A Room Of Her Own… and the birth of Moonrise

My desk

Hey, Out There…

To write about your own wife’s novel should cause shame to any serious writer, but in this case I find that I can do it with pleasure and a strong sense of pride.

Since I met Cassandra King at the Hoover Library’s Writer Conference and we decided to spend the rest of our lives together, we have written our books on opposite sides of the house. When we got married, I discovered that Sandra had never had a room of her own to write in during her entire adult life; I promised her a room with a view and all the time she needed to do her work and craft her books. She has written five novels since we met and I believe that her new book Moonrise is the best of them. It eases my soul that I share a house with a novelist of such rare and distinctive gifts.

I know it must seem like home cooking for a husband to praise his own wife’s work. But the shadow of divorce court looms over a marriage where the spouses loathe each other’s work. When Sandra hands me a completed chapter or leaves it on my pillow to read, an immense joy fills me because Sandra always hands me a complete world to cast myself adrift in. In The Sunday Wife she changed the English language. I’ve met a hundred women around the south who’ve whispered to me, “I used to be a Sunday Wife,” or “I’m still a Sunday Wife; I’m married to the Bishop.”

Nor can I read the last section of The Same Sweet Girls without breaking down at the end because I’m so touched by those amazing ties of women’s friendship. I envy the tireless intimacy of women’s friendship, its lastingness, and its unbendable strength. Cassandra captures all this as well as any writer producing literature today and I love it that our house is the source of its creation.

I was present at the birth of Moonrise. I took Cassandra to Highlands, North Carolina to visit my dear friend Jim Landon, who owned a lovely mountain home made holy by well-selected books and Asian art. Jim is one of those perfectly charming southern men who dresses with distinction, decorates his home with unerring taste, makes a perfect omelet and is one of the best lawyers in Atlanta. Cassandra fell in love with Jim immediately, as I had done when I met him in 1974. All life has more savor when Jim is around. He introduced us to his cast of immemorial friends, and hosted elegant parties on a deck that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains. The mountains have a clear call for certain people and my wife was a goner for Highlands after that first week. Her novel is the product of her love affair with the high country of the south, its natives and its “summer people.”

Cassandra and I have always been devotees of Daphne du Maurier’s glorious book Rebecca.  Moonrise is pure homage to that novel as well as a ballad of recognition for all the strangeness and comeliness of the mountains of North Carolina. It is told in three distinct voices. It begins with an outsider, Helen, who is brought into a group of Highland summer veterans who don’t like it that the recently widowed Emmet Justice has married a young dietician from Florida in unseemly haste. Helen is properly terrified of the upcoming summer, when every inch of her will be reviewed and judged by some practiced Atlanta swells. The second voice is a mountain woman named Willa who cleans and cares for all the houses. She has watched the whole strange Atlanta tribe grow up and they have all become attached to Willa and her family. Willa adds history and perspective to her narration in the novel. By far, my favorite voice belongs to the waspy, acid tongue of Tansy Dunwoody. I perked up whenever she took to the stage because her voice can be withering and caustic, but always hilarious and tender in the deepest part of her.

Cassandra loops these three voices into a stranglehold of tension as it becomes obvious that the legendary house of Moonrise means to bring great harm to the newcomer, Helen Honeycutt. The suspense is handled with flair and expertise and I read the book in a single reading for that most ancient of reasons… to know what happened. I couldn’t go to sleep until there was a sense of resolution over the fates of characters I had come to love at a mansion I’d come to fear.

Moonrise is a fabulous novel and my damn wife wrote it and that’s me up there near Highlands shouting it out to the hills.

Pat Conroy

43 Responses to A Room Of Her Own… and the birth of Moonrise

  • Carolina Elliott says:

    That was a wonderful tribute to a talented writer. You guys are awesome. I happen to live in Boone, NC, another wonderful place in the Appalachian Mountains. Best wishes to you both.

  • Edie says:

    I preordered it way back, because I was so excited she had Moonrise coming out. I love her books. It is on my Nook but will not open. Do you know when the Publishers are going to release in on the e-readers? Can’t wait to dive into it!

