I am so excited to have Hope Ramsay as my featured guest author. I love her writing and am such a huge fan of her books. Hope writes fun, fresh and warm stories that delight. She’s one of my favorite novelists and perfect for a summer read.
Originally from New York, Hope spent many summers visiting family in South Carolina, which inspires her Last Chance books. Today, while I’m in College Station, Texas with my son Jake for his Aggie Freshman orientation, Hope has agreed to join us to talk about Watermelon Memories!
My Uncle Buck was a giant of a man. He stood well over six feet and probably weighed close two-hundred-fifty pounds. His real name was Rupert, but I don’t think anyone other than Aunt Thelma, his wife, ever called him that. Uncle Buck lived and died in the tiny town of Estill, South Carolina, located in Hampton County.
As a little girl of eight or nine, I thought Uncle Buck was the watermelon man. I had this impression of him because he would show up at my Aunt Doss’s house with dozens of watermelons in the bed of his beat-up Chevy truck. He’d bring them a couple of times in July and he’d stash them on Aunt Doss’s back patio, under one of the benches. I had to grow up some before I learned that Uncle Buck was a boss on one of the picking crews that worked the watermelon fields in Hampton County.
Well, anyway, thanks to Uncle Buck, we had so many watermelons that it t took real dedication to eat them all. We ate a watermelon every day in the afternoon. And what we didn’t finish got thrown away, because Aunt Doss’s icebox wasn’t big enough to hold that much watermelon. Those watermelons were tasty. And they would cool you down on a hot summer day, which was important, because in those days no one had air conditioning. Not even in the middle of nowhere South Carolina.
Watermelons are still a pretty big deal in Hampton County, which claims to be the location of the first, ever watermelon festival. I don’t know if that’s true, but the Hampton County watermelon festival has been happening every summer for 71 years. It’s got everything you’d want in a small-town festival, too: watermelon eating contests, seed spitting contests, a street dance, a pet show, a 5K mud run, a couple of watermelon queens, a parade, and a lot of contests. In short it’s sort of like a southern take on a county fair.
And since I write small town romances set in South Carolina, I was practically required to include a watermelon festival in my books. So for the Last Chance watermelon festivals I borrowed from the Hampton County festival and then I embellished. . . a lot. I introduced the fictitious Allenberg County Watermelon Festival in Last Chance Beauty Queen, a story about an ex-watermelon queen who is trying, desperately to live down the experience. The short story, Last Chance Bride, is about another watermelon queen who runs off with the man of her dreams.
But my upcoming short story, Last Chance Summer is the only one that takes place entirely during the watermelon festival.
It’s the story of Abigail Wright, a war widow with a somewhat precocious four-year-old son, and a slightly senile eighty-year-old grandmother. She’s taking them both to the watermelon festival for a day of fun. But fun is a relative term, and Abigail isn’t all that keen on riding the Ferris wheel with her son, or hanging out at the kissing booth with her grandmother.
Only one thing makes it all bearable: the dulcet tones of broadcaster Grant Trumbull, whose watermelon festival show, complete with interviews of Allenberg County’s quirkiest citizens, is being blasted live through loud speakers all over the fairgrounds.
Abigail has never met Grant, and even though she finds his voice funny and charming, she’s not about to succumb to the matchmaking antics of the Last Chance church ladies. But her grandmother and young son have other ideas.
The short story will be available on August 6, 2013 in e-book format from Forever Yours. I don’t have any ability to send an early copy of it, yet. But to get you in a watermelon mood, I’m happy to give away a copy of Last Chance Beauty Queen, in a cute watermelon tote bag that I made myself.
Thank you, Hope, for sharing with us today. I’m so glad you took the time to connect with my readers. I know that they will love your voice and your stories.
Readers, look for Hope’s books next time you’re stocking up on your reading list and be sure to visit her website to learn more! I’m also going to double the fun and add to Hope’s prize of Last Chance Beauty Queen by offering up a second copy to a second winner! For a chance to enter this contest, leave a comment and tell me what’s your favorite summer activity or your favorite summer fruit? Contest runs through Wednesday night and I’ll announce winners on Thursday. Good luck!!