Marco Island resident author, Ann Kidd Taylor, has a new book coming out this month. Her previous book, “Traveling With Pomegranates,” which she co-wrote with her mother, Sue Monk Kidd, spent several weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. “The Shark Club” is Kidd Taylor’s first novel and is being released June 6 by Random House.
Shark Club is set on a fictitious island in Southwest Florida with many similarities to Marco Island. Maeve Donnelly is a world-traveling marine biologist known among her peers as the “shark whisperer.” She has put her personal life on the back burner in order to make the study of sharks her life’s work. This despite the fact that she had been viciously attacked by a blacktip shark at the age of 12.
Ann Kidd Taylor graciously agreed to answer some questions about her new book.
Question: “The Shark Club” is set on a fictitious island in Southwest Florida. As there seem to be many similarities to Marco Island, I have to ask if you intentionally used your knowledge of Marco as a basis for the setting of this book.
Answer: My family moved to Marco in 2010. Undoubtedly, the natural beauty of the island infused my earliest ideas about “The Shark Club” with inspiration. As I was figuring out who my character Maeve was and having long conversations with her in my imagination, it became clear to me that Maeve’s home should be rooted on an island on the Gulf coast. Indeed, many places around Marco Island and Southwest Florida served as inspiration and models for things that turn up in “The Shark Club.”
Q: Where did your inspiration come from to write about sharks? Do you share Maeve Donnelly’s passion for these fascinating creatures?
A: It’s funny. “The Shark Club” didn’t start with sharks. It started with Maeve. Once I understood the role sharks would play in her life I began to read about them and watch them at aquariums. Through the Rookery Bay Reserve, I joined other volunteers for a night of shark tagging in the Ten Thousand Islands. Sharks play a vital role in our oceans, and yet, they face critical dangers from humans, none more threatening than shark finning. As I came to understand sharks, it was impossible not to share Maeve’s love for them.
Q: It is apparent in reading “The Shark Club” that you did extensive research on sharks and the dangers that the species in general is encountering. Was it your intention that your book would shed some light on these issues, perhaps for the greater good of our oceans and for sharks in particular?
A: There were some themes I was certain about taking on: a young woman turning 30, grappling with a lost love and the road not taken, but in the beginning, I wasn’t exactly sure how sharks would function in the plot. I kept returning to the horrific practice of shark finning in which sharks are caught, have their fins sliced off, and are thrown overboard to drown to death. Shark finning is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of sharks every year in order to fuel the fin trade. For my character, to have sharks in her research affected by finning would be an attack on what she cares most about. The truth is: our fates are linked with those of sharks. I hope I created a way for readers to develop empathy and love for them and the health of our oceans.
Q: Your previous book, “Traveling With Pomegranates,” which you co-wrote with your mother, Sue Monk Kidd, was non-fiction. Was it a difficult transition for you to write a novel?
While writing “Traveling with Pomegranates,” I relied on my travel journals, itineraries, photographs, video I’d taken, and of course, my memories. The process of writing a memoir, of rendering memories and experiences into a relatable story that intertwined with my mother’s story was a challenge, but one we relished. As my mom and I worked on the book, we each wrote separately in our houses and would come together to read each other’s chapters and edit. When it came to writing solo, to keep the fears and anxieties at bay, I focused on writing a story I loved and the story I most wanted to tell. Nevertheless, there’s nothing like a blank screen to make me feel marooned from decent ideas, even words and sentences. The other most obvious difference between writing “The Shark Club” and writing “Traveling with Pomegranates” was how freely and wildly I could engage my imagination in fiction. There was something intoxicating about treading into my imagination, but I found both experiences really satisfying.
Q: This book, “The Shark Club,” is getting wonderful early reviews. Where do you intend to go from here — is there another book in the works?
A: Yes, I’m excitedly mapping the plot for another novel. Similar to how I began writing “The Shark Club,” the seeds for my new story started with a character talking my imagination. She’s compelling and complicated, and she feels entirely real to me. I can’t wait to find out where she leads me.
Along with all of its interesting “shark info,” “The Shark Club” is a bittersweet story about the power of forgiveness and the promise of true love. The complexity of the interpersonal relationships and the beautiful prose of Ms. Kidd Taylor make this a delightfully entertaining read.
Ann Kidd Taylor will be at Sunshine Booksellers at 3 p.m., Thursday, June 8. She will be speaking about her new book and autographing copies.