Suzanne Simonetti’s latest novel The Sound of Wing is the story of three women that find themselves wonderful friends by the end—and it takes place in and around Cape May. Goldie has a butterfly garden and a shop on Carpenters Lane; Krystal is from the Villas and works at a light shop that you can see from the Parkway; and Jocelyn has a son and is also a writer. I read it on my deck, but The Sound of Wings would be perfect for a long day on the beach. I could feel the author’s love of Cape May through her use of real locations and attractions including The Lobster House, Yacht Club, Carpenter’s Lane, Cape May County Zoo, Thunder Cat speedboat, and SaltWater Cafe.
Suzanne was kind enough to answer some of my questions via email. I had many favorite parts of the book, but I will not slip up and give you any spoilers! I was intrigued by the three characters she created and hope you will enjoy this book as I did. Happy reading!
Why did you use Cape May as a setting? As a family, we traveled to the Wildwood Crest/Cape May vicinity for decades. In 2015, we first purchased our home in Cape May, and I was pitching another manuscript. Meanwhile, a new story was whispering to me. The area is so charming and wrought with history, it served as a fountain for my creativity. While trailing the shoreline that summer, an image of Krystal—who is from the Villas—began to take shape. (My next book takes place twelve years after The Sound of Wings and is set on Cape May Point.)
What kind of research did you do in order to write this book? We began visiting Cape May in the off-season as I wanted to experience the sensational West Cape May Christmas Parade and observe the area in the cold winter months. A lot of what I learned about the town and history I found on-line. For instance, I captured all the details of the glorious Chalfonte Hotel straight from their own web site. I was also extremely fortunate to have met Wesley Laudeman in 2013. She became my first official Cape May friend and was generous enough to let me interview her on the town and life therein as a born-and-bred local. The pages of typed information that I received from Wesley were priceless and assisted me immeasurably.
Did you get stuck or have writer’s block? How did you overcome that? Oh, yes. I became stuck, as many writers do. I can tell you about the afternoon I decided to step away from my desk and jumped on my bicycle, heading straight for the state park to visit The Sentinel. I returned later that day refreshed and clear-headed and the scene with Jocelyn riding her bike to the lighthouse and having that disturbing phone call with her ex, Trevor, came tumbling out of me!
What is your favorite book? This is a tough one to answer, as there are just so many books that have reached my heart. I will tell you the last two books I read that were fantastic: THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah about the dust bowl during The Great Depression era, and THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V.E. Schwab. The latter is not my go-to genre (fantasy) and yet the story captivated me—I appreciate when a fellow author is able to surprise me.
What is your favorite dish to cook? I love seafood and make a ton of fish. Having The Lobster House Fish Market around the corner has been a dream come true. I also make my own pesto sauce with fresh basil and will sometimes spread the mixture over salmon. Throw in some South Jersey corn and juicy nectarines over baby greens and you’ve got the perfect summer meal!
What’s your favorite candle scent? I love the scents of autumn, so I would pick anything with apple, pumpkin, or cinnamon. I find they bring a sense of comfort and well-being.
What advice would you give a new writer? Find a mentor. Someone whom you trust who will give you honest feedback and make you dig deep to strengthen your work. Also, you cannot edit a blank page. To be a writer, one must write. Get those words down. The editing comes later.
What type of music did you listen to while writing “The Sound of Wings”? Light classical or smooth jazz or nothing at all—It really depended on my mood and headspace at the moment.
Do you have a butterfly garden? Not yet! But I sure do want one. I have pretty talented neighbors with green thumbs who keep robust gardens, so I may have to enlist their assistance when the time comes.
Which of the main characters do you relate to the most: Krystal, Jocelyn, or Goldie? While there are pieces of me within all three of the women, my answer would be Krystal. I remember struggling when I was first living on my own and collecting cans and bottles for the 5-cent refund. I can also relate to being a married woman with no children of her own and having a devoted, supportive husband who will stop at nothing to see me reach my dreams—not unlike Abe who does the same for Krystal in the story.
You used three different narrators for this book. Was that hard to pull off? The biggest challenge in creating different points of view is making sure each character has her own distinctly different voice. These women came to life for me on the page. I could see them and feel them and was able to live inside their heads. It took a lot of work and a ton of time, but it wasn’t difficult to pull off for the reasons mentioned.
The character Jocelyn is a writer who has missed her deadline. Does her writing schedule match the one you used for the book? I prefer writing in the morning when I am first starting a manuscript. However, the writing happens all day like any job, once the story gets rolling.
How did you develop the three characters? It was fun coming up with the vocations for each. I learned so much about the craft of throwing pottery and jewelry-making. I wanted to give each of the women her own creative talent. I love animals, so drawing all of Goldie’s pets was a blast. It was also important that they came from different walks of life and in Goldie’s case, from the older generation. I wanted to show the bridges we can cross and bonds we can form with people who aren’t exactly like us and how such interactions can actually raise us to higher ground as we carve out the best versions of ourselves.
In the book, Goldie felt like a spirit was lurking around. Have you ever had that feeling? I haven’t felt a negative presence or a “haunting” like Goldie experiences with Simon. I often feel the comfort and presence of my late aunt, Patricia Pringle, who perished in June 2018 to Parkinson’s disease and was like a big sister to me.
Goldie also had a pottery shop. Have you ever done pottery yourself? I have not, and I did a tone of research to learn all about the process and technique. Having to learn about these vocations which were new to me made the experience of writing this book all the more enjoyable and intriguing. The books I referenced still sit on my writing table for inspiration. One day, I will sculpt my own coffee mug and you never know: Maybe I will even attempt a 24-inch mermaid-like the one Goldie auctioned off at Jocelyn’s charity event.
At one point, Jocelyn breaks a wizard figurine in a store. Where did that idea come from? Have you ever had a similar experience? I have, thankfully, never broken a piece of merchandise. I wanted to escalate the tension between Jocelyn and Goldie, and I knew putting Jocelyn into a position where she accidentally broke one of Goldie’s handcrafted treasures would heighten the awkwardness between the two women.
When you were writing this book, did you aim for a certain word count each day? I utilize this method called “The Pomodoro Effect” which is like setting a kitchen timer. (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.) I set the clock for 25-minute intervals of uninterrupted writing time where I am not folding laundry or checking social media, but buckling down and working. I tally my count of pomodoros each day. My record is 15 in one day and that was at the tail end of a manuscript.
Off the top of your head, was there a line or part you struck out that you wished you’d kept? Nothing sticks out. The manuscript was scrutinized and edited by my mentor and friend New York Times best-selling author, Caroline Leavitt. She pulls no punches and made sure I got the story where it needed to be.
Do you keep a journal for your life or for each book you write? I keep a personal journal, but not on the stories I am working on. Some of the chapters included journal entries.
What challenges did you run into writing those? Daisy Jane’s journal was written in the 1970s when she was just graduating from LCMR. I had to be sure the entries coincided with her pregnancy with Bruce. There are also real events mentioned, such as President Nixon’s resignation, so I had to be sure my dates and timelines were accurate.
Have you ever stood up in front of a group to do a reading of your book? Not yet. All of my events have been virtual for the time being.
When did you first hear the term “Shoobie”? Did you know what it meant? I think I first heard the term on one of the Cape May social media pages. I did some research to examine the origin and meaning of the word.