Annie is a determined young woman who is left to run her family’s property after the death of her parents. Managing fourteen summer cottages with only the help of a family friend, she struggles to survive on her own. When she meets Drew, a young college professor, Annie thinks she’s finally found a love she can trust.
But years of conflict and pain destroy their bond and leave Annie alone again, unless she can find lasting peace and passion in the most unlikely arms.
In this family saga, love, loss and history twine together the people whose lives are changed by Annie’s determination and the magic of her knoll nestled along the head-waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Gail Priest lives in New Jersey and summers in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay with her husband and their cockatiel. In addition to writing novels, plays and screenplays, she teaches and directs in a high school performing arts program. She loves theatre, reading, birding and being out in nature
My Interview with Gail:
Share a little bit about yourself. Did you always see yourself as a writer?
I wrote on and off since I was a kid starting with an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in which I envisioned myself playing the female character. I wrote songs and poems as a teenager. I continued with that during college (theatre major) and also wrote a children’s play. There were a lot of papers to write while I earned my masters in Counseling Psychology. But I didn’t get down to serious business until I was in my forties. After reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I wrote my first full length play and made submissions. It was produced, and that’s when I began to call myself a writer.
Tell us a little bit about this book and the series.
Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise explores themes of family dynamics, prejudice, loss and the healing powers of friendship and nature. The story spans twenty-seven years in the life of Annie, a high-spirited woman who becomes the dedicated proprietress of a Chesapeake Bay summer cottage community. As a pre-teen, she is determined to uncover the truth about her critical mother’s parentage. In her twenties, she desperately fights to hold onto the cottage property left to her. In her thirties, she struggles to overcome the grief of her failed marriage and her estranged relationship with her young son.
The second book Sunset will focus on Annie’s son Nate. It begins when his parents’ divorce and goes through his early adulthood with difficulties in his own marriage and his ultimate return to the Knoll. He and his mother will have to finally confront their estrangement. Beth Ann and Packard will return, and Nate’s wife June is a significant new character.
So much of this series feels really personal and I know as a writer that a lot of my own writing stems from real experiences, people, or emotion. Is Annie Crow and her story based on any actual people or happenings?
The joy of spending the last fourteen summers in a Chesapeake Bay cottage rental has inspired the series. The setting of Annie’s property and the Chesapeake Bay are like their own characters. The location affects all the other characters. There used to be little cottage communities like Annie Crow Knoll all around the Chesapeake Bay and other vacation areas in the country. Most of the properties have been sold off, the cottages torn down and private homes built. I like the idea of a place like this being preserved.
What was the most challenging thing to confront about writing this book?
Making time to write and how long it took to make it ready to publish. I had written plays and a screenplay but never anything this long.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
For leisure I enjoy birding, swimming and reading. I am also a theatre teacher in a high school performing arts program in NJ. It’s a very demanding and rewarding job and takes up a great deal of my time.
So what book is on your nightstand or on your e-reader right now?
The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley and Dog Lived (and So Will I) by Teresa J. Rhyne
Tell us about what you’re working on now and what we can expect from you in the near future.
I’m working on the second book in the Annie Crow Knoll series. I have the beginning of the third book. There is also a completely different story that I’ve outlined and can’t wait to get to writing. Time is always the issue.
JUST FOR FUN: I’m from the Gulf Coast and we have a thing called hurricane parties. The idea is to hunker down all together with friends and family to weather the storm. If you were going to host a hurricane party, which of your characters would have to be invited and why?
Packard Marlboro would be my first choice. He’d know what to do in an emergency. He is also so interesting and talking to him would make the time more valuable. Nate Bidwell becomes a chef in the second book, and he could cook great food for us. I get a kick out of Grace Lipton. She has a lot of spunk and a great, dry sense of humor. Annie Crow would be the hostess and we could be hunkering down right on the Knoll! It’s a great place to watch storms.
From the very first chapter when young Annie Crow sailed off the dock on her bicycle because of a dare, I knew she was my new book friend. I lived an alternate life beside her, experiencing her trials, her loves, her mistakes, her journey. When she cried, I cried. When she laughed, I laughed. When she did something daring, I felt fortified with the courage to do something too. When she loved, my heart melted with hers. When a character doesn’t just touch you, but fuses to your soul, you know it is a special experience. I can only thank Gail Priest for putting the experience so beautifully to “paper” and sharing it with me… because it felt like she was sharing it just with me and not the whole world.
I’ve thought about three little words in that book over and over again, especially in the last week or so. “Be with it…” I won’t expound on it because I think everyone who opens this book should experience every nuance for themselves. I also find myself thinking of Annie, wondering about her life now and waiting impatiently for more about her and her family so that I can get lost on the knoll again.
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