Homecoming queen turned novelist talks "Life in Spades"

Courtesy of Frances Frost
Frost wrote “Life in Spades” during National Novel Writing Month.


Being born in Seoul, South Korea and having lived in seven U.S. states not only helped alumna Frances Frost adapt to ordinary life circumstances, but it also influenced her first fiction novel, “Life in Spades.”

Frost, who graduated from the university in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in finance, says she always knew she would become a writer. Inspired by authors like Amy Tan and Toni Morrison, Frost says living in various places across the world has helped her incorporate different cities and settings into her writing.

Frost says she wanted to create a fun beach read that featured African American women in a positive friendship.

“The book is a girlfriend novel that features four friends who kind of bounce their lives off each other,” Frost says.

Frost created four fictional characters––a widowed baker who is starting a new relationship, a woman involved in an interracial relationship, a divorcee who is transitioning to the single life and the owner of a professional escort service, she says.

“It focuses on how friendship strengthens you and supports you, but also can be challenging,” she says.

Courtesy of Frances Frost

The game of Spades, which Frost first learned to play with her other residents in Dickinson Hall, is interwoven throughout the friendships in her novel. The game is generally played with four players with each player having a partner.

“It’s about partnership,” she says. “It’s about trusting your other partner and knowing what they’re going to do, but also every now and then, getting at your partner. Asking, ‘Why did you do that? Why did you do this?’ So I thought it would be a good analogy for their friendship.”

Frost says she incorporated Spades into her novel because it is an emotional game.

“It’s a game of trumps,” she says. “What you’re trying to do is win books, which means you played the highest card in a suit. If one player doesn’t have the leading card, they can play a Spade, and a Spade always wins. A Spade can only be beaten by a higher Spade.”

Frost began writing “Life in Spades” in November 2010 for National Novel Writing Month, in which participants write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.

“It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words within those 30 days,” she says. “I hashed out 50,000 words—that’s the basis. I start with an idea of who the people are and their general initial circumstance, and I try to just think, ‘What would happen to these people? What would be their reaction in this circumstance? What would happen next?’”

One of the most surprising things Frost has learned throughout the publishing process is the number of people who tell her that they, too, are interested in writing a novel.

“Writing seems to be a popular desire for a lot of people,” she says. “You know, we all have something we want to say. We all have a story to tell, whether it’s through our imagination or an experience in our life that we think is worthy to share.”

During her time at the university, Frost was the 1991 homecoming queen. She was also involved in the Black Student Union and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She continues to serve on one of the national committees for her sorority, in which she will celebrate 25 years of involvement this year.

Frost currently resides in Silver Spring, Md. with her husband and four kids. She writes for “Just Piddlin,” her blog about lifestyle and motherhood, and also ghostwrites for an unpublished business book.

When she’s not writing, Frost is attending PTA meetings, supporting her sorority, crocheting, knitting, quilting or reading.

As for future projects, Frost says she is working on her second book. The idea is completely different from her first, she says, and came to her before she finished writing “Life in Spades.”

Frost advises aspiring writers to write every day. Writing on a consistent basis helps her to stay in the mindset of her characters, making it easier for her to react and continue the dialogue of her characters more naturally.

Frost says she finds inspiration by going out and observing various settings and people.

“Carry a notebook, or your smartphone or iPad,” she says. “Be ready to write. Be ready to be inspired. You just never know what is going to inspire you—just be ready!”

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