Author Interview: Mary Kay Andrews

What inspired you to write The WeekendersOver a bottle of good rosé wine last year, my editor came up with the title, and told me to figure out the story to go with it. I decided to write about a group, consisting of three couples, all of them at a crossroads in their lives, who own vacation homes on a remote barrier island.

Why did you set The Weekenders in Belle Isle, North Carolina? I wanted my characters to make a journey, physical as well as emotional, when they left their everyday jobs and lives, to take up what should be an idyllic summer escape. Of course, things don’t turn out as they anticipated.

Describe Riley Griggs, the heroine in The Weekenders. What makes her unique? Riley has been a good girl her whole life; good wife, mom, daughter, journalist. She’s only now discovering that maybe she needs to break out of that mold to become the woman she needs to be.

If The Weekenders became a movie, who would you want to star in it? Reese Witherspoon for Riley, Bradley Cooper for Nate. Sean Hayes would be great as Billy. I can see Lily Tomlin as Roo.

What’s your favorite weekend getaway? Ebbtide, our beach house on Tybee Island, outside of Savannah.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it? I don’t allow myself to believe in writer’s block. I believe in laziness, fear, and procrastination, all of which I plead guilty to. When I’m plagued with those emotions, I take a walk to clear my head, then grab a yellow legal pad and force myself to start jotting down ideas, any ideas.

What do you enjoy most about going on a book tour? Seeing different parts of the country, and meeting fans and booksellers. And room service!

What comment do you hear most often from your readers? My readers regard my protagonists as old friends—and they want me to bring them back in new books. They particularly love Weezie Foley, the heroine of my Savannah novels.

What do you do to celebrate when your books make it on The New York Times best seller’s list? I’m almost always alone, on the road, on a book tour when that happens, so I celebrate on the phone with my family and my publishing team, and drink a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. And I try always to remember to thank my fans—who make it all possible. When I get home, my husband and I usually celebrate with a nice dinner out. Then it’s back to work!

Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you share a bit about it? I’ve got a title and a setting and a premise for the next novel, but not much else. I can tell you that I’m bringing back a character from an earlier novel, Brooke, the runaway bride from Save the Date. I’m going to bring her down out of the tree house she was hiding in at the end of that book, and figure out what she’s been doing ever since.

Thank you, Mary Kay!

Mary Kay Andrews is The New York Times bestselling author of Beach TownSave the DateLadies’ Night, Christmas Bliss, Spring FeverSummer RentalThe Fixer Upper, Deep Dish, Blue Christmas, Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, and Savannah Blues. Her 24th novel, The Weekenders, is available now from St. Martin's Press. A former journalist for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Author Interview: Heather Grace Stewart

What is unique about main character Cat from your debut novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good?

Cat has a lot of qualities many people - not just women - can relate to. She’s had to deal with traumatic events, and bullying as a child and teen, and that’s affected her path in adulthood and some of the choices she’s made. What I love about her is that despite her struggles, she still has a great sense of humor, and she’s still willing to take chances.

In terms of personality, is the genie in Strangely, Incredibly Good more like the genie from Aladdin or the genie from I Dream of Jeannie?

Well, he’s yummier than either of those genies. I mean he has a Celtic tattoo, piercing green eyes and bulging calf muscles! But he’s probably more like the one in I Dream of Jeannie, despite that she’s female. He makes mistakes like her, however, he’s not ditsy!

In three sentences or less, tell readers why they should read Strangely, Incredibly Good?

It’s a great escape. It’s based in reality, complete with pop culture references, but explores fantasy and even time-travel. It’s been called a page-turner by early reviewers, who say they cried and laughed out loud.

Who are your favorite authors?

Michael Ende (The Neverending Story), Sue Monk Kidd, Helen Fielding, Nicholas Sparks, Jennifer Weiner, Sophie Kinsella, Elisa Lorello, and the poets Sara Teasdale, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost.

Are you an early bird or a night owl when you’re writing?

Absolutely the early bird. I’ve never written a poem, an essay, or a book past, oh, 8 p.m.  I don’t like to write when I’m tired. I have written ‘useable stuff’ as early as 4 a.m. - I love when it’s absolutely quiet like that - but lately it’s been a 7:30 a.m start for me, right after I kiss our daughter goodbye and send her off on the school bus.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?

