“I started out with short stories,” King said. “Books were daunting to me. I couldn’t imagine being able to write a whole book. When I was very young, I wrote ghost stories, and what I learned to do was I would read them to my friends at [elementary school] recess. I would stop at a strategic point and have them want to hear the rest of the story the next day.”
The Beaufort, S.C., resident, whose fifth book, “Moonrise,” was released Tuesday, will appear in metro Atlanta later this month for book signings and related events. The book was inspired by “Rebecca,” a Gothic romance written by Daphne DuMaurier.
“I read it as a teenager, and it was the first book like that I had read — the suspense, the Gothic elements, the suggestion of the supernatural,” King said. “The most intriguing thing was the way the author did things, the writer’s craft. It was fascinating to me. She totally had me fooled almost until the end of the book because we had this mysterious character, Rebecca. She’s the former wife.
“In my book the former wife is the main character and the new wife is intimidated by her. What you don’t know until the end of the book was that you don’t know what kind of person Rebecca was. Rebecca is not even alive in the book. It’s just her presence.”
Like the ghost stories of her childhood, “Moonrise,” which took King three years to write, is darker than her previous four novels, all regional bestsellers. "Moonrise" is about a woman, Helen Honeycutt, struggling to build a relationship with her husband Emmet Justice's friends and family after the two married shortly after Justice's first wife died in an accident.
“I started on a different angle with it,” she said. “It’s been [seven] years since my last book [“Queen of Broken Hearts”] came out. I had a contract. I couldn’t linger around and hopefully sell it. I was taking a different approach to it. I had read ‘Rebecca’ about three summers ago. That’s when I decided to go back to this book and redo it and have it more like the story of ‘Rebecca.’ … People have interviewed me who have read all my books have told me it’s very different. ... In my other books I have celebrated friendships. This is more of an exploration of what happens when things don’t work out and we’re betrayed in love. I’m looking at the darker side of love and friendship.”
King is married to renowned author Pat Conroy, but she’s become an accomplished writer in her own right. Her first four books have sold more than 500,000 copies, including “The Same Sweet Girls,” a New York Times bestseller. King said she and Conroy rarely bounce ideas off each other when it comes to their craft.
“Both of us are so wrapped up in our own work,” she said. “When we first married, it was a novelty, of course. Through the years, we’ve been together 16 years now, so we don’t [critique our works in progress]. He didn’t even read this book until it was finished.”
King, who was in Atlanta last weekend for the Decatur Book Festival, tries to visit the city as often as possible.
“We have good friends in Atlanta,” she said. “My uncle [Rex King] lives in Atlanta. We get to Atlanta fairly often, not as often as we would like to.”
Marly Rusoff, King’s literary agent and publisher of Maiden Lane Press, which printed “Moonrise,” said King delves deep into relationships in her books.
“Her books offer a strong sense of place,” Rusoff said. “Her previous strength seemed to be in exploring the power of women’s friendships but ‘Moonrise’ demonstrates a deeper understanding of the perils of women’s friendships found in works of other writers such as Margaret Atwood. It also contains some of the most complex understanding of male characters. Readers have come to count on her light touch and sense of humor that glimmers through in her fiction, which is one that makes her such a pleasure to read.”
If you go:
Cassandra King will sign copies of her new book, “Moonrise,” at four metro Atlanta locations later this month:
o When, where: Monday at 7 p.m., Georgia Center for the Book, Decatur Library, 215 Sycamore St.
o Information: www.georgiacenterforthebook.org
o When, where: Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Northeast/Spruill Oaks branch of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System, 9560 Spruill Road, Johns Creek
o Information: (770) 360-8820
o When, where: Sept. 27 at 6 p.m., Fox Tale Book Shoppe, 105 E. Main St., Suite 138, Woodstock
o Information: www.foxtalebookshoppe.com
o When, where: Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m., Barnes and Noble, 120 Perimeter Center West, Dunwoody
o Information: (770) 396-1200 or www.barnesandnoble.com