PW: What was the genesis of Skinny-Dipping?
Claire Hamner Matturro: At the risk of sounding like somewhat of a cliché, I always wanted to be a writer. It was always in the back of my mind. My husband and I and the lawyers we had lunch with, we'd sit down and spin these hugely convoluted potboiling plots. This was our way of handling stress. There came a point in my life where I said, "If you want to be a writer, when exactly do you think you are going to do this?" I was in my mid-40s so I just said, "Okay, do it." Skinny-Dipping wasn't my first novel. It's the first that's been published. I wrote this other legal thriller and one of the agents said, "This book should be more fun." That was my epiphany. With the trial attorneys I knew, they were all funny; humor was very important to them to balance the stress. I thought, "I've got to get that in the book."
Did you intend to create a legal thriller or a chick lit book?
My original concept was the comedic legal thriller. I wanted mine to be legalistic without being boring, which is very tricky. I didn't even know what chick lit was. I certainly see how it fits the pattern.
You probably get asked this all the time, but are you Lilly?
No, I'm not. Lilly's wholly imagined. When I was trying to create this character, I wanted to give her an interesting background, the kind of childhood that would make her weird and edgy. But I also thought about the character traits in the attorneys I worked with and I said "Okay, I'm going to give her these traits, but I'm going to exaggerate them." The trial attorneys I knew were extremely self-confident and they liked being in the center of the room. They were funny and smart and detail-oriented to the point of obsessive-compulsive. The thing Lilly and I have in common is the health food and vegetarianism. But I don't have to surgically disinfect my lettuce everyday like Lilly.
Why is Florida such an important setting for the story?
I see Lilly as a fish out of water and maybe that's a little bit of me, because I always felt like I was a fish out of water in Sarasota. Part of my childhood was in Alabama and part of it was in Bradenton, and Bradenton is the poor cousin of Sarasota. Sarasota is a wonderful town and I've been in love with Florida from the get-go. I wanted Lilly to have that sense of wonder, that she comes from this almost rural town and she hits an ultra-slick, sophisticated, clean sparkly town and it's just wonderful to her. I couldn't imagine setting the book anywhere else. One major agent wanted me to change the location because she said that there were too many books about Florida. I tried to set it in Georgia and I tried to set it in Alabama and I just couldn't move it.
Can you tell us a little bit about what Lilly will get enmeshed in for the second Lilly book, Wildcat Wine?
The backdrop for that one is the fledgling Muscadine wine industry in Florida. She gets involved with this vintner, his wife and the winery and an old boyfriend who's working at the winery. It all gets very convoluted quickly.