I want to see Venice. I can’t believe I haven’t seen Italy yet, because I fall in love with it every time it’s featured in a movie. I am sure I’ll take a romantic Gondola ride with hubby and we’ll have an argument and I’ll fall out of the boat, or he’ll fall out, or both of us will fall out - it is never quite like the movies - but I still want to go with him. Or, maybe I’ll have Gene take Cat…

Which punctuation mark best describes your personality? Why?

Ha! I’m pretty sure my friends and family would say I’m an exclamation mark, but I do have my semi colon moments. I’m zen when I’m having a bubble bath, or writing, or just relaxing on a beach - that’s when I can be the pause that is the semi colon. Never a full stop though, after 30 minutes of relaxing, I’ll be on a boogie board, body surfing with my little girl, no matter how cold the water is.

What's your favorite TV show of all time and why?

I loved it then, and I still love it 30 years later: Family Ties. Sure, the laugh track is outdated, the clothes are outdated, but the show revolves around a nuclear family and their ups and downs, and those family issues rarely change with the times. I first watched it because I had a crush on Michael J. Fox, but then I fell in love with the story lines, writing, and the other actors. Michael Gross was fantastic as the often frustrated but always loving Dad. I think I learned a lot about how to build characters by watching that show.

What's your motto in life? 

I say ‘Never say never,’ a lot of the time. I also say ‘Life is short, seize the day,’ my modern variation on Carpe Diem. Then I vary it a lot. I’ll say to a girlfriend, “Life is short, buy the shoes.” :)

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is actually a poem my Mum introduced to me. It’s by Emily Dickinson, called Life. "If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin, Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain."

Tell us about signing with the publisher of Strangely, Incredibly Good, Morning Rain Publishing, and what it’s been like working on your novel with them.

Morning Rain Publishing is a small and new Canadian publisher with a growing and impressive list of publications. They sent me notice that they wanted to publish my novel on December 23rd, 2013: what a fantastic early Christmas present! The women behind this publishing house are talented, funny, smart, and professional. I love working with them.

What are you working on now?

I’ll be reading & signing books at various bookstores and festivals in the coming months, so that will keep me busy, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with our nine-year-old daughter this summer (school is out in less than two weeks!). I’m working on another novel, but I’m only in the beginning stages, which means I have sticky notes all over our house and piles of half-folded laundry on the floor. Please don’t just drop-in for a visit. :)

Thanks, Heather!

Heather Grace Stewart is a Canadian magazine writer, author, and poet. Her first poem was published in her school newsletter when she was five, and she's been hooked on writing ever since. Heather's debut novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good, was released by Morning Rain Publishing on June 5, 2014. Heather's screenplay The Friends I’ve Never Met is her bestselling Kindle book to date, reaching #28 in Action & Adventure in Women's Fiction in November 2013. Her third poetry collection, Carry On Dancing (Winter Goose Publishing, March 2012) charted on print and Kindle bestseller lists in Poetry and Canadian Poetry in Canada, the US, and the UK. Heather is also the author of the Kindle bestselling poetry collections Leap and Where the Butterflies Go, two non-fiction books for youth, and a book of children's poetry,The Groovy Granny. Born in Ottawa, she lives with her husband and daughter near Montreal. In her free time, she loves to take photos, scrapbook, cartoon, inline skate, dance like nobody's watching, and eat Swedish Berries -- usually not at the same time. For more information, visit Heather’s blog and her official website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Author Interview: Phoebe Fox

Tell us about your debut novel, The Breakup Doctor.

A therapist who specializes in helping people get through difficult breakups finds herself engaging in every behavior she preaches against when her own relationship falls apart. It’s a fun, fast-paced read, but it’s also got some deeper elements in it about the meaning of friendship; and seeing your parents as people, not just parents; and learning to forgive yourself when you don’t live up to your own expectations.

What was your inspiration for writing this novel?

Twofold, actually. And related. The main inspiration was brought on by a book that changed my life—literally: He’s Just Not That Into You. I’d been single and dating a long time, and that book was like a plank-in-the-face realization of what a relationship could and should look like. It’s startling now to realize how much of a revelation that was to me, but it was (thank you, Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt!). Well, like Waldo, once you see something, you can’t unsee it: I knew I couldn’t have a relationship again that was less than I wanted. And I didn’t get into one again until I met my now-husband. From the start, he made it very clear how he felt about me: we talked daily, for hours; we e-mailed back and forth, short and long, silly and serious. We “clicked” like crazy. It was awesome.

