West Palm Beach. Murder. Glitz and glamour. Welcome to Diane Bergner’s Royal Coconut Beach Lunch Club, an insider’s view to the world of philanthropy and high net worth lifestyles. Slip on your Louboutins and enjoy!
I’ve been fortunate to have a magnificent career as a fundraiser in an uber-wealthy town. Driven by my passion for what I do, I was eager to shine a light on the world of philanthropy. I thought about writing a non-fiction account. Then I read The Devil Wears Prada, which inspired me to tell this story through a fictional lens. A colorful, intriguing story filled with power players, glitz and glamor, galas, yachts, egos, mansions – and a fundraiser in the thick of it all was born.
I had an idea of what the story arc would be. The wealth fueled dynamics of the rich and powerful, and the important role money plays in relationships was at its core. Marriage, friendship, affairs, strong women, excessive money, romance, and love were all fair game. I didn’t rely on an outline. Instead, I’d map out three or four chapters at a time. But as I got deeper into it, the characters, the twists, the turns surprised even me. I didn’t intend it to be part-mystery, and I never anticipated that there’d be a murder. A murder! I said to myself out loud after I wrote that scene. I had no idea how that evolved, but it felt so right. I also developed several small plots that were connected to one another, and eventually wove them into the main plot.
My love for writing blossomed when I attended a small liberal arts college. While the English majors intimidated me, the classes I took all had a writing component. I learned how to write impeccable papers, a thesis, and much more. Then I went to law school. Legal research and writing was my favorite class. Law trained me to formulate ideas and put them in a structured and succinct way. Although these were essential skills to have both as a lawyer, and as a fundraiser, I never fully appreciated its importance until I started writing fiction. I’m very organized and a bit of a control freak, so letting my creative energy loose was liberating. But because of my background, I was able to distill what I wrote, making logical sense and put it all in an orderly fashion, which was rewarding. I was able to control the creative chaos that was happening on the page. In this regard, writing fiction became my intellectual awakening.
As a fundraiser I’m “on” most of the time. Social chit-chat, attending events, interacting, connecting with people, and meeting with donors are part of my everyday work life. I’ve always pushed the boundaries between being an extravert and an introvert, so writing balanced out a very full external world. The heroine in the movie Matilda claims inventing stories is like having a holiday in her head. That’s exactly how it feels when I write. It’s such a joy to tuck away in my own orbit and focus on the inner world of ideas and concepts. It sparks a light. It’s exciting to create a world and fill it with characters fraught with drama and conflict. The messier the better. You get to make a splash with make-believe. All fiction is based on something. In my case, I know fundraising, I know what a mega-wealthy town is like. But turning it into a made-up story is virgin territory to explore.
Speaking of characters, I decided to have four hard-working, normal professional women living and working amongst the very wealthy as the Lunch Club group. Two high-stakes matrimonial lawyers, a high-end decorator, and a fundraiser meet for Prosecco, gossip, subtle lessons, and dissect the lives of the rich and powerful. Most importantly, they help each other navigate their careers and lives. Their stories and conversations home in on such subjects which keep readers thinking and discussing: What defines a strong, successful woman? What do you want out of marriage? The Lunch Club does not male-bash and “take down the men.” Rather, readers will come to understand that a strong and confident woman knows her own values, and recognizes that she has the power to make choices, including choosing her own happiness and destiny.
While the lessons are deep, they’re presented in a lighthearted, fun way. It makes me smile when other women comment that they’d like to start their own Prosecco lunch club after reading Royal Coconut Beach Lunch Club. Female friends, a sense of community, knowing who you can trust and rely on is so important.
Pass the Prosecco, please.
Readers, do you have your own ‘lunch club’—friends who always have your back?