Richards’ latest novel explores how people create friendships
In her most recent novel, titled “Happiness Key,” bestselling author Emilie Richards drew upon her own background as a relationship counselor, exploring the unlikely friendship that develops between four women. These characters, who couldn’t be more different from each other, would probably never even have met if they weren’t neighbors on the same rundown spit of Florida land known as Happiness Key.
But, Richards points out, Happiness Key is nothing like Sanibel Island.
“The beaches here are fabulous, the shelling is great, and we just love the laid-back ambiance,” said Richards, who earned her undergraduate degree in American studies from Florida State University, and her master’s in family development from Virginia Tech. “You can just do whatever you want here. It is incomparably beautiful.”
The popular mystery/romance novelist, who was raised in the Sunshine State, arrived on Sanibel last week with her husband, Michael, and their beagle, Nemo, for a two-month stay. However, she isn’t calling her time spent here a “vacation.”
“There’s one book that I’ve got to finish, and another one I have to edit, and there’s some promotional work I’m doing, too,” said Richards, who will appear at the Sanibel Island Book Shop this Saturday, Dec. 11 at 11 a.m. to conduct an author’s reading, informal Q and A and booksigning. “I’m probably going to do most of my work in the heat of the day. My husband and I like to get up at sunrise and go pick shells, and we go for a walk on the beach each night at sunset.”
Following college, Richards worked as a therapist in a mental health center, as a parent services coordinator for Head Start families and in several pastoral counseling centers before she began writing full-time. The author of more than 50 books explained that in every social service position she held, she gained more than she gave.
“I set out to help people and ended up learning so much more about myself,” she added.
After making the transition to full-time writer, Richards’ star has risen in the publishing world. She has appeared on national television and has been quoted in Reader’s Digest – “right between Oprah Winfrey and Thomas Jefferson,” her Web site notes. In recent years, she has broadened the scope of her writing to women’s fiction.
Her latest book, “Happiness Key,” which was released in July 2009, gave Richards the opportunity to explore the human condition in a way she had never done before.
“I’ve always wanted to do a friendship novel,” said Richards. “In this book, I write about how people become friends… if the situation is right. I kind of throw these four women together in sort of a melting pot and see what happens.”
According to her Web site, “By the time you finish (‘Happiness Key’), you will have laughed, cried, cheered, come to value the friends who share your own life and realize that Happiness Key couldn’t be more aptly named.”
Among her many titles, Richards’ books include 1985’s “Brendan’s Song,” the first of four novels she published that year. Between 1986 and 1988, her most prolific writing period, 16 of her romance novels were printed. She is also the author of both the four-title “Ministry Is Murder” series and five-title “Shenandoah Album” series, which includes 2009’s “A Lie Is A Lie.”
When she isn’t writing or engaging in her other passion – quilting – Richards enjoys traveling and turning her suburban Virginia yard into a country garden.
And, for the next two months, enjoying everything that Sanibel has to offer.
“We’ve been coming here on and off for the past 14 years,” said Richards, who initially learned about the beauty of the island from a writer friend. “She kept mentioning this place, so we decided to check it out. And as soon as we arrived here, we fell in love with it.”
The Sanibel Island Book Shop is located at 1571 Periwinkle Way. For additional information, call 472-5223.