  • Joyce Jones says:

    OK, Pat, I hardly know where to begin. I have loved and read everything you have ever written. My husband, Jimmy, who died three and a half years ago always said everyone should read Prince Of Tides at least once a year. He did. I have only read it once. I have enjoyed all of your books and I feel you have one of the greatest commands of our language. I am delighted to have read all of Cassandra’s books and look forward to this new one. JJ

  • kerry surface says:

    OMG… i got excited to read the book when the review came out, but now… i am thrilled beyond words. this is the most wonderful review a husband/writer can give his wife/writer!!!!! Bravo to you both!!!!!!!!!!

  • Carole Weinberger says:

    What a joy to discover that my favorite author is married to one of my favorite female authors! KUDOS to both of you for bringing such intense reading pleasure to those of us who treasure “tales of the south”! Thank you for your review and I shall purchase it ASAP!!

  • Christine Teno says:

    I have long been a fan of your books. I have read many of them more than once because they deserve to be read and reread. Thank-you for enriching my life with your stories. I now look forward to reading the books written by your wife as well.

  • Mary Hope (Gordon) Roseneau says:

    I just finished “Moonrise” this afternoon on my kindle. I enjoyed it immensely. What’s more I finished it today up in the mountains not that far from Highlands, Hendersonvilleto be exact. Loved Willa the best. Would like to see her have her own sequel soon.

  • Terry Galbraith says:

    Cannot wait to read it! I loved Sunday Wife. As a chancel choir director at a Methodist church, it was an early introduction to the Methodist system for me. Loved the characters and the conflicts.

  • Cheryl Caruso says:

    I look forward to readind Sandra’s newest book! I hope you are working on another yourself! It’s been too long since SOB!

  • Harriet H. Coker says:

    What a talented couple! Have read (and love) all of Pat’s novels. One of my favorite books is The Sunday Wife by Cassandra King! Can’t wait to read Moonrise.

  • pat fulkerson says:

    Can’t wait to read it, along with her other books… I have read all of your books… always looking forward to the next one… now I have something to look forward to… love books about the south and it’s people!!!!

  • Charli Hall says:

    You sir are one of the most eloquent writers I have had the pleasure to read. It is a beautiful tribute for you to write such glowing, wonderful things about your wife and her talent. I also enjoy your wife’s books.
    I particularly loved your “Prince of Tides” and “Beach Music”. As for your wife’s books I am very fond of “Same Sweet Girls” and will be looking forward to “Moonrise”. Thank you for the talent you share with so many of us. It makes my world better when I get lost in a book by either of you!!

  • Kay Reeves says:

    Pat, I feel like I know you. I have read all your books except the last one. Just haven’t’ gotten to it yet. Now, I am going to have to start reading your wife’s books.
    Thanks for all the entertaining nights you provided me.

  • Good on you, Mr Conroy, for promoting your wife’s books! I admire loyalty. I cannot say that I have read any of her novels (whereas I have read all of yours), but I shall rectify this appalling tear in the fabric of my reading comforter.
    I was an Army brat, an Army wife, an Army widow, and now I am an Air Force (Retired) wife. My trajectory through life has been similar to yours, although I think I have been touched more by the Service as an adult than you have been. I wish you would write a book about those of us who “stayed in”. As a Gold Star Widow, I can tell you that we daughters and wives have served almost as gallantly as our fathers and husbands. It is a story begging to be told.
    This is the first time I have ever written to an author…it makes me self-conscious. Am I using enough metaphors? Is my sentence construction appropriate? Am I too gushing when I say your works have touched my life?
    I wish you continued success and much happiness.
    Darlene D. Weaver, M.A.

  • claudia says:

    I love her books. I will order the new one right away!

  • Mary Outlaw Gregor says:

    Mr . Conroy , I have all your books and one of your wife’s. I was born and raised in Beaufort and love how you brought it for all to learn to love as we do. Word was said you we’re having health problems and I pray all is good now. I plan on getting yours and wife’s new book and I will keep you and family in our prayers.

  • I discovered Cassandra’s books a few years ago. Fell in love with her work. Sunday Wife simply wonderful. As for your work, I thought Beach Music was the best but then I love the rest of your books as well. I listened to Beach Music on audio. Great music added to the story. Look forward to your new one. And now I have a new Cassandra King to add to my list. Thanks!!!

    Barbara Whittington – on amazon
    Vada Faith
    Ezra and Other Stories

  • DM Wesley says:

    I was looking forward to reading Moonrise, but even more so now. You have much to be proud of as an accomplished author and even more to be proud of as the husband of one as well. Both of you MUST keep writing or there will be sad readers everywhere!

  • D Raskin says:

    In my next life, will you marry me?

  • Margaret Davis says:

    I have so enjoyed seeing the low country through your eyes and heart. Having grown up in the Cumberland Mountains with family links back to North Carolina, I can’t wait to Read Cassandra’s book. Praise from you is good enough for me.

  • Gail Mansheim says:

    I have listened to most of your books on audio. Beach Music is my very favorite and South of Broad runs a close second. Now I am anxious to listen to your wife’s books. Thank you for enriching my life!!

  • kristy wood says:

    I am not a writer. I know nothing about writing. However I married a man who writes songs and gave birth to children who are excellent writers. They write me letters from the different places they live on this earth. My second child is a professor of literature who married a professor of literature. They always enjoy one another’s written works. So I love hearing you praise your wife’s work.

  • Kim C says:

    No one can possibly resist the charm of this review, so I predict that everyone who reads it will become a Cassandra King fan! I am headed over to Amazon right now to look up her novels. Such a lovely review … I think I’ll read it again before I go! Thank you for sharing, and never apologize for being a champion for a loved one!

  • Dorothea Butts says:

    Clearly you are not just “any” serious writer. Therein lies the difference.

  • Diana Echols says:

    Pat – can’t wait to discover your wife’s work. Thank you for the recommendation and I know intuitively you would not have done so without sincerity. I am a LowCountry girl adrift in Southern California. I still have a home in Summerville and hope one day to be able to settle back there. Your voice always makes me feel like I am home.

  • Kaye Doss says:

    Looking forward to your wife’s new book. I am reading her fourth book now…….”Queen of Boken Hearts.” My daughter gave me her first book in June and I have enjoyed reading her books all Summer. Must admit “Sunday Wife” is still my favorite. Of course I have read all your books over the years and hope to meet both of you in the future.

  • Pam Whitesides says:

    Mr. Conroy:

    When the man who writes the most beautiful sentences that have been put on paper chooses to praise a work so highly, then it is a must read for me. I cannot wait to read this book. When I read southern writers, I always look to see if I can find any kind of review from you. I agree with Charli Hall’s husband that one should read Prince of Tides at least once a year.

  • Bonnie Hess says:

    I am so excited to know that there are more great Southern tales to be enjoyed. I have been to Highlands a few times and am familiar with the gorgeous mountain scenery, the quaint shops and the crisp, fresh air. I was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Roanoke, Va.) and having been in Fl. for 40 years, this time of year still makes me homesick for the array of colors on the hillsides and the cooler temperatures so elusive in Florida
    I have been a fan of all your works, starting with Prince of Tides. I even have a Tshirt from a time when we were visiting Beaufort and they were filming the movie there. I can hardly wait to start reading your wife’s books after your terrific review.

  • Loved your book ‘The Water is Wide”, read it several.times, Have you written other books?

  • I have several of your novels, but have not read your wife’s work, I promise to remedy that situation. I’m planning on going to Barnes and Noble’s tomorrow
    and buy Moonrise. I live in Georgia and have spent many happy hours in Highlands.
    That will make it even more special..

  • Traci Keel says:

    Ah, yes. I am in the middle of Moonrise now. It is haunting, beautiful, funny, and so authentic. It really is a beautiful homage to Du Maurier.

  • Debbie Bolding says:

    That’s a pretty good recommendation!

  • Barbara Revell says:

    Pat, no need to apologize for praising your wife’s work…you were simply telling the truth! I love her books as well as yours. I am looking forward to reading your new book and her new book!

  • Mr. Conroy and Ms. King , I have read all of each of your books and LOVE them. I always carry them with me should I see you at the store or walking along Tarpon Blvd.. I truly admire the world of words and stories of distinction that come from your home. Many times when reading the books I have feelings that are true to the heart and soul of my childhood and early adulthood. I have imagined myself writing also….maybe someday that will happen, spurred on by the talent of my two most favorite writers. Have wonderful holidays !!

  • joan ananiew says:

    I am a huge fan of all of your work, so much so that I have recently purchased a home on Pawley’s Island and will be moving there the end of October. It is awesome to experience the Low Country in real life. Your books drew me there 2 years ago to see for myself. It is a dream come true to call Pawley’s my permanent home. Thanks for sharing your gift of writing, enriching so many lives over the years, and for introducing me to your wife’s work as well. I will be reading her new book soon.

