Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 01/14/2020 – Wade Rouse is the internationally bestselling author of nine books, which have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction. His Viola Shipman book is The Clover Girls. Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel, and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.
Then Liz, V, and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. Clover Girls is available for pre-order at violashipman.com.
You chose your grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as your pen name. Tell us about your background. Who is Viola Shipman?
I grew up in rural America (the Missouri Ozarks) in the 1970s and 1980s. My grandparents were working poor. My Grandma Shipman was a seamstress who stitched overalls until she couldn’t stand straight. My Grampa Shipman was an ore miner. They sacrificed everything for their family to have a better life than they did. They also nurtured my love of reading and writing. My grandma believed the simplest things in life were the most important: Family, friends, our health (which we’re learning to appreciate again right now). And her simple heirlooms – charm bracelets, recipe boxes, quilts – meant the world to her and told the history of our family. I chose my grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire my fiction. It is the smallest thank-you I can give to her for all she gave to me. My hope is that readers will pick up one of my books when I am no longer around, understand who Viola Shipman is and why I chose her name, and seek to understand or more appreciate their own elders and family histories.
Tell us about the Summer Cottage.
The Summer Cottage was inspired by childhood summers spent at my family’s cabin on the water. I would get dropped off by my parents on Memorial Day and stay with my grandparents until school started again. We had nothing at the cabin – no indoor shower, no phone, no TV, no microwave – nothing but an outhouse, fishing poles, innertubes, books, and each other. This is where I got to know my grandparents as real people, and my grandmas as real women, not just my grandmas. There was something magical about that old cabin: Its creaks and quirks; the smell of the logs, the creek, and the fireplace; the sleeping loft jammed with cots; jumping into the ice-cold water; cooking and baking with my grandmas; fishing with my grampa; floating on inner tubes with my mom and brother as we stared into the hydrangea blue sky; making homemade ice cream with my dad, our shoulders aching as we took turns cranking the machine; ringing the bell on the back door to call everyone to dinner; reading books on a barn-red glider that sat on the edge of a bluff. The only rule my grandparents had at the cabin was to be happy. I believe that we become our best when we are on vacation, or head to our family cottage or favorite beach destination. We dream again.
The Summer Cottage centers on Adie Lou Kruger, whose ex never understood her affection for what her parents called their Cozy Cottage, the charming, ramshackle summer home—complete with its own set of rules for relaxing—that she’s inherited on Lake Michigan. But despite the fact she’s facing a broken marriage and empty nest, and middle age is looming in the distance, memories of happy childhoods on the beach give her reason for hope. She’s determined not to let her husband’s affair with a grad student reduce her to a cliché, or to waste one more minute in a career she doesn’t love, so it becomes clear what Adie Lou must do: rebuild her life and restore her cottage shingle by shingle, on her terms.
But converting the beloved, weather-beaten structure into a bed-and-breakfast isn’t quite the efficient home-reno experience she’s seen on TV. Pushback from Saugatuck’s contentious preservation society, costly surprises, and demanding guests were not part of the plan. But as the cottage comes back to life, Adie Lou does, too, finding support in unexpected places and a new love story on the horizon. One cottage rule at a time, Adie Lou reclaims her own strength, history, and joy by rediscovering the magic in every sunset and sandcastle.
The Library Journal writes that you have “hit upon the perfect formula to tell heartwarming, inter-generational family stories by weaving together the lives, loves and history of family through cherished heirlooms.” What is it about your upbringing that has given you the power of the word?
My family taught me to love reading and books. They also taught me to respect my elders and traditions. Writing was how I made sense of the world growing up in the Ozarks. It was not easy for a boy who loved to read, write, and wear ascots to grow up in rural America in the 1970s and ‘80s. I remember singing “Delta Dawn” for a middle school talent contest – complete with a faded rose – and being booed offstage. My grandmothers and mother were there, as if they knew what might happen, with a gift: A leather writing journal. “This is how you will make sense of the world,” they said. “And you must never be afraid to be unique and use your voice.”
Do you have a favorite book?
I grew up reading and loving humorist Erma Bombeck. I re-read The Catcher in the Rye every year, and its meaning grows the older I get.
He recently signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins. In 2020 you published The Heirloom Garden. What does this mean to you? Why is The Heirloom Garden resonating with fans?
It’s a blessing to write. It’s my dream. And to have stories of hope – which we need more than ever these days – resonate with readers around the world (novels have been translated into 20 languages) inspires me every day. I think The Heirloom Garden is resonating with readers for many reasons: The novel follows a woman who has experienced great loss and decides to hide away from the world to avoid being hurt any more. The novel asks the questions, Why do we isolate ourselves? and What brings us hope again?. These are such relevant questions right now. Moreover, every chapter in the novel is centered around an heirloom flower (history, meaning, beauty), and being isolated at home has meant a return to gardening (flowers and vegetables) and having a place of peace in our own backyards. And the novel has a fascinating history about WWII and Victory Gardens. All ages have been touched deeply.
Tell us about your upcoming novel, The Clover Girls.
The Clover Girls is an ode to childhood friends and dreams, how each changes our lives and why we too often and too easily let those fade. It is also an ode to the 1980s (Remember jelly bracelets, friendship pins, Madonna, Wham! and John Hughes movies?).
In the novel, Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel, and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.
