Debut author challenges genre standards, mixing literary and women’s fiction with elements of magical realism


CHILMARK, Massachusetts — Emotional turbulence from loss, betrayal, and discovering decades-long family secrets can trigger risky life-changing decisions. For Eleanor “Els” Gordon, protagonist of Alice C. Early’s The Moon Always Rising (She Writes Press, April 21, 2020), who impulsively starts anew in a derelict Caribbean plantation house, the possibility of healing and belonging springs from the most unexpected relationships.

In 1998, fiery Eleanor “Els” Gordon thought the new century would find her married to her childhood soul mate, rejuvenating her family’s Scottish Highlands estate, and finally earning a managing director title at her investment bank. Maybe she’d even have the courage to discover why her estranged mother ran home to Italy thirty years earlier.

But when 2000 dawns, Els is mourning her fiancé and her father, and she’s unemployed, broke, and sharing an antique plantation house on the Caribbean island of Nevis with the ghost—or “jumbie”—of Jack Griggs, the former owner. Jack’s jumbie wangles Els’s help in making amends for wrongs committed during his Casanova life, and in exchange he appoints himself Cupid on behalf of a charter captain who’s as skittish about vulnerability as Els. Meanwhile, Els lures her mother to Nevis in hopes of unraveling the family secrets—but will the shocking truth set her free, or pull her fragile new happiness apart?

© Sharona Jacobs Photography

ALICE C. EARLY’s career spans academia, commercial real estate, international executive recruiting, and career-transition coaching, and has included many ‘first woman to…’ roles. Her college English/creative writing major and professional roles requiring listening and shaping stories eventually pointed her back to her first love—writing fiction. Within the Martha’s Vineyard community she cherishes, Alice sings in a local group and fosters sustainability and women’s rights and voices. An avid cook, she nurtures friends and neighbors with local bounty and her experiments in gluten-free baking. Alice and her husband have visited Nevis annually since 1996 and otherwise share a hand-built life in view of the sea. Visit her at

“The Moon Always Rising: A Novel”
Alice C. Early | April 21, 2020 | She Writes Press
ISBN: 978-1-63152-683-1 | Paperback Price : $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-63152-684-8 | E-book Price: $9.95
Literary Women’s Fiction

In an interview, Alice Early can discuss:

  • How traveling annually to Nevis inspired her writing
  • Why she created protagonist Els as an outsider
  • The depth of research that shaped The Moon Always Rising
  • How her varied professional background prepared her to write fiction and why she wrote her debut novel now
  • The genre-bending aspects of the novel and her choice to weave elements of magical realism into a literary and women’s fiction title
  • Her protagonist’s reaction to workplace sexual harassment in pre- MeToo 1999 and how it triggered her decisions

Praise for The Moon Always Rising

“Early’s prose is tight and lyrical, confidently capturing her characters and their emotional landscapes…The enchanting portraits of Nevis—and of…Scotland—help make this an unexpectedly memorable beach read.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Complicated and memorable… The Moon Always Rising finds a woman remaking her life abroad and a ghost repairing old rifts.” — 4 star Foreword Clarion Review

The Moon Always Rising takes your imagination on a trip to lush Caribbean Nevis and the Scottish Highlands in an engrossing story about how love and forgiveness help broken people mend. I especially loved the fabulous ghost (jumbie)—such a unique and intriguing character!” — Martha Hall Kelly, author of international bestseller Lilac Girls and its prequel Lost Roses

“Alice Early gifts us with a smorgasbord of never-dull ex-patriots on the sunny, vibrant island of Nevis… The Moon Always Rising is a rich and intelligent novel written with grace and style.”
— John T. Hough, Jr., author of The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue and the award-winning novel, Seen the Glory.

“I finished the book and think about it every day! We are so welcomed into the story, and into the lives of the characters, that the effect on the reader is profound. The reader is THERE—present to the smells and sounds and tastes of each scene… We feel Els pain, and her struggles with grief and loss. We love the community… the locals who come to drink and talk politics, and [charter captain] Liz’s mysterious involvement in her life. We care about the woman Jack wronged, and Els’s estranged mother Giulietta, and the unraveling of their stories. There are times we want to give Els a big shake, but we learn to let her emotions thaw, and let redemption slowly work its magic. We become part of the process. Good storytelling! I’ll be recommending it whenever I can.” ~~ Ann Bassett, producer, MVTV

An Interview with Alice Early

1. What first drew you to write a story set in Nevis, and how has your experience with the setting inspired this book?

My annual sojourns to Nevis since 1996 served as both inspiration and writing retreats. The Nevis I first knew was far less developed and sophisticated than it is now, more like the “old Caribbean,” and I found it mentally, physically and spiritually captivating. I never set out to write a novel based in Nevis, but kept coming back to this enveloping tropical setting that has a touristy surface combined with deep social justice, political and racial undercurrents. Many of my novel’s characters and elements, most notably the “jumbie” (ghost) Jack Griggs and his house and garden and the fisherman Finney Freeman and his home and family, were inspired by people and places in Nevis.

