Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Novelist and playwright, Ane is the executive director of Players Guild@Sugar Hill, a new community theater and president of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at her website, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+
An Interview with Claire Bennett
by Ane Mulligan, posing as Ginger Solomon
Today my guest is Claire Bennett, the main character in Chapel Springs Survival, by Ane Mulligan.
GS: Claire, I have to know. Is it true your son Wes got a mail-order bride? In the 21st Century?
CB: Yes, Ginger, it’s true. To make it worse, she’s from Brazil. I swanney, trying to love this girl is like hugging a prickly cactus. I’ve been rebuffed, ridiculed, and rejected by her.
GS: Oh my, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’d do if one of my sons did that.
CB: I tried to do a number of things, but none of the legal ones worked, and Wes refused to have the marriage annulled. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy.
GS: I heard another rumor that you—
CB: Has Dale Riley been over to see you? He’s the biggest rumormonger in Chapel Springs, and believe me, we have some cantankerous gossips here. You should know y’all can’t believe a word Dale says. And if by some wild stretch of the imagination he’s telling the truth, you can believe he’s embellished it like a fiction writer.
GS: So, you’re saying there isn’t any illegal art being displayed in your art gallery, The Painted Loon?
CB: I did not know it was illegal. I swanney, it was a complete case of mistaken identification.
CB: It’s truly embarrassin’, Ginger, but the truth is they aren’t my recipes. You see, the author—what was her name? Oh, Ane Mulligan, right, that’s it—well, she has some fans who love me and my friends. They meet everyday in virtual Dee’s ‘n’ Doughs, while we meet in the real one. They pretend they’re us! They’re the ones who decided they needed to put out a cookbook.
They went through their recipe files and pulled out the ones their friends all clamor for them to bring to every potluck and family gathering. Then they sent them to Ane. Her publisher loved the idea and voila! The cookbook was born.
GS: Have you tried to make any of them? I mean, I read what happened at Henderson’s Fresh Market Cooking School in Chapel Springs Revival.
CB: If they didn’t have a Halon fire extinguishing system, it wouldn’t have made the papers. And no, I learned my lesson. It seems God didn’t dip me in the cooking-gene pool. I leave that to Joel and my twins. I did try to make Patsy’s Wasabi Salmon once, but I didn’t have any wasabi. How was I to know I couldn’t put green food coloring in baking soda and have it come out the same? However, in my defense, I make the best coffee in Chapel Springs. And Jell-o Jigglers. And salad. I can open any bag of salad you put before me.
GS: How did you feed your kids? Did they live on PB&J sandwiches?
CB: Not on your life. My Joel always wanted to be a chef, but his daddy called it a girlie job. I guess he never saw Guy Fieri or Emeril Lagasse. BAM! From the day we got married, Joel has been our cook, and he’s wonderful. He taught me how to do the prep work and the shopping. It works.
GS: Oh, I love a man that cooks. My hubby taught me to cook. I do most of it now, but he still gets Saturday nights. YUM! So, tell me what your favorite recipe is from the cookbook.
CB: That’s not fair! They’re all great, but there’s one that the ladies at the author’s bank keep askin’ for, and that’s the Avocado Potato Salad. Ever since Ane mentioned it in Chapel Springs Revival, they’ve been pestering her for the recipe.
I had to go scrambling to see who made it and find out if she’d give up the recipe. She did, thankfully. Now Author doesn’t have to change banks.
GS: That’s convenient. Will Author let you share a bit of an excerpt from Chapel Springs Survival?
CB: Sure she will. Here’s the beginning of the story. I think you’ll like it. It got a 4-Stars from RT BookReviews.
Like shot pinball, Claire Bennett pinged against, around and between hordes of straw hats, bikinis, and plaid shorts. All along Sandy Shores Drive, shoulder-to-shoulder throngs of people crowded the sidewalk and spilled into the avenue. A party atmosphere—with noise level to match—permeated the quiet morning and their once peaceful village.
What had they done? When she and her friends envisioned the revitalization of Chapel Springs, it was a nice, controlled rise in tourist trade—not this craziness.
One bruised elbow later, Claire reached the door of her art gallery, The Painted Loon, and turned her key in the lock. A heavy hand grasped her shoulder. Her heart skipped a beat. Was she about to be robbed?
