Q Family relations and setting seem to be of paramount importance in your work. But how do you conceive of your plots and characters?

A: There is no formula for this; sometimes the chicken comes before the egg.

In "The Hurricane Sisters," I had been thinking about the difference between generations and how we all have to learn all the big life lessons for ourselves.

And, more importantly, I was so stunned to learn of the South Carolina national ranking in domestic violence that I knew I had to talk about it. The story grew from there, characters emerging one by one to tell it.

Q: Some novelists write books based on their own experiences, others invent everything (or most everything). Where do you fall on that continuum? How much of yourself do you invest in your stories?

A: I invest a lot. I always try to imagine myself as that character and try to imagine what I would do, as well as what the character would do.

As this is my 15th novel, almost every single character is completely invented. I've had some bad relationships, but not abusive or violent ones. However, you don't have to dig very deeply to find an abundance of material on the subject.

Q: Tell me a little about your newest book, "The Hurricane Sisters." What prompted the writing of this book?

A: "The Hurricane Sisters" covers a lot of ground. Three generations of women and their understanding of each other, or lack of. Denial. Betrayal. Neglect. Unsupportive parents. All this turmoil until there is an incident that wakes them up. The genesis of it lies in domestic violence figures for South Carolina. One question being: How does a family who considers themselves to be educated, sophisticated and satisfied with their lot reconcile their own responsibility when someone they love is threatened? It's complicated, isn't it?

Q: Do you have a daily writer's routine?

A: My routine is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every day until deadline approaches, and then I start earlier and stop later.

Q: What's next?

A: Good question! It's too soon to tell!