. 289)
If you know, you know.