2020 is the year of T. I. Lowe! The engaging writer plans to whisk readers away to her romantic world in the Carolina Coast series. Last month, readers welcomed “Beach Haven” with open arms. As we wait for the story to continue in “Driftwood Dreams” and “Sea Glass Castle”, let’s learn a little more about the author and what truly ties the trilogy together.
BTSCelebs: Who is T. I. Lowe?
T. I. Lowe: Some days I’m not quite sure! Somewhere between a hot mess and a work in progress. But I’m mostly sure I’m Tonya Inez Lowe. Mother to two exceptional children, Nathan and Lydia. Wife to the kindest man I know, Bernie. And then, on the side, I have the privilege of being an author, which was a dream I’d kept hidden from way back in my early teens until I was almost forty years old.
Who encouraged you to become an author?
My mother. It was during her battle with cancer that I shared a story on my heart: Lulu’s Café. We spoke about it extensively during her chemo treatments as I began to write it with her encouragement. She made me promise to share it and I told her I would one day, but not during that season of our lives. A year later, she passed away, and there I was holding an enormous burden of grief that I had never fathomed could exist. But I was also holding that promise I had made her. Four months later, I self-published Lulu’s Café in order to keep my promise to her.
What inspired you to include a playlist at the end of each Carolina Coast Series book?
I love music and how it can evoke emotions, so I began putting the playlists together while writing. If a scene was heavy and I needed to get in the right mindset for that, I would look up melancholy songs. If I needed inspiration and something more upbeat, then that’s what I would listen to while writing scenes. I’ve included a playlist in each of my books—sixteen total so far—and love it when my readers enjoy them.
Which landmarks inspired your description of the unique Bless This Mess shop, the Driftwood Diner, and the Sand Queens’ homes?
Bless This Mess needed to be a fun place that, when you pass it, you just have to go in and check it out. No exact place inspired it, but I have made a Pinterest board since writing Beach Haven and have actually found some places that look spot-on. As for the Driftwood Diner, I have eaten in a few hole-in-the-walls near my local beach. You know, those places only the locals are privy to. When I go on vacation with my family, our rule is to never eat at a chain restaurant. I go online to research or even ask folks in that area for recommendations. And just let me say, we’ve never eaten a bad meal. The Sand Queens’ homes are a combination of various beach houses I’ve stayed at locally. Long-standing wooden homes on stilts. Comfy and cozy was the vibe I wanted the homes to convey.
What is one common element you created that ties the three books together?
Beach houses are typically given names, so I had a fun time coming up with names for the Sand Queens’ homes. The names of the houses were also used as the names of the books in the series, and they hold a clue about each story. Lincoln Cole needs a haven in Beach Haven. He finds this in more than one way after he meets Opal Gilbert. In Driftwood Dreams, Josie Slater struggles with chasing after her dreams. August Bradford gives her the push she needs to get to it. Sea Glass Castle was probably the most interesting title to come up with. In the book, I reference how sea glass is made—broken pieces transformed into beauty after a turbulent journey—and the two main characters, Sophia Prescott and Weston Sawyer, go through their own transformations after turbulent seasons of life.
How have you used this current quarantine in a positive way?
My son is home from his first year of college, and my daughter, who is in eighth grade, is also home for the rest of the school year. We’ve baked lots of goodies and put together several puzzles. We’ve also done a few DIY projects. Today’s project is painting reclaimed wood and then distressing it to cover one of my son’s bedroom walls. As for my writing, I’ve taken this time-out to do research for my next book series. I’ve even worked on overcoming my fear of live chats on social media! I’ve resembled that hot mess on my attempts so far, but folks have been kind.
What advice would you give to rookie writers?
I always share the same advice, but I think it’s important. Write what you are led to write, not what you think others want you to write. Find your authentic writing voice and own it!
A Special Thanks to T.I. Lowe and Tyndale House Publishers for the interview and images.