In The News


Victoria Benton Frank discusses her debut novel

Charleston City Paper, May 2023


Momma Knows Best – The New Daily 2023

Guest post written by author Victoria Benton Frank
Victoria Benton Frank was born in New York City, raised in Montclair, New Jersey, but considers herself to have dual residency in the Lowcountry. She is a graduate of the College of Charleston and the French Culinary Institute. Victoria worked in restaurants in New York before returning to Charleston, South Carolina, which she considers home, with her husband, two kids, and a giant mutt. When she isn’t writing, she is reading, cooking, or chasing her children. My Magnolia Summer is out June 6th.

To the whole world, she was “New York Times Best Selling Author Dorothea Benton Frank,” but to me she was Momma. Momma taught me everything about life and storytelling, and as it turns out, they aren’t much different. She taught me to always tell the truth, especially with myself, and she would always tell me to write honestly too. She told me to always “write what I know,” which taught me to be authentic both on and off the page. And finally, to “follow an outline, but not too closely, leave room for some surprises, and that’s exactly how I live each day. I have a plan, but the best plans are always the ones who don’t follow the rules.

Speaking of rules, we didn’t have many growing up, my family never gave me a curfew, but they installed in me a deep respect for tradition. Holidays we learned how to cook family recipes, like Great Uncle Schroeder’s Fudge on Christmas, and we all attempted to top cousin Judy’s Famous Potato Salad, every fourth of July. On thanksgiving, my mother would always make some sort of squash, to which my father would say was his favorite part of the meal, and my mother would smile and say, “But darling, you hate squash”, and she would bask in her annual triumph.

Raising me with a healthy appetite for drama, and an appreciation for clever humor, she poured every ounce of creativity she had into me, knowing all along that I would take a seat among our family’s long history of storytellers. I wasn’t always so sure, but as every good southern daughter knows, “momma is always right.”

When someone passed, or if someone was terribly ill, she would be on the front lines for her family or friends. I remember a thanksgiving that she cooked an entire extra dinner for a friend of hers who had the flu. She would pull out our old scratched up 9X12 Pyrex and fill it with something delicious—usually her to-die-for baked ziti—and she would drop it off with a loaf of garlic bread and a bag of green salad. Often, she would show up to a friend’s house, dragging me along, and she’d pull out a garbage bag, talking to the grieving family, and tossing out any take-out containers, old sodas, and changing out their garbage. She would direct me to their sink and taught me how to do dishes. She would remind me that women were the ones who held families together, and the best thing to do for a loved one who is going through something was to be helpful. There is always garbage to be taken out, and dirty dishes to clean. To this day, if someone is coming over last minute, or if I’m in a mood, it’s the ziti I whip up, and it’s those traditions that helped shape the characters in my book.

I started my novel, My Magnolia Summer, before she passed away, and luckily for me, she had the chance to read some of my first pages. She was very careful to not raise me as a little version of herself, always encouraging me to be my own person, and the same was true with my writing style. She was cautious about editing anything beyond grammatically, because she wanted me to find my own voice on the page. We would talk about our work together, and she would always ask me, “well, what happens next?”

Of course, I wish she could see my printed novel. I’d love to watch her give my book a hug and a kiss for good luck, something we did together when her books would arrive. My publication date, June 6th, would have been treated as a national holiday in my family if she was still here. I feel as though there was a passing of the torch the moment she left. Now I am attempting to keep her light alive through my own stories. It isn’t just about writing a book, it’s about following in your families’ footsteps, carrying on tradition and legacy in your own words.

Since she passed, I learned very quickly what she did for our family, how she created holidays, birthdays, memories, and what that involved. That responsibility is now mine. I am the home where the holidays happen, I am now in charge of the magic. She is with me every day pushing me to be a stronger woman, a better writer, a more devoted mother. She wanted what all mothers want–to make your daughters the best versions of the most important lessons you have already paid for.

I have this giant opportunity and honor in front of me to teach my own daughter what my mother taught me. To chase your dreams, no matter how big, because it might just turn out exactly how you imagined. With a ton of hard work, some great friends, and a little luck, it is possible to achieve them. My Mom used to say that the problem with most people is that they didn’t dream big enough, so I am going to dream big, really big, and see what happens.