  • Nancy says:

    Love you, Love her can’t wait to read both new books and hope to see you in Nashville

  • Diane Russom Harrison says:

    I fell deeply in love with you when I read the first page of “The Lords of Discipline”. I have every one of your books and reread them at least once a year. YOU ARE, TO ME, THE VOICE OF OUR GENERATION. When I first read Cassie’s books I was mesmerized by her voice and the strength of the tales she told. What a delight it was to me when I learned you were husband and wife. I cannot express how much the works that both created have resonated with me. I have but one request: Please continue writing. May you both be blessed by good health and the muse.

  • So sorry to miss you Oct 26th, will be in SC on the 28th untill Nov 3rd. Needless to say, I love your books beyond any praise I can think of. Your gift of language is truly a party for my mind! Now i’ll be reading your wife’s also!

  • Connie cameron says:

    I didn’t know until after reading your new book The Death Of Santini that Cassandra had a new novel. I can’t wait to read it. Mr Conroy you continue to grab us and hold us hostage until the end of each one of your books.
    I first met you as one of your students in Beaufort High. I was a sophomore and am so glad that the only good thing I ever got from Beaufort High was my year having you as a teacher. My brother and sister had Gene Norris and we all loved that man. What a gift and honor to have you as our teachers. My step father is a retired marine and was a furious alcoholic that we were to ashamed to tell anyone about the turmoil. We lived much of the nightmares that you describe and your so right there is someone crazy in every family. I loved the way you said in The Death Of Santini “Born homeless, I’ve tried to make Beaufort SC my home”. I so understand that as we moved every 3 years. No One understands a Military Brat like another one, I graduated from BHS and we then moved to Calif, I have always wanted to go back to Beaufort and probably wouldn’t even recognize it anymore. It makes me happy that you and Cassandra have made it your home. I also had the pleasure to have met you when you were a guest speaker at San Jose State many years ago. Please keep writing though it makes my Brother and I go into sort of depression and a lot of processing after reading your books. It touches us in every corner of our lives. We have lost a lot of our loved ones in shocking ways yet we carry on and are grateful for the Pat Conroys in this world who have had to take up the cross and battle through the mine fields of family tragedy’s . Take Care D. P.C. I hope to have you sign my new book someday. Always your #1 fan Connie Cameron. My maiden name was Connie Henninger. I still have my high school yearbooks with your autograph to me.

  • Melanie Laurence says:

    I have just finished The Same Sweet Girls. I was so drawn into the story that I have neglected all else in my teaching life. I look forward to reading more of your stories and hope to gather more. Your writing has touched me and
    made me laugh while I struggle with the days ahead-grading 7 years old as if they were 20 !! Thank you

  • Glad to know you are alive. A friend commented that my writing was akin to yours but then she said you’d died last year. Shows how much she knows. Glad she thought that because it made me look you up. Missed Sandra’s new book too.
    Tell Sandra our news is that my daughter, Lucy and her husband, Cody, are adopting twin newborn boys-due March 15.
    So glad you are both alive and still writing. I submitted an entry to the Erma Bombeck contest this year. It was about grocery shopping with my Mom who has dementia. She lives between houses with me and my sister. Peace.. Miss sweet Nancy.

  • Martha Chavis says:

    I am a mountain girl at heart. I was born in Boone but my parents (Mabel & Rex Bumgarner) moved to Columbia when I was around three years old. The mountains and times spent with my mountain grandparents still live in my heart. I will definitely read your wife’s book, Moonrise, since it has mountain roots. I heard her speak at the recent SC Book-festival and was very impressed. Wishing you both many Blessings.
    Martha B. Chavis
    Cayce, SC

  • Mary Lou Schmidt says:

    I just finished “My Reading Life” and enjoyed the book immensely. I was especially hooked by your line near the end, “I can’t pass a bookstore without slipping inside, looking for the next book that will burn my hand when I touch its jacket.” I know that feeling well. It is such a thrill to find a new book, and an even greater thrill when it is a really good book that is well written. I find when I finish such a book, the next few books I pick up don’t quite measure up, until I happen upon another really good book. I can’t imagine living without books. If I do not have a new book waiting for me, I almost panic. I will be in Asheville this spring, and I plan to go to the Captains Bookshelf. I have read all your books and loved all of them. Oddly enough, I am also a fan of Cassandra King, and have read most of her books too. I got hooked on her books when I read “The Sunday Wife.” I had not idea she was your wife until I was reading the fly on one of your books.

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