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April 10, 2014

Familiar territory

Rowley author's new novel is set on Plum Island

A Newburyport father’s dying request to his daughters exposes a haunting secret that he wants them to resolve, sending them on a quest that changes their lives forever.

Set meticulously in Greater Newburyport, “Beach Plum Island” is Holly Robinson’s third novel and tells of siblings rediscovering themselves and each other as they solve the mystery their father reveals.

Although his death creates a devastating void in the existences of each of his three daughters from both of his marriages, the journey he sets them on provides the foundation upon which they build a new blended, extended family.

As in Robinson’s last novel, “The Wishing Hill,” “Beach Plum Island” takes readers down familiar streets, over the region’s sandy beaches and into its local waters.

The only geographic inaccuracy is the name of the island from which the novel gets its title. Although obviously set on Plum Island, the book became “Beach Plum Island,” through no fault of its author.

It was Robinson’s editors at the Penguin Group publishers who insisted on the change to “Beach Plum Island.” They didn’t want Robinson’s book confused with Nelson DeMille’s 1997 novel “Plum Island,” which is set on Plum Island, N.Y.

“I fought for the title to be ‘Plum Island,’” said Robinson, who lives in Rowley. “When they said that was out, I provided them a list of 20 other possible titles. But they wanted ‘Beach Plum Island’ because in the novel I refer to the beach plums that grow there.

“When you work with a publisher, you really give up some control,” she said. “Publishers have control of the cover art and the title.”

The 58-year-old wife and mother has brought her work to the public in two ways. After writing seven books that publishers rejected, she self-published her first novel, “Sleeping Tigers,” through CreateSpace, and it did well. Her last two novels and her memoir, “The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter,” however, were published by divisions of Penguin Random House.

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