Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diana Buss is talking with Dana Ridenour, author of Beyond the Cabin.
FQ: You seem to really know and describe the "Lowcountry" of South Carolina - it seems you have a deep love for it. Why did you choose South Carolina?
RIDENOUR: I do have a deep love and appreciation for the Lowcountry. My family vacationed on the South Carolina coast from the time I was six years old. I spent most of my summers as a teenager and young adult living and working in the area. During that time, I worked as a First Mate for Captain Sandy’s Tours in Georgetown, South Carolina. We provided boat tours of the majestic old rice plantations, shelling and lighthouse tours, and, at night, ghost tours. Captain Sandy taught me everything I know about the history, mystery and romance of this area. That is why the character of Captain Meade plays such an important part in Beyond The Cabin. I retired from the FBI on April 6, 2016 and I loved the area so much I retired in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
FQ: On behalf of all of us wishing for a bit of romance with our mystery, is there a reason that made you bring Logan into this?
RIDENOUR: My main character in both novels is FBI Special Agent Lexie Montgomery. Like most of us, Lexie is searching for that one special person in life. Lexie’s love life is complicated by the fact that she is an undercover agent in a full-time, deep-cover assignment. She struggles with her attraction to Logan because she isn’t allowed to disclose her true identity to him and knows that it could become a huge problem when she came out of her undercover role. By witnessing Lexie’s internal turmoil over Logan, the readers are able to see and understand the psychological toll that working undercover takes on an agent.
FQ: Why is there such a brief but detailed description of the Gullah people? Does it have to do with the fact that you can't judge a book by it's cover, and that prejudice can be misleading?
RIDENOUR: Since my days of working on the boat with Captain Sandy, I have had a fascination with the Gullah people and their customs. I find it interesting that in this region stretching from Sandy Island, South Carolina, to Amelia Island, Florida the Gullah people were able to pass from one generation to the next so much of their ethnic traditions from West Africa dating back to the mid 1700s. I wanted to give my readers a glimpse into the rich, beautiful culture of the Gullah people. I was thrilled to learn that after reading Beyond The Cabin, several book clubs in the area wanted to learn more about Gullah life and traditions. A couple of the book clubs even organized visits to some of the historical South Carolina sites I wrote about in the book. I was quite flattered to know that my book triggered an interest in people that went beyond the pages of a book.
FQ: Would you recommend reading the first book before this, in order to get a better look into who Lexie is?
RIDENOUR: If you have a chance, I would definitely recommend reading Behind The Mask before Beyond The Cabin. Lexie takes on her first undercover mission in Behind The Mask so you get to see how she develops as an undercover agent. Also, if you read the first book, you will understand Lexie and Savannah’s relationship more and see how they became friends. The books were written as stand alone books, but it certainly helps to understand some of the nuances if you read the books in order.
FQ: Did your personal experience influence Lexie's story?
RIDENOUR: Definitely. I spent most of my career as an FBI agent working undercover. I spent several years infiltrating domestic terrorism cells, many like the ones portrayed in my novels. Both novels are fiction, but they are based loosely on real cases and real people that I encountered during my twenty-year career. The character of Lexie came about because of emotions that I experienced as a new undercover agent. Undercover agents have to learn to compartmentalize their emotions, which takes practice. When an agent is new to working undercover, it can be difficult to not get lost in the role. I wanted to give the readers a look into the emotional toll a role can take on an undercover agent. So, in a way the character of Lexie is based largely on my experiences as an undercover agent.
FQ: In the first few pages of Beyond the Cabin, you thank your own personal and real-life Captain Meade. Did he perhaps once keep you safe from danger? Is that part of what inspired you to use a version of him in your story? Would you tell our readers a little bit about him?
RIDENOUR: Captain Sandy Vermont was a naturalist, a storyteller, and a wise man. I worked on his tour boat off and on over many years and we became very close. Captain Sandy shaped and influenced my life in so many ways. His passion for the history, mystery and romance of the area was contagious. My love of the South Carolina Lowcountry came from the countless hours that I spent on the boat with Captain Sandy, listening to his stories and learning about the area. Captain Sandy taught me to throw a cast net, made me laugh, and brought great comfort to me in troubling times. When I was a young adult, facing a crossroads in life, I turned to Captain Sandy for advice. He put me on his boat, took me to a deserted barrier island, and told me to walk the beach and the answers would come. He helped me to find my own way in life and to this day, if I’m in need of answers, I walk the beach and ponder the question until the answer comes.
FQ: Why did you choose to reveal the suspense on the island in the prologue?
RIDENOUR: I wanted to drop the readers directly into the action and give them something to ponder while reading the book. As a reader, I love prologues. As an author I like to give readers something to anticipate and to let them know that they are in for a thrill ride...but they won’t know the outcome until it’s revealed.
FQ: Will you bring Captain Meade back in future books?
RIDENOUR: I dearly love the character of Captain Meade. I enjoyed writing Beyond The Cabin because the setting and the characters were so close to my heart. I think Captain Meade will definitely make an appearance in future books. In fact, I wouldn’t rule out another novel completely set somewhere in the Lowcountry.
FQ: Do you have any more stories in the works?
RIDENOUR: I’m currently working on the third Lexie Montgomery book as well as a spec script for television. The novels are in development for television so there is no slowing down at this point.
To learn more about Beyond the Cabin, please read the review.