When a suspense writer focuses on mother-daughter relationships, happy endings are highly unlikely.
Roswell’s Emily Carpenter has featured mothers and daughters – for better but, usually, for worse – in all four of her gripping mysteries.
The mother dies young in Carpenter’s first book, “Burying the Honeysuckle Girls.” A flawed mother-daughter relationship runs through her second, “The Weight of Lies.” Bad mothering overshadows her third thriller, “Every Single Secret.” It wasn’t until her fourth novel, the recently released “Until the Day I Die,” that Carpenter finally gave her mother-daughter characters a more positive relationship.
Such dark themes invite questions about the bestselling author’s rapport with her own mom.
“Things are not always rainbows and sunshine,” she said, laughing. “I’d say my relationship with my mom could definitely be characterized as complex. Nothing as dramatic as in my novels, but we've had our ups and downs.”
The two share a love of books, among other interests, but they also have their differences.
“There are things that we butt heads on, too, and I doubt we'll ever see eye-to-eye,” Carpenter said. “But I think because I only have sons, I have this endless fascination with the unique mother-daughter dynamic.”
It’s a storyline the Auburn grad began exploring long after her first career move – to New York, where she plumbed similarly tumultuous topics for soap operas. After working as an actor, producer, screenwriter and behind-the-scenes assistant for “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” Carpenter moved with her husband to Roswell in the mid-’90s. Once their sons, now 22, 21 and 16, were in school, she focused on fiction.
“Burying the Honeysuckle Girls” was published in 2016 and begins about 25 years after the book’s mother character dies under mysterious circumstances.
While Carpenter’s own mom is alive and well and living in Birmingham, Ala., their lighthearted differences on everything from politics to religion have influenced her writing.
“In all my books, I gravitate toward characters with complex relationships with their mothers,” she said. “I'm a mother myself, and I know all too well how we do the best we can at the moment, but how easy it is to miss what your particular kid needs. Or to assume we understand what's going to help them, but ends up hurting them.
“There’s no definitive guide to mothering,” she said. “It’s guesswork, and it’s humbling.”
Consequently, atonement is another motif in all of Carpenter’s mysteries.
“I love that theme of redemption,” she said. “Imperfect people learning to understand each other.”
It’s a challenge for everyone, she said, and not just for mothers of daughters. “Since I have sons, it’s really mother-child.”
Some additional parallels between her work and life may be unavoidable, as with her current book. The action in “Until I Die” begins with a mother dropping her daughter off at college. Likewise, Carpenter took her middle son to school while writing the story. Just as her fictional collegiate rite of passage was “wrought with negative emotions,” Carpenter’s own experience was not without frayed nerves.
Between minor annoyances and major literary conflicts, however, she invariably chooses the latter when at her computer.
“That, to me, is way more interesting to write about than some sort of pie-in-the-sky scenes,” she said. “I like to write about that kind of uncomfortable relationship stuff.”
And readers enjoy reading about it. An Amazon bestselling author whose novels have been translated into six languages, Carpenter plans to continue exploring the familial ties that bind. Her upcoming fifth title, “Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters,” is a follow-up to “Burying the Honeysuckle Girls” and adds a grandmother to the matriarchal mix.
Carpenter, who is available to speak to book clubs, will be appearing this month at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock. She and suspense author E.C. Diskin will be reading and signing books at 3 p.m. May 11 – the day before Mother’s Day.
movie length of two hours. This has been one of the biggest complaints of the Harry Potter films, based on the works of J.K. Rowling. Major chunks of the books have to be left out.
“Or, the adaptation is off, such as the upcoming ‘It: Chapter Two.’ The original book — and now this sequel — tells the story of King’s primary characters as both children and adults,” Bentley said. The 2017 adaptation, “It,” focused only on the youngsters. Those who haven’t read the book won’t notice such changes, he said, and fans may be forgiving.
“It is interesting to note the only film based on a book scheduled to open in the summer blockbuster period of May 1 through Labor Day,” he said, “is the movie version of ‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ by Nicola Yoon.
“Summer movies are so critical to a studio budget, the films released during that period tend to shy away from more cerebral offerings,” Bentley explained. “The summer has become the main release period for films based on comic books, another form of adapting the printed word for the big screen.”
Page-to-screen transformations are often featured at The Springs Cinema and Taphouse, 5920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Formerly the Lefont Sandy Springs, a $2.5 million renovation now offers moviegoers a full bar and luxury recliners with heated seats, among other amenities.
New owner Brandt Gully wanted to create a state-of-the-art entertainment venue for adults, families and groups. To accomplish that, mainstream, independent and foreign films join a rotating roster of classic movies, many adapted from some of the bestselling books of all time.
In addition to new films from books, The Springs offers twice-weekly screenings of timeless motion pictures inspired by masterpieces like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” In April, the classic series includes “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” from Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“I love that we can see blockbuster movies as well as independent and classic films at The Springs,” said April Kemp of Johns Creek. Kemp and her husband, Tim Hanson, are creators and hosts of the movie review podcast HeSaidSheSaidMovies.com, which partners with The Springs for fundraisers and educational events.
“As a movie reviewer and reader,” Kemp said, “variety helps.”
Contributing journalist, Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi. Owner of Johns Creek’s KRC Communications. Connect with her at krccom.com.