Caroline Frost (‘99) releases debut novel, “Shadows of Pecan Hollow”


Caroline Frost

“Shadows of Pecan Hollow,” set in East Texas in the 1980s and 1990s, recounts the tale of Kit Walker, a teenage fugitive-turned single mother, and her quest to escape her former lover. 

After ten years of editing, writing and revising, Caroline Frost (’99) will be at Murder by the Book on Feb. 19 to read excerpts from and sign her debut novel, Shadows of Pecan Hollow.

The story, set in East Texas during the 1980s and 1990s, recounts the tale of Kit Walker, a teenage fugitive-turned single mother, and her quest to escape her former lover. 

“I had in mind an idea of a woman who didn’t follow all the rules of being a woman—she wasn’t polite, she wasn’t well behaved,” Frost said. “She was rough and foul-mouthed and sometimes mean and violent.”

Frost drew inspiration for the novel’s setting from growing up in and around Houston—and in particular spending time at her family’s ranch, Pecan Acres, in nearby Simonton.

“Setting is a really big part of my novel,” Frost said. “Anyone from Houston, who’s been outside the city, will recognize the sights and smells, so it’ll feel very atmospherically familiar.”

Math teacher Garvin Gaston (’99), who has known Frost since they started kindergarten together, is excited to look for Frost’s references to Houston life. 

“She was always an incredible storyteller,” Gaston said. “It’s just very cool to see somebody who you have known your entire life be successful. It makes me feel really proud of her.”

Frost came up with the idea for her book in January 2012. After initially writing it as a screenplay in about two weeks, she spent ten years transforming it into a novel. Along the way, she started her own family and raised three children while also seeing patients in her own psychotherapy practice, Lovewell Therapy. Last year, as her dream of publishing her novel started to become a reality, she made the decision to stop taking clients.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to the book full time until just recently,” Frost said. “I was just writing it page by page, word by word. It took me forever.”

Frost enjoyed every bit of the writing process, which served as a reprieve from her responsibility as a mother of three children.

“Writing is a time where nobody’s bothering me,” Frost said. “I like to go deep and be alone, which is something that I learned about myself. It’s rare that I don’t want to write because writing means I get to just be in a room and dream.”

Frost’s passion for writing originated as a staffer on The Review, where she wrote a feature article about baking sand tarts at the home of her tenth-grade British Literature teacher, Toni Attwell.

“It was the first time that I really thought of myself as a writer,” Frost said. “The act of writing helped me understand that experience in a deeper way than I would have if I hadn’t written it down.” 

Attwell, now retired, vividly remembers Frost as a mature and interested person, one who did not try to call attention to herself but was just “quietly confident and intuitive.”

“Caroline had it together. She had soul,” Attwell said. “It was kind of an intangible, indefinable thing—even as a teenager, she had a rich inner life.”

Frost hopes to evoke emotions from readers in the same way she did with that first Review article. She recounted an Instagram story posted about her work: “Good morning to everyone except Caroline Frost, writer, who made me cry before 6 am today.”

“The reason I write is to make you feel something, to make you go through the whole range of emotion,” Frost said. “And hopefully at the end of it, you had more fun than heartache. Hopefully, it wasn’t boring.”

It’s like a dream come true.

— Caroline Frost

As a therapist, Frost knew that she was helping others. With writing, that sense of accomplishment can be hard to achieve.

“Being a therapist was an easy, literal way of getting feedback about what I was contributing,” Frost said. “As a writer, I’m stuck in a room for years working on a project that hardly anyone sees. There are days when I’m not sure in what way this is going to be helpful. Every time I pick up a book, and it makes me feel something, I’m also reminded that it’s adding to the world.”

After publishing her first book, Frost is now able to sit alone in a room for hours, something she could not have done before. She also says that the feelings of uncertainty from quitting her job as a therapist have subsided.

“I feel reassured that what I’m doing is worthwhile and helpful,” Frost said. 

Frost has already begun planning out her second book. After promoting her novel around the country, she will visit Tennessee to prepare for world-building. Frost hopes to write it in a shorter period of time while still doing the story justice. 

Shadows of Pecan Hollow came from my experience, my world, and I could just kind of point to all of these memories that I had growing up in Houston and in the countryside,” Frost said. “This new world is not my own, but I hope that it will be as detailed and thoughtful and that the world is as rich as the first one.”

Even before publication, the book generated enthusiasm among readers and editorial reviews among Bookstagrammers and on sites like Goodreads. Shadows of Pecan Hollow was even listed by The Washington Post as one of February’s Noteworthy Books. 

“It’s like a dream come true,” Frost said. “I’m just happy to be here. I feel so lucky that they wanted to buy my book and turn it into something real people can hold. Everything on top of that is just like icing on the cake.”

Caroline Frost will be reading from her debut novel, “Shadows of Pecan Hollow,” at Murder by the Book (2342 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005) on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m.