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An Interview with Author Heather Frese

In the realm of literature, certain settings possess a mystical allure that captivates both writers and readers alike. For author Heather Frese, the coastal landscapes of North Carolina's Outer Banks serve as the rich tapestry upon which her narratives unfold. In an exclusive interview, Frese shared insights into her creative process, the complexities of her female protagonists, and the profound connections between her stories and the natural world.

When asked about her inspiration for setting her novels in coastal North Carolina, Frese's enthusiasm was palpable. She described the region's allure as multifaceted, attributing its appeal to a blend of natural beauty, rich history, and a strong storytelling tradition.

"The coastal setting of the Outer Banks of North Carolina is appealing to [her] for several reasons," Frese explained. Frese added that "the exquisite natural beauty lends itself to description nicely. The history of the area is fascinating, too.” Frese described a variety of components including pirates, Lost Colonies, torpedoing Nazis, shipwrecks, wild ponies, massive hurricanes, lighthouses and rescues at sea while also mentioning ghost stories.

Frese's deep connection to the region goes beyond its surface charm. She highlighted the dynamic ecology of the barrier islands, which serve as a metaphorical backdrop to the human dramas unfolding within her stories. "The fascinating ecology of barrier islands, which constantly change and are made quite literally of shifting sands, give such lovely metaphorical depth to all the other aspects of the setting," she remarked.

Central to Frese's storytelling are her complex female protagonists, whose intricacies mirror the depth and diversity of real-life women. Reflecting on the origins of these characters, Frese recounted how they first emerged during her college years.

Frese noted that she "started writing these characters in [her] very first college Creative Writing course." She recalled being assigned a descriptive paragraph and having “envisioned two little girls meeting on a sand dune at the Frisco National Seashore campground.” From there, she started describing how they each interacted with the setting, and that's how their personalities came to life.

Through her characters, Frese aims to present a nuanced portrayal of womanhood, embracing both flaws and strengths. Her wish is that readers will “connect with these flawed, funny, deeply human women who, while they may make messy choices, prioritize and value their friendship above all else.”

For Frese, storytelling is not merely about entertainment; it's an opportunity to engage readers in meaningful reflection. When asked about the lessons she hopes her stories impart, she emphasized themes of connection, resilience and societal awareness.

Frese shared that she hopes “readers identify with the challenges and choices women make in my stories, and recognize the societal aspects at play in women's lives.” Additionally, she hopes readers “laugh a lot, cry a little, and feel a sense of connection as [everyone] navigate[s] this wonderful, terrible, bittersweet world. And maybe learn a little coastal ecology along the way."

In closing, Frese extended heartfelt appreciation to her students and colleagues, acknowledging the support and inspiration they provide. She also offered encouragement to aspiring authors, emphasizing the transformative power of writing and the importance of embracing creative opportunities.

Frese also wanted to give a shoutout to her “wonderful students who continually impress [her] with their talent, drive, kindness and humor, and to thank everyone in the English Department for being so lovely, thoughtful, brilliant and welcoming.” Lastly, Frese added a note of encouragement to any aspiring authors, sharing that aspiring authors should “keep writing, keep reading, and keep listening to your professors, because you never know when a small assignment will spark an entire fictional world!”

Heather Frese's literary journey is a testament to the profound interplay between place, character and narrative. Through her evocative portrayals of coastal North Carolina and her richly drawn female protagonists, she invites readers on a journey of discovery, one that illuminates the complexities of the human experience and the enduring power of storytelling. As readers immerse themselves in her novels, they embark on a voyage of self-reflection, empathy and connection, guided by the gentle currents of Frese's imaginative prose.

By Kat Whetstone, Staff Writer and Salma Emjaheed, Contributing Writer

Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC


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