Digital First Media

Author honors grandmother’s legacy through fiction

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

WadeRouse_ViolaShipman_AuthorPhotoPhotoby KimSchneider
Wade Rouse, aka Viola Shipman, set his latest novel, “The Summer Cottage,” in Saugatuck, where he lives. (Kim Schneider/courtesy Harper Collins)

Wade Rouse had a passion for telling stories from a young age.

“My mom and grandparents said I was writing since I was a kid,” Rouse says. “My grandmothers read to me a lot as a child. I loved going to the library and the librarians were my best friends. They always encouraged me to read.

Rouse was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks, where his family continually encouraged him to write. He continued to do so throughout college, earning his bachelor of arts from Drury University and his masters in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck and Palm Springs, Calif., and also is an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students who have gone on to become published authors.

Rouse made the switch from journalism to creative writing with his debut book, “America’s Boy,” which took him five years to write. The memoir chronicled his memories growing up in the Ozarks and learning to live — and love — in his own skin. After writing a few nonfiction pieces, he made the switch to more heartfelt, sentimental novels under the pen name Viola Shipman.

When he was in his 40s, both his of parents died just a few years shy of each other.

“I was handling going through the family belongings and found heirlooms which for many families, back in the past, summarized their hopes and dreams because they had less money,” says Rouse.

Using the pen name, Viola Shipman, Rouse was able to honor the grandmother who supported him as a child, and create stories that shared family memories. His novels include “The Charm Bracelet,” a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; “The Hope Chest”; and “The Recipe Box.”

His newest novel, “The Summer Cottage,” on sale April 23, is inspired by summers spent at his grandparents’ log cabin in the Ozarks, which he says was a magical time for him.

Taking place in Saugatuck, the author’s own hometown, the novel follows the story of Adie Lou Kruger, who has inherited a cottage on Lake Michigan. Despite the fact she’s facing a broken marriage and empty nest — middle age looming — memories of happy childhoods on the beach give her reason for hope. She decides to bring the cottage back to life as a bed and breakfast and finds support in unexpected places and a new love on the horizon.

“It’s about the importance of home, family, happiness and following your dreams,” Rouse says. “Today people aren’t following their own path in society and I believe that once you are aware of who you are you feel fulfilled in life.”

final cover_THE SUMMER COTTAGE_Viola Shipman
Wade Rouse, aka Viola Shipman, will visit the Bloomfield Township library to discuss his latest novel, “The Summer Cottage,” set in Saugatuck. (Harper Collins)

What he enjoyed the most about writing “The Summer Cottage” is that it’s contemporary and relevant while sticking with themes he’s written previously.

He believes the best writers are the best readers. One of his favorite writers is Erma Bombeck, who wrote simple and humorous stories about everyday life and family. She taught him that writing about what’s around you connects a writer with the reader.

The most difficult aspect of writing is just starting a novel and coming up with “the big idea,” he says.

“Writing takes hard work and inspiration,” Rouse says. “You have to create characters that you want to live in the world of, but also create a story that means something to you and the reader.”

• Rouse will discuss “The Summer Cottage” at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Bloomfield Township Library, 1099 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Township. He’ll read from his book and answer reader questions. For more information, visit

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