Q&A: Marybeth Whalen (The Wishing Tree)
Q: Your new book introduces readers to the concept of a “wishing tree.”What is a “wishing tree?”
It’s actually a Danish tradition of putting a wishing tree up at a wedding. And it’s just basically branches stuck in a pot kind of artfully arranged. The idea is you send out tags either beforehand, or just have them there at the wedding, and then the guests either send in, or bring them, or sign them there, their wishes for the couple that's getting married. The tree is usually up at the reception somewhere that the guests will be able to see it. The idea is that the couple gets to take this home and have all of these wishes for their marriage.
I thought, that's such a great picture, a visual, of what it's like to go into marriage. The main character [in the The Wishing Tree], Ivy, on the day that her sister is proposed to on national television in front of millions of people, on that same day, she discovers that her husband's cheating on her. So this idea of this person who’s sort of disillusioned with marriage, having to interact with people's wishes for marriage, to me, just became a great tension for her.
Q: This book is set in Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Why did you choose that place in particular?
It is a place that I fell in love with when I was 15 years old, and that is reflected in my first novel that I did which was set there, The Mailbox. And it's just the place of my heart. I say that I live in Charlotte, but my heart lives at Sunset Beach.
Q: Adultery is not an easy topic to write about. How did you approach this subject matter?
It's a topic that keeps coming up in my circle of friends, and it just seems to be something a lot of people face. The crux of the issue of adultery is that it’s usually just a symptom of a bigger problem. There's always an underlying story that was going on long before the actual adultery took place.