“A charming novel of family, love, and the healing power of a little lake magic.”
Sometimes all you need is a little escape, and what better way than through pages of a good book? Heather Webber, the USA Today Bestselling author of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe, whisks us away to the charming town of Sugarberry Cove where two sisters find themselves back home again, somewhere that neither one of them want to be. Thanks to some of the inn’s quirky guests, the two sisters just might mend their relationship and find a little magic in the process.
In this interview, Heather shares a few of the southern locales that served as the inspiration of the fictional town of Sugarberry Cove, her favorite scene from the book, and a sneak peek at her next novel due out next summer.
When did your first get the inspiration for the storyline of your latest novel, The Lights of Sugarberry Cove?
The idea for this book sparked a few years ago when a family friend visited a floating light festival. I was intrigued by it, by the idea of setting hopes and wishes and dreams afloat. What if those wishes actually came true?
I live close to a small lake and love seeing all the waterfowl. While we don’t have loons, I often wonder about the ducks and geese we see. Especially the ones that cut across our yard a few times a day, like they’re on a schedule. We even name them, as they become recognizable by their personalities. Lakes also have a personality all their own, and I swear I see something new every time I walk the trail that loops around it.
The B&B angle to the story actually came from Midnight at the Blackbird Café. There’s a small thread in that story about a character turning his home into a B&B, and I realized that I wanted to write a whole story about a B&B…the people who live there and the people that come into their lives.
I adore cooking shows. Especially competition ones, like the Great British Baking Show. I could watch it all day long. And YouTube is usually the first place I go when I’m stuck on a recipe because I’m a visual learner.
Put it all together and you get The Lights of Sugarberry Cove.
Where is your favorite spot to write?
I have a cozy recliner in my office where I spend most of my writing time. Home is definitely the best place for me to write. I’m not one of those writers who can write in coffee shops or libraries—I’m too easily distracted.
Is Sugarberry Cove based on an actual place, a combination of different places, or purely imaginary?
It’s a purely imaginary place. I tend to create small towns I’d love to visit or live in, and Sugarberry Cove definitely fits that criteria, with its shops, the lake, and the wishes that come true. To give the reader a good feel of where the fictional town would be on a map, I use actual Alabama towns as guideposts. This book in particular is set just south of Birmingham, near where the very real Oak Mountain State Park exists.
Where were some of your favorite spots in the South to visit pre-COVID?
My favorite places are natural places. The parks, the botanical gardens, the mountains, and the land in between like the fields and forests. I do hope to see the Gulf Coast soon—I had plans to visit before the pandemic hit, and I’m looking forward to the day when I can reschedule because I know I’ll love being near the water.
Out of the entire ‘cast’ of characters, we meet throughout the novel, which one was your favorite to write?
This is such a hard question! Truly, I love them all. But I do have an extra soft spot for secondary characters—the way they can swoop into a scene to steal your heart. Characters like Uncle Camp, Tuck, and even those we see for only a few paragraphs, like Chenelle.
Without giving anything away, what scene from the book did you enjoy writing the most?
I’d have to say one of my favorite scenes to write was the one set in the hardware store—it was such a big turning point for the sisters. I also loved all the quiet scenes between Sadie and Uncle Camp. Oh, and the scene where Leala lets Tuck help paint. Ha! I could go on and on.
Do you find that sometimes as you write a particular character will start to remind you of yourself in some way?
I think there’s a little bit of me in every book I write. Sometimes it’s in what characters say or do or in the way I love cookies or mountains or HGTV, as was the case with Susannah in The Lights of Sugarberry Cove.
As an author of more than thirty novels, including standalone novels, The Lucy Valentine Novels, and The Nina Quinn Mysteries. What has been your favorite book you’ve written so far?
Another hard question! If I absolutely had to choose, I’d say Midnight at the Blackbird Café. It was the book of my heart, years in the making, and it marked a big (happy) change on my career path. Though I will also say that any book I’m currently working on is also a favorite. I love my job!
You’ve been nominated twice for the Agatha award. How did you feel when you received your first nomination?
It’s always wonderful to be nominated for an award, especially one that’s voted on by readers. I was honored and humbled—there are so many great books out there.
The Lights of Sugarberry Cove releases this July, are you currently working on your next novel and if so can we get a sneak peek?
I’m currently working on In The Middle of Hickory Lane, which will be out in the summer of 2022. Here’s a snippet, which is subject to change, since the book isn’t quite done yet!
In the middle of Hickory Lane grew a neighborhood garden, a teardrop-shaped patch of vibrant land that fit snugly into the rounded footprint of a wide cul de sac. The garden island rose up from the surrounding asphalt road, lush and verdant, beckoning for a closer look, a long stay. It was impossible for me not to notice, however, that among its gravel pathways, trees, shrubs, planter beds, and flower meadow that a secret had once been planted as well. A dark secret. One that was slowly being exposed with each thrust of a shovel into rich soil as a newly-discovered grave was unearthed.
As I made my way on foot past police tape that roped off the top of the lane, blue and red emergency lights pulsed in the warm, breezy afternoon. A backpack was slung over my shoulder and a large wheeled suitcase trailed loudly behind me, protesting a missing wheel with loud scraping and a constant tug on my arm as if begging me to turn around, that nothing good could come of being here.
It had taken every ounce of my courage and determination to make this trip south to Sweetgrass, Alabama, so I hoped the suitcase was wrong, that it was simply used to nothing good coming from anywhere I went.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Heather Webber is the author of more than thirty novels and has been twice nominated for the Agatha Award. She loves to read, drink too much coffee and tea, birdwatch, crochet, and bake. She currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, and is hard at work on her next book. *Heather also writes under the pen name Heather Blake.