The spark for the plot was Finney, an Anguillan fisherman and former boat builder, who follows his beloved wife Vivian to her home island of Nevis, bringing with him political activist sentiments that eventually entangle the protagonist, Eleanor “Els” Gordon, and cause a near-catastrophe. Given my experience of living on Martha’s Vineyard, an island that is a tourist destination, I wanted to explore the dynamics of visitors who believe they understand a place just because they have fallen in love with it during a brief vacation, and may even choose to move there based on those impressions.

I also wanted to explore how Els, uprooted by tragedy from her native Scotland, could settle into an abandoned plantation house filled with the belongings of the former owner, and how she might use his artifacts to learn about the island she’s chosen as her new home.

2. You’ve written in your blog that you avoided making this book autobiographical, and failed in many aspects. What in your own life inspired Els’s story?

I share Els’s quest in life for belonging and a sense of home. I’m a nester and a homebody who craves connection and community. Like her, at one time I buried my loneliness and emotional isolation in work. She puts her ambitions ahead of love until she loses everything she loves most. I lifted threads from my own (pre-MeToo) professional experience— the struggles of smart, capable women in male-dominated workplaces, the corrosive and relentless presence of sexual harassment, the nagging question of what is “the price of admission” and what crosses the invisible line.

When I moved in with my husband, he was several years a widower with a home that retained touches of his late wife’s taste and many of her possessions. I became fascinated by the idea of inhabiting the shell of a life shed by someone departed. That was the spark for the creation of Jack and of Els’s stewardship of his legacy.

3. You have quite an impressive and varied background— what led you to writing this book now?

I was a creative writing-focused English major in college and always hoped to write fiction, but was too penniless and scared to attempt a writing career back then. My hopscotch career from academia to business tapped constantly into my writing ability, but for non-fiction pieces of all kinds. After my mother died, ending ten years of parental caregiving duties, I had an “if not now, when?” moment and became serious about finishing and publishing The Moon Always Rising.

Many years of working and saving have given me the luxury of dialing back my day job now in order to write and spend time with readers. I’ve earned my gray hairs and paid my dues, and this is my time to return to a passion for words on the page that I’ve nurtured since about the age of seven.

4. Some readers find your protagonist Els difficult to like in the beginning, but say she grows on them and becomes relatable and sympathetic as the story unfolds. Do you agree and if so, why did you intentionally make Els unlikeable?

A wise writing teacher drilled into me that a character doesn’t have to be likeable, but she has to be believable. My intention with Els was to create a wounded character who pushes the love she craves away, then believably struggles to let love back in.

When the story opens, Els is locked in grief and anger. Underlying that is a deep-seated conviction that she’s unlovable, stemming from the fact that her mother abandoned her at two and has had no contact in 30 years. Els grows up prickly and combative and makes herself hard to love, so when people dislike her, it only confirms what she expects. In many ways, she’s well suited to the investment banking world she joins, matching the men in toughness, ambition, and cursing. But underneath, Els is desperate to find belonging and love. On Nevis, she feels herself “cracking open” when she can no longer sustain the grief or anger. Her tentative openness blossoms as she creates a new home for herself. Els will always be a quick-tempered, demanding person, but her entitlement, brittle edges, and emotional reticence dissipate. When she contrives finally to meet her mother, a far different person from the one she fantasized, Els discovers the rewards of accepting the love people can give, versus pining for some idealized vision of love.

5. In your book, many characters must actively choose to forgive and/or be forgiven in order to escape the bonds of their past lives. What inspired you to adopt forgiveness as such a central theme?

I’m a great believer in second chances and I love a good redemption tale. Most of the main characters in The Moon Always Rising are stuck in a place from which only forgiveness (of others, of themselves) can release them. The power of forgiveness must have been bubbling along in my subconscious as I was writing, because only after I finished the book did I realize this is its main theme. Much of my professional life as a college dean, executive recruiter and career transition coach has involved helping people make life-changing decisions and many of them required the courage to let go of something that no longer worked. I’ve come to believe that healing and progress in life usually require forgiveness of someone for something.

6. The Moon Always Rising incorporates elements of literary fiction, women’s fiction, and the paranormal. Can you walk us through how you balanced these genres?

I just set out to tell a story; only after the fact did anyone try to categorize my novel. My story demanded elements of romance, mystery, and fantasy without adhering to any genre norms. I believe in spirits and am drawn to magical realism and the Latin and South-American writers whose characters consider the supernatural a part of daily life. In creating Jack’s jumbie, which was the most fun of any part of this work, I wanted to shape a bad-boy character who reflected Caribbean folklore and superstition, but wasn’t bound narrowly by those beliefs. I believe the fence lines between categories of fiction are arbitrary and just begging to be crossed, and that readers will happily follow.