Then Liz, V, and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…
Why will this book resonate with the hearts of all ages?
This is a book for anyone who has ever had a best friend – one who you shared all of your secrets with, one who knew you better than anyone else in this world, one who you fought with, one who made you a better person. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will love the novel’s four best friends, and the story’s powerful, redemptive nature, and the empowering message at its heart.
Can you share a passage that will move readers?
“Hey, you got a letter,” she says.
“Who writes letters anymore?” Tyler asks.
“Old people,” Ashley says. The two laugh.
I take a seat at the original Saarinen tulip table and study the envelope. There is no return address. I feel the envelope. It’s bulky. I open it and begin to read a handwritten letter:
How are you? I’m sorry it’s been a while since we’ve talked. You’ve been busy, I’ve been busy. Remember when we were just a bunk away? We could lean our heads over the side and share our darkest secrets. Those were the good ol’ days, weren’t they? When we were innocent. When we were as tight as the clover that grew together in the patch that wound to the lake.
How long has it been since you talked to Rach and Liz? Over 30 years? I guess that first four-leaf clover I found wasn’t so lucky after all, was it? Oh, you and Rach have had such success, but are you happy, V? Deep down? Achingly happy? I don’t believe in my heart that you are. I don’t think Rach and Liz are either. How do I know? Friend’s intuition.
I used to hate myself for telling everyone what happened our last summer together. It was like dominoes falling after that, one secret after the next revealed, the facade of our friendship ripped apart, just like tearing the fourth leaf off that clover I still have pressed in my scrapbook. But I hate secrets. They only tear us apart. Keep us from becoming who we need to become. The dark keeps things from growing. The light is what creates the clover.
Out the cabin door went all of our luck, and then—leaf by leaf—our faith in each other, followed by any hope we might have had in our friendship and, finally, any love that remained was replaced by hatred, then a dull ache, and then nothing at all. That’s the worst thing, isn’t it, V? To feel nothing at all?
Much of my life has been filled with regret, and that’s just an awful way to live. I’m trying to make amends for that before it’s too late. I’m trying to be the friend I should have been. I was once the glue that held us all together. Then I was scissors that tore us all apart. Aren’t friends supposed to be there for one another, no matter what? You weren’t just beautiful, V, you were confident, so funny, and full of life. More than anything, you radiated light, like the lake at sunset. And that’s how I will always remember you.
I’ve sent similar letters to Rach and Liz. I stayed in touch with Liz…and Rach…well, you know Rach. For some reason, you all forgave me, but not each other. I guess because I was just an innocent bystander to all the hurt. My only remaining hope is that you will all forgive one another at some point because you changed my life and you changed each other’s lives. And I know that you all need one another now more than ever. We found each other for a reason. We need to find each other again.
Let me get to the point, dear V. Just picture me leaning my head over the bunk and telling you my deepest secret.
By the time you receive this, I’ll be dead…
My hand begins to shake, which releases the contents still remaining in the envelope. A pressed four-leaf clover and a few old Polaroid pictures scatter onto the tabletop. Without warning, I groan.
“Are you okay, Mom?” Tyler asks without looking back.
“Who’s that from?” Ashley asks, still staring at her phone.
“A friend,” I manage to mumble.
“Cool,” Ashley says. “You need friends. You don’t have any except for that one girl from the camp.”
She stops. “Emily, right?”
The photos lying on the marble tabletop are of the four of us at camp, laughing, singing, holding hands. We are so, so young, and I wonder what happened to the girls we used to be. I stare at a photo of Em and me lying under a camp blanket in the same bunk. That’s when I realize the photo is sitting on top of something. I move the picture and smile. A friendship pin stares at me, E-V-E-R shining in a sea of green beads.
I look up, and water is reflecting through the clerestory windows of our home, and suddenly every one of those little openings is like a scrapbook to my life, and I can see it flash—at camp and after—in front of me in bursts of light.
Why did I betray my friends?
Why did I give up my identity so easily?
Why am I richer than I ever dreamed and yet feel so empty and lost?
I blink, my eyes blur, and that’s when I realize it’s not the pool reflecting in the windows, it’s my own tears. I’m crying. And I cannot stop.
Suddenly, I stand, throw open the patio doors, and jump into the pool, screaming as I sink. I look up, and my children are yelling.
“Mom! Are you okay?”
I wave at them, and their bodies relax.
“I’m fine,” I lie when I come to the surface. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
They look at each other and shrug, before heading back inside.
At least, I think, they finally see me.
I take a deep breath and go down once more. Underwater, I can hear my heart drum loudly in my ears. It’s drumming in such perfect rhythm that I know immediately the tune my soul is playing. I can hear it as if it were just yesterday. The lyrics of our summer camp song.
Boom, didi, boom, boom… Booooom.
Where can we Pre-Order your book?
It is available for pre-order NOW from anywhere books are sold. All the links are available on my website: www.ViolaShipman.com
Do you have any plans for a movie deal? Please share what is next for you in 2021.
Not as of yet, but fingers constantly crossed! There is always a lot of interest in turning the books into movies for film or TV, but we are still waiting for the right people who love the books as much as the readers do and will adapt them in the right way. My goal is always to write the best book I can; the rest is out of my control. I know that with the success of Sweet Magnolias, Bridgerton, and, soon, Firefly Lane, it’s just a matter of time now.