The author opens up about taking on her late mother Dorothea Benton Frank’s mantle
Storytelling has always come naturally to Victoria Benton Frank, who grew up in a family of entertainers—chief among them her late mother, beloved beach-read author Dorothea Benton Frank. Still, Victoria had never considered writing until she left her New York culinary career and found herself itching for a new creative pursuit.
It was her mother who suggested she put pen to paper. The two authored a children’s book together, and this month marks the debut of Victoria’s first novel, My Magnolia Summer (William Morrow). Set on Sullivan’s Island—like her mother’s first release—it’s a coming-of-age tale brimming with humor, wit, and the enchantment of the tide-shaped landscape.
Ahead of the novel’s release, we caught up with Frank to talk about the moxie of Southern women, the Lowcountry’s allure, and picking up her mother’s mantle.
CM: How did this novel come to be?
vbf: I was at a crossroads after leaving the culinary world, and my mom suggested I try writing. I was afraid—I mean, no pressure, right? Huge Manolo Blahniks to fill from Dot the Great! But I gave it a shot. I wanted to write a book that I wanted to read, and I’ve always loved ensemble pieces about strong Southern women. They are special and unique and resilient. So I wrote about that.
CM: How would you characterize the story?
vbf: My mom always told me to write about what I know, and that’s what this is: a love story wrapped in another love story about dreams and ambition, falling in love with what you do, and finding your voice. And that, sometimes, you don’t need to go to the big city to find what you need.
CM: Some of your mom’s characters make appearances?
vbf: Yes! Little Easter eggs for her fans. I’m not an idiot: I know most people will pick up this first book because I’m her kid. That’s the greatest legacy ever. It’s incredible that someone would give me the time of day because of how amazing my mother was.
CM: What captivates you about the Lowcountry?
vbf: I believe in the magic of unspoken connections between people and spaces. The Lowcountry is full of rich history, and there is a palpable magic in the air. You can feel the magnetic pull, the stories of the land and trees. They’ll sing to you—if you get out of your head, put down your smartphone, and walk through a forest, go to the ocean, listen to the wind in the palmettos. How is that not hypnotic?
Lives: John’s Island
Education: Bachelor of arts in theatre from College of Charleston, culinary school at New York’s French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center)
Advice to new writers: “There’s a voice inside your head and a voice inside of your heart, and they have to agree about what you put on the page.”
Favorite place to write: Her mother’s house, where she finished My Magnolia Summer
Follow along: Frank hosts a “Better Late Than Never” virtual book club on her Instagram and Facebook pages.