Hold on. In broad daylight? With this crowd watching? She may not be the brightest color on the palette, but she did possess a little common sense. Her gaze traveled up the beefy arm to a scraggly-bearded face with beady eyes. A rolled red bandana wrapped around his forehead, held back salt-and-pepper hair. Beside him stood a bleached-blonde motorcycle mama, dressed in a halter-top and the skimpiest shorts Claire had ever seen. Strings hung from their ragged edges and drew attention to the lumpy cellulite dotting the back of her thighs. Who was this woman trying to kid? She was fifty if she was a day.
“You’re the loon lady,” Motor-mama said. “We want to see your pots.” They tried to shoulder their way into the gallery, but Claire stood her ground.
“I’m sorry, we aren’t open yet. Please come back at ten.” She threw the deadbolt, pulled down the window shade, then leaned her back against the door and drew in air. The familiar scent of lemon oil-rubbed wood with the underlying twang of turpentine surrounded her like a security blanket.
After rattling the door handle a few times, the couple retreated. Claire released her breath in a whoosh as she slipped into the back workroom, where she and her gallery-partner-slash-best friend, Patsy Kowalski, created their art. And, Claire had to admit, a problem for Chapel Springs. The review they received last year—Patsy for her paintings and Claire for pottery—had put them on the art world’s radar.
Between that and the town’s cleanup campaign, Chapel Springs attracted half the population east of the Mississippi. Then Rod Campbell, Nashville’s newest country heartthrob, strolled into The Painted Loon one day and bought some artwork. He told a Hollywood producer about them, and the producer told one of his starlets, who was an art collector.
Now Chapel Springs was filled with stargazers. Their quiet little village by the lake had become the trendy place to visit in north Georgia. Oh sure, Chapel Lake was the best summer vacation spot in the state, with its tournament fishing, beautiful beaches, and fabulous hiking trails. Naturally, the town’s merchants wanted to increase the tourist trade.
Because Claire had come up with the revitalization plan, the mayor blamed her for the ensuing problems. And problems were plentiful. College kids decided their little village was the perfect party town. Aside from their noise and litter, and traffic congestion on the main road through town, Chapel Springs didn’t have enough rentable living space for more than a couple hundred overnighters. Apparently, that lack of foresight was also her fault, along with the wild parties in Warm Springs Park. However, their cantankerous popinjay of a mayor sure took credit for the financial gains.
Peeking out the back door, she found the coast clear and sprinted for Dee’s ‘n’ Doughs. One of Dee’s apple fritters and fortifying high-test coffee would go down good. Then Claire and her friends, all local entrepreneurs, could strategize a way to survive this pickle.
She slipped into the bakery’s rear entrance and was immediately plunged into gastronomic delight by the heady aroma of sugar and spice. It made her want to lick the air. Dee stood next to a large industrial mixer, pouring milk into its stainless steel bowl. Claire waved but between concentration and the noise of its motor, Dee didn’t look up. However, her new assistant, Trisha, who was elbow deep in a huge batch of some wonderful concoction, did look up and frowned. With the back of her wrist, she rubbed the side of her nose, leaving a trail of flour.
Claire waggled her fingers as she passed by. “I’m avoiding the foot traffic out front.”
“Well, just don’t touch anything.”
Sheesh. Even a newcomer knew her infamous reputation for calamity. She had hoped being elected to the town council would have brought her a modicum of respect. But no such luck. She was still the town’s favorite joke. If Henderson’s hadn’t had a Halon fire alarm system in the cooking school, it wouldn’t have been a big story.
Maybe if she ran for council chairwoman she could change her personae—become a purveyor of wisdom instead of a diva of disaster.
A mail-order bride, a town overrun with tourists, and illegal art.
How on earth will Claire and Chapel Springs survive?
Claire Bennett’s Operation Marriage Revival succeeded and life is good. That is until the mayor’s brother blabs a secret: Claire’s nineteen-year-old son has married a Brazilian mail order bride. When Claire tries to welcome her, she’s ridiculed, rebuffed, and rejected. Loving this girl is like hugging a prickly cactus.
Lydia Smith is happily living alone and running her spa—then the widow on the hill becomes a blushing bride. Then her groom’s adult son moves in—on everything.
From the first sighting of a country music star in The Painted Loon, Chapel Springs is inundated with stargazers, causing residents to flee the area. When her best friends put their house on the market, Claire is forced to do something or lose the closest thing to a sister she’s got. With her son’s future at stake and the town’s problems to solve, it’s Claire’s who needs a guardian angel.
Thanks for stopping by Claire, and Ane.
Readers, Ane has kindly offered a print copy of Chapel Springs Cookbook or an e-book of Chapel Springs Revival. Comment before 12/15 for your chance to win.