Set in 1962, Miss Dreamsville is the story of a middle-aged woman from Boston who moves with her family to a small Florida town where she starts a literary salon and shakes up the status quo. The book club provides a haven for the town's social outcasts who find, for the first time in their lives, a place to belong. The book also explores regional tensions between Northerners and Southerners in the USA.
The novel was a book club pick for Simon & Schuster, a Reader's Digest Select Edition, and a main selection of the Pulpwood Queens, an international book club with more than 600 chapters. It is currently being translated into Portuguese.
Miss Dreamsville was selected by Library Journal (the American Library Association) in an article recommending books about book clubs.
"One can feel the immense joy of Amy Hill Hearth's engagement in her first novel. It radiates through every scene and through every page. Sometimes, an exceptional writer finds an exceptional premise, and the result is a truly exceptional book. Such is the case with Miss Dreamsville...The writing is brilliant, especially the dialogue through which the characters are defined." - Philip K. Jason, Southern Literary Review
ďThis first novel is a sweet story of female bonding and southern grit that will remind readers of Fannie Flagg.Ē - Booklist (American Library Association)
"A funny and charming fiction debut." - Publisher's Weekly
"Amy Hill Hearth's first novel is a charming and funny snapshot of life in a tiny Florida town in 1962. It's also a sweet-tart reminder that those good old days weren't so good for everybody." - Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
"Funny, insightful, poignant and uplifting, 'Miss Dreamsville' put a smile on my face." - Donna Marchetti, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"You may already know Hearth's name - the former journalist wrote the nonfiction book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years which was a bestseller and play. Miss Dreamsville is Hearth's first novel, and her fictional storytelling is just as captivating." - Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, The Durham (N.C.) Sun
"Throughout this engaging tale, which sweeps smoothly from humor to touching to horrifying - just as life does - the words of Hearth's 80-year-old narrator fall as true as a plumb line." - Ruth Bass, The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Mass.
"Hearth's characters are instantly likeable and there for each other as they take bold chances...A book that rings with authenticity." - Kathy Kelly, Daytona Beach News-Journal
"Hearth has done very well with her first work of fiction. The characters are endearing, and she has a good understanding of the American South in the 1960s. I recommend it." - Historical Novel Society
"Amy Hill Hearth's delightful first novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, is a rollicking, provocative tale about how reading and meeting others who are different can be the most subversive of acts."
- Ruth Pennebaker, author of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough
"Amy Hill Hearth honors and humanizes people and their wonderful diversities in her debut novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society. She astutely weaves pertinent, factual histories into her fictional debut novel. What a laudable book!"
- Dr. Camille O. Cosby, Educator and Producer
"Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, set in 1962 in Naples, Florida was a surprise. Segregation, feminism, gays coming out, inter-racial dating, it's all in there, written as it happened in small towns everywhere. And wisdom; you could learn a lot about life from reading this book. Most of all, be daring, be friends, be true to yourself. By the end, I cried and I must say, I wouldn't mind hearing more about each of the richly painted characters."
- Patricia Harman, author of the novel, The Midwife of Hope River
"Miss Dreamsville's cast of characters includes a postmistress, a librarian, a convicted murderer, a northern transplant, a lone African-American girl, and an even lonelier gay man, among others. Set in Naples in the early 1960s, its local color and plot will surprise Florida natives and visitors alike."
- Enid Shomer, author of the novel, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
On Writing a First Novel: a Note from Amy Hill Hearth
I never expected to write a novel. I was taking a break from my nonfiction book projects and the intense world of book publishing. I remember telling my mom, ďIím going to write just for fun for a while.Ē And thatís what I did. I had never tried my hand at fiction. I began Miss Dreamsvilleas a short story, which I hadn't tried before either. The more I wrote, the more I loved my characters and plot, and I thought, Could this be a novel? I just kept writing, telling no one (except my husband, although even he didnít see a draft for months).
Iíve always been the type of writer who talks very little about her work while itís in process. I donít want other writersí thoughts and ideas intruding on my muse. If you talk too much about your writing, I believe it dilutes the energy that you can deliver to the page. In my experience, thatís true with nonfiction but even more so with fiction. Your characters need to live in your own head.
Miss Dreamsville was inspired by a real person Ė my late mother-in-law. When her family moved from Boston to a town of 800 people in Collier County, Florida in 1962, she got into all sorts of trouble. I think she managed to offend just about everyone. Her experience became the springboard for the novel. She was a beautiful Boston redhead, opinionated, very intelligent, flirty, charming and restless. In other words, she was quite a character.
Everything I learned as a journalist and narrative nonfiction author was useful when I tried fiction. Regardless of whether youíre writing fiction or nonfiction, you are telling a story. You need a dramatic arc, and you must make a million tiny decisions regarding what to cut or what to add. Of course, the two are opposite when it comes to the rules of telling that story. In nonfiction you must stick to the facts. In fiction you get to make stuff up, which was very difficult for me until I realized it was just a matter of switching gears mentally.
But the main similarity, or so it seems to me, is that both fiction and nonfiction depend on finding an authentic voice. With nonfiction (especially oral histories, such as my first book, Having Our Sayitís a matter of listening to someone until you hear their authentic voice. With fiction, itís about listening to yourself to find your own authentic voice. As a child, I lived in the South and acquired the playfulness and love of language that is uniquely Southern, but Iíd never had a chance to fully explore that voice. Writing Miss Dreamsville gave me that opportunity.