What would you do if you found a mahogany box washed up on the shore, and it contained ashes?
In Fran Hasson’s first book, “Allawe,” protagonist Marla Alexander is faced with that very question.
“She’s obsessed with the box,” said Hasson of her character Marla. “It comes up on the second anniversary of her mother’s death. She has unresolved issues with her mother, so that’s an undercurrent throughout the book. She wants to find out whose ashes are in the box.
“It’s a very well-constructed box that has four words inscribed in the base, and she uses these words as clues to find out where the box came from. She thinks the box may have come from St. Croix, and she hoodwinks her husband into taking a scuba trip to St. Croix, not telling him she’s really looking for the owner of the ashes. When she finds out whose ashes they are, she finds out the person was murdered, and it becomes a murder mystery.”
Hasson, a Fenwick Island resident, was inspired to write the thriller after attending a Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild FreeWrite workshop held at the Millville Giant.
“There actually was a box of ashes that did wash up on the beach in South Bethany,” she said. “One day, somebody came in with the ashes and put them on the table and tried to return them to Frank Minnie, who’s the president of the guild, and he said, ‘I don’t want these ashes.’ And I said, ‘Ashes? There’s got to be a story in that.’”
Hasson said she chose the title “Allawe” — pronounced ah-la-wee, meaning “all of us” — because of the group effort that was put into the book.
“It’s kind of a patois word. I feel like ‘allawe’ sold my book on St. Croix,” she said. “I just went there last week and sold 84 copies of my book. It was because of all of my friends. My friend took the pictures that are on the front and back covers. Another friend was a model on the cover.
“All of us wrote my book. All of us promoted my book. All of the people in the book worked together to try to find the murderers and save other people from the murderers and find out whose ashes they were. It was such a group venture for so many different aspects of this book, it had to be called, ‘Allawe.’”
She added that, without the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, her book would not exist.
“I couldn’t have even done this with the Writers’ Guild. They’ve been very supportive, very helpful, very instrumental. I don’t know if I would’ve written this book without the Writers’ Guild.”
The story begins in Fenwick Island and travels to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Hasson lived for a number of years.
“The story starts where I live and goes to where I used to live, and returns to my home, Fenwick Island. They say, ‘Write what you know,’ so I started here,” she said.
Hasson said the book will appeal to many who know and enjoy the southern coastal area of Delmarva, as parts of the novel include the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival and Seacrets in Ocean City, Md.
The book is currently being sold locally at Fenwick Float-ors, McCabe’s Gourmet Market, The Odysea and the Café on 54. It is also available for purchase on Amazon.com, including in Kindle format.
Hasson will be holding book signings at The Café on 26 on Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Dec. 28 at the Super Giant in Millville from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where people can meet the author, buy the book and even have it inscribed.
Hasson said that she has received positive feedback from those who have read the book and believes many people will enjoy it.
“People who have read it have liked it, and I’m very pleased about that. Everybody seems to like it. They want to buy it as gifts. I’ve had a number of people buy five and even 10 copies as Christmas gifts, or just gifts for other people. I think when the summer season comes, it might take off a little bit. I think tourists will like it as a souvenir of the beach area. I think it appeals to a general audience that likes mystery and travel.”
Hasson said she plans on writing another book soon and is thinking of doing a spin-off from “Allawe,” due to its positive reception.
“Frankly, I have a lot of people saying they want more. I think I’m going to make the main character of the next book one of the characters from my book. It’s going to be an entirely different kind of book. I think people really liked my characters, so I do want to incorporate them into my next one.”
As for the future success of her novel, Hasson said she hopes people will read it and enjoy it.
“I hope that people will buy my book and, more than that, I hope people will like my book. It’s a great beach read. It’s a fast read and a fun read.”
For more information about “Allawe,” or to purchase a copy, email Hasson at email@example.com.