Mary Alice Monroe has written stories for as long as she can remember. As a child she could always be found curled up with a book or writing. One of her strongest memories is her first trip to the public library. When they gave her her first library card, she felt as though she'd been given the keys to a candy shop for her imagination. She still feels the same thrill in libraries and bookstores and remains a strong supporter of libraries through events and speaking engagements.
Mary Alice claims much of her creative spark came from her large and close family. Growing up, she and her nine brothers and sisters wrote and performed in their own plays and musicals. Her teachers recognized her talent and encouraged her to write. She first pursued nonfiction and studied journalism. Later, she was an assistant to the General Editor for Encyclopedia Britannica who worked with world famous artists, authors, composers, and scientists as EB III was developed.
After an extended trip to Japan with her husband, Mary Alice studied Asian culture in earnest. She was awarded a fellowship and earned her master's degree in Asian Studies and became bilingual in Japanese. Later, she helped establish a government-funded English as a Second Language program for Southeast Asian refugees. Working with immigrants and helping them integrate into American society, Mary Alice co-authored an English-language survival text.
Not until years later did fate intervene. When her doctor confined her to bed for the final months of her pregnancy, Mary Alice's husband handed her a legal notepad and pencil and urged her to write the novel she had envisioned. "I gave birth to a baby and a book," says the author.
More than a dozen books later, Mary Alice has established her voice in fiction. Known for her intimate portrayals of women's lives, her writing has gained added purpose and depth with her move to the Lowcountry. An active environmentalist, she draws themes for her novels from nature and the parallels with human nature, thus drawing attention to various endangered species and the human connection to the natural world.
Mary Alice is involved with several environmental groups and is on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherback Trust, and Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. Her volunteer work with these and other groups provided the inspiration for her novels, The Beach House Trilogy: THE BEACH HOUSE, BEACH HOUSE MEMORIES, SWIMMING LESSONS, and SKYWARD, SWEETGRASS, TIME IS A RIVER, LAST LIGHT OVER CAROLINA, and THE BUTTERFLY'S DAUGHTER. With the same heart of conservation, Monroe has written two children's picture books, TURTLE SUMMER and A BUTTERFLY CALLED HOPE.
The Lowcountry Summer trilogy is her newest endeavor. THE SUMMER GIRLS, the first book in the series, was released summer 2013 and introduces the complex relationships between three sisters of the Muir family at Sea Breeze, their historic home on Sullivan's Island, S.C. The second installment, THE SUMMER WIND was released in 2014. Book three, THE SUMMER'S END will be out summer 2015.
Mary Alice Monroe is the author of nearly two dozen novels, several non-fiction titles, and children's books. Her body of work reflects her commitment to the natural world through literature. Monroe has served on the faculty of numerous writer's conferences and retreats. She is a featured speaker at events, both literary and conservation.
Her books have achieved several best seller lists, including the New York Times, SIBA, USA Today and are sold worldwide. Her childrens books received several awards, including the ASPCA Henry Bergh award. Monroe was awarded the SC Center for the Book Award for Fiction and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. In May 2014, she was awarded the Career Achievement Award for mainstream fiction by RT Book Reviews and the South Carolina Book Festival Literary Excellence Award.
*photograph courtesy of Barbara J. Bergwerf