The idea for Beachcombers came to me when I was literally walking on the beach. I was thinking about mermaids, specifically the Hans Christian Anderson story in which the mermaid, in order to be with the man she loves, can walk on land, but only at the cost of great pain. Well, I thought, isn’t that sort of the human condition? Not to be gloomy about it—life is wonderful—but no one gets to spend life on this earth without some pain, some loss.
I was also thinking about how the economy had caused so much loss—not mere loss of money, but loss of jobs, loss of self-esteem, loss of hope. How do we all go on from that point?
We go on with the help of our family and our friends, of course.
And that made me think about my sister Martha. She’s eight years younger than I am, so when we were young, we weren’t quite so close, to put it mildly. She was a darling blue eyed blond who didn’t have to help with the housework because she was “the baby.” I felt like the drudge. No, wait. I was the drudge! When I was fourteen, I wrote a poem to her titled, “You are the flower, I am the weed.”
Martha is now a nurse. We call her for advice when we’re sick. We’ve called her for advice when our dog was sick! She constantly cheers and supports and inspires me. Over the years, she’s helped me in more ways than I can possibly count. Thinking about her made me want to write about sisters, sisters who had experienced loss, who were forced to change and grow up, who grow apart and come together.
I also thought about my own children, who are in their thirties now, independent, successful adults. My daughter Sam has given me two grandchildren and is working on the third, and I think babies are the happiest things in the world! So I knew babies would be in there somewhere.
Finally, I knew the book would be set on Nantucket. This wind-swept isolated island provides so much inspiration for so many people. I interviewed a friend who makes lightship baskets. I spent time in our historical museum, relearning the island’s fascinating history. And of course I went back to the beach often, to be refreshed. I know that many people come to the island to be healed, to find love, to find magic. What about those of us who live here?, I wondered. Can Nantucket be magic for us, too?
With those thoughts, and that question, I sat down and started writing Beachcombers. I wrote about island crafts and island beaches, about people who were born here and people who visit, about love and disagreements and separations and worries and hope. My next book will be set on the island, too.
I love the island so much, and I’ve had so many people email me to ask about what the island looks like, that I had some photos taken and posted on YouTube. I hope you enjoy them!
Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Between Husbands and Friends. She lives on Nantucket. To learn more about Nancy or her books, visit Nancy Thayer.com.