Ten Questions for Grace Mason
Single mom Grace Mason is the main character of Lauren Clark's new release Stardust Summer. Grace likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, Evan, their tiny house, and her teaching job in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
When tragedy strikes one thousand miles away, Grace and Evan find themselves on an unexpected journey to Upstate New York. Not only must Grace handle her father's tragic passing, but she must face the woman she believes responsible for her own mother's death.
While Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in a series of adventures for Grace, her son, Evan, Kathleen, and their handsome and charming next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor.
Today, Stardust Summer author Lauren Clark talks with Grace Mason about childhood memories, her relationship with her father, Henry, and why it often takes the offering of forgiveness to find true happiness in life.
Lauren: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Grace: I always thought I'd grow up to work at a university like my father, Henry. I loved the atmosphere and activity on a campus—all of the students rushing around—everyone had somewhere to go, someplace important to be. And everyone loved my father. It was like this big, extended family. I had Evan, though, before I graduated from college, so my plans changed. I work at an elementary school as a teacher's aide so that I can be close to my son every day.
Lauren: Jock or princess in high school? If you liked sports, which did you play?
Grace: I was definitely a jock. Growing up, I was always outside, one of the tomboys in the neighborhood, always throwing the ball around with my father or playing kickball with the boys down the street. My father liked weekend adventures—fishing, camping, bike riding, and swimming in the ocean. I grew up loving nature and the outdoors.
Lauren: Which is worse? A hangover or a really bad sunburn?
Grace: Since I'm an outdoorsy kind of girl, and I'm lucky enough to tan rather than burn, a hangover is definitely worse! I have Evan, and he's only eight years old, so I don't allow myself to indulge much.
Lauren: Favorite food?
Grace: Growing up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, summers tend to be brutally HOT! From April through October, I have fond memories of walking with my friends down to the corner store to get an ice cream cone. The weather was always so humid that we had to eat our cones really fast, or the scoops would melt all over our hands. I think this treat cost about 75 cents, and I can remember spending every penny I could scrape together on those cones! My favorite flavors are anything berry: Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry. I love all of them!
Lauren: Dream vacation?
Grace: I've always dreamed about going to Europe, specifically England. My father once traced our family history back from when our ancestors came over from the UK to America in the 1700's. I'd love to take a month and go explore those countries, learn more about the people, their lifestyles, taste the food, explore tourist spots, art galleries and museums. I'm enamored with any British accent, love hearing about the Royals, want to visit Oxford, and am, of course, smitten with "Downton Abbey."
Lauren: Best advice you've ever received?
Grace: My father always told me to follow my dreams, which, when I was younger, involved getting my Ph.D. and spending my career teaching or advising on a large college campus. I did end up majoring in education, and loved the students at my school. Now that I've moved to New York, though, there may still be time for me to chase that dream after all.
Lauren: Worst advice?
Grace: My best friend in college telling me to "Go For It!" when I mentioned my infatuation with one of our professors. He was notorious for flirting, breaking hearts, and womanizing. Somehow, in my barely-out-of-adolescent existence, I thought that everything the man told me was somehow different than the dozens of other girls he'd romanced and released. The other issue? We'd all had a few drinks, my inhibitions were lowered, and he was alone at the end of the bar. My friends left me there, swaying and swooning, practically sitting in his lap. A few months later, he'd gotten me pregnant, moved on to another co-ed, then took a job teaching abroad. The experience was enough to make me swear off of most men for (almost) a lifetime!
Lauren: Talk about your relationship with your stepmother, Kathleen.
Grace: Thankfully, we have a very good relationship now. It took a long time to get here, and most of that was my fault. I harbored much grief over the loss of my mother and blamed Kathleen for many years for her death. It took my own father passing away to bring me closer to Kathleen; it was Henry's way of bringing us together when he couldn't do it during his life. Kathleen's really amazing. She loves Evan unconditionally, treats me like her flesh-and-blood daughter, and sees the good in everyone. Kathleen also introduced me to Ryan Gordon, the love of my life. Now, how can anyone argue with a gift like that?
Lauren: For your wedding, share the something old, something new, something borrowed, & something blue.
Grace: I still pinch myself when I think about my wedding. My entire life changed after my father died, and meeting Ryan Gordon was the most unexpected thing to come out of such tragedy. He's sweet, kind, and wonderful to Evan.
Old: My father was an old-fashioned sort of guy, always handsome and dressed well. He carried a small gold pocket watch with him at all times, which amused the students and college staff to no end. I had the florist create my bouquet so that I could carry the watch with me when I walked down the aisle.
New: Since we've had so many mishaps and accidents over the last year, we all decided that it would be best if I forgo the high heels and wear something low and sensible for the ceremony and small, intimate reception we'll be holding outdoors at the college. I actually shopped for weeks before stumbling on the perfect little pair of white satin ballet slippers. They match my simple silk dress perfectly, with just the toes peeking out from the hem. I'm hoping to be able to dance long into the night, under the stars, until Ryan tells me it's time to leave for our honeymoon.
Borrowed: Kathleen offered up a strand of fine pearls to wear during the ceremony. The necklace is delicate, with graduated pearls that take on a pink color in the outside light. They were a gift to her from my father, Henry, which makes the necklace all the more special.
Blue: As a surprise, Ryan took Evan on an adventure to find me the perfect little pre-wedding present. My son decided that Corning Museum of Glass would have a gift unlike any other. He spent several Saturdays creating the delicate glass beads that make up the bracelet. The beads are in three shades of blue: Baby Blue for the way that the sky looks over Keuka Lake in the mornings, Turquoise for the clear, bright color at midday, and Indigo for the Stardust Summer skies I love so much.
Lauren: Define true happiness.
Grace: About a year ago, that would have been really difficult. I thought that I was happy in Ocean Springs. I had my career, my son, and my house. I had a huge buffer from the real world and kept myself busy with teaching, Evan, and occasional walks near the ocean. I didn't realize how lonely and isolated I was until my father, Henry, passed away. It was like I felt that I had forever to get over our differences. I thought that I had plenty of time. And then, one day, he was gone before Evan and I could say goodbye.
I miss him so much now, but living in New York, on 'his' lake and in his special place, I feel his presence all around me. I've regained a sense of what's truly important—family, friends, and unconditional love. That's true happiness.
Lauren Clark has been a voracious reader since the age of four and would rather be stranded at the library than on a desert island. In her former life, she worked as an anchor and producer for CBS affiliates in Upstate New York and Alabama. Lauren adores her family, yoga, her new Electra bike, and flavored coffee. She lives near the Florida Gulf Coast.
Single mom Grace Mason doesn't believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace's estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes.
Henry's passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry's second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan's disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home.
Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love—again.
Purchase Stardust Summer:
Connect with Lauren Clark: