Book with Folly as backdrop benefits Pet Helpers at signing
Murder mystery book signings don't usually take place at animal shelters.
Then again, Michele Nutwell's "Death on Coffin Island: A Folly Beach Mystery" isn't your average book.
As a dog wandered underneath the snack table at Pet Helpers, Nutwell explained why she started writing her debut novel: One day, one of her three children asked something along the lines of "What do you do, anyway?"
She replied, "Well, I used to do a lot before I had y'all," and she then wrote the humorous murder mystery to prove it.
The book title comes from local history. In the mid-1700s, Folly Island also was known as Coffin Island. According to legend, ships entering Charleston Harbor after a long passage dropped off ill or dying crew or passengers on the island to avoid quarantine on the mainland.
Main character Kell Palevac is a Folly Beach journalist who mingles with locals and investigates the murder of a surfer. She mirrors some of Nutwell's past.
In real life, Michele Nutwell of James Island has a degree in journalism from Ohio University and has worked as a reporter and free-lancer for various papers, including The Islander.
"Eccentric local flavor" is how Nutwell describes her book.
Because she used to live on Folly Beach, in-depth research wasn't necessary. To write about surfing, she used her own experience or asked her family. To write characters, she mingled Folly Beach residents' eclectic traits.
Because of the inside Folly feel, locals love the murder mystery. Pet Helpers employees called it a "great, quick, summer read."
Nutwell contacted a print-on-demand company called BookSurge after publishers asked for drastic changes to the narrative. This left editing, critiquing and encouragement up to friends and acquaintances. The book is available at Amazon.com and Target, but most copies are sold at local places such as Ravenous Reader on Folly Road.
On July 10, she donated $5 of proceeds from each book sale at the signing to Pet Helpers.
Nutwell hopes to get the next book in the Kell Palevac series out by the end of the summer. Here's a sneak peek:
"It's more of a birth/renewal thing," the author said.
Does this mean missing triplets? Or a search for lost treasure? One clue: the title is "Born on the Edge."
"Oprah's not calling," Nutwell said about the success of her book, "but it's been a lot of fun."