And then…came the Great Disappearance. After a month or so of all that contact, he told me he was going away for his birthday weekend to a yoga/wellness-type of resort. And I didn’t hear a word for days. And so in the great tradition of crazy relationship behavior, I immediately inferred that he was there with another woman, and all of the high-intensity courtship he’d been laying on me was an act. I was an idiot; I’d misread the signs again. My husband to this day shakes his head at this story—he was there alone, it turns out, but it was a yoga retreat, as he likes to remind me, and outside contact was discouraged.

Now, I’m a pretty strong-minded, independent woman, and yet here I was going a little crazy over something that, looking back, I see was laughably minor. And it gave me the germ of the idea behind this story—what happens when someone who thinks she’s got it together and has all the right answers finds herself acting just as irrationally as the people she is trying to help not be irrational? Bam. Breakup Doctor. It’s funny—I had been a little stuck in the manuscript until that happened, and the Great Disappearance really shaped this first novel, and subsequently the series. So I now have to thank my husband for it. 

Describe your novel’s heroine, Brook.

Brook prides herself on knowing what to do when things are tough—for herself, for her best friend, Sasha—for everyone. She’s not a know-it-all—she genuinely wants to help, and as a trained therapist she is able to use her experience and knowledge to ease people’s difficulties, which she thrives on. But though she is endlessly understanding and compassionate with others, she’s not so much so with herself. Like a lot of us, I think. I hear friends (or myself!) say things about themselves that they wouldn’t say to their worst enemy. And that’s where she gets stuck: She can’t accept that she’s engaging in behaviors she knows are unhealthy and unproductive, and so—like anything we deny—her destructive behavior gets stronger and stronger. Her journey is to allow herself to be human and fallible—just knowing all the right answers doesn’t guarantee that we never get it wrong. And she finds her way there with the help of some sources she never expected.

How many more books are planned for The Breakup Doctor series?

Two after this so far, but the more I enjoy spending time with Brook and company, the more open I am to doing more titles in the series, if I see that the characters have further journeys to take.

Tell us about your experience working with your publisher, Henery Press.

When Henery offered for the book, I did some digging to find out about them—they were newish at that time, and I was very particular about signing with a publisher. I located a blog post by another of their authors, Larissa Reinhart, who writes the very funny and charming Cherry Tucker mystery books, and she was kind enough to respond to my e-mail and answer all my questions, even asking around the other “Hen House” (as Henery is called) authors for more input. That was pretty much indicative of my experience so far with Henery—they are the most helpful, enthusiastic, dedicated publisher I could have asked for—a perfect fit for the series. Editor Kendel Flaum was and is so wonderfully enthusiastic about the book, and gave me spot-on feedback on the manuscript to help me hone it; marketing director Art Molinares is always, but always available to me for my often-ignorant newbie questions; and everyone right down to the interns (I’m looking at YOU, Chloe Harper!) bends over backward to offer whatever help and resources a writer needs. To my knowledge, this level of involvement and accessibility is unheard of in the publishing world—even my agent was stunned when we all approved a cover and were ready to go to print, and Kendel at Henery emailed me to say she had been thinking about it, and it just didn’t do the book justice, and she was going back to the drawing board to design a new cover (which turned out to be so unbelievably good, I think it’s the book’s best marketing tool). That should give you an idea what it’s like to be a Hen House author. It’s like partnering with a team of people who believe in your book as much as you do, and will offer all their resources to help it succeed.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know if I always wanted to so much as I just always was. A while ago, my mom gave me a box of things from my childhood, and I found this carefully bound (with a three-hole punch and string) construction-paper book I made about myself and my life—a very early autobiography I created at age six or so. It was a rather short tome at that time, of course…

What do you love about chick lit?

One thing I think is marvelous about “chick lit” is that it encompasses such a wide range of “feel” in books within the genre, from Bridget Jones to The Devil Wears Prada to something like In Her Shoes, and yet most of them offer some insight into women and our relationships that I think is really valuable. It’s like the sugar that makes the pill palatable: we learn something about ourselves, I think, but usually while having a wonderfully good time.

How do you respond to the chick lit haters?

I don’t know that there’s anything to respond to, necessarily. We all have our taste—positive and negative. I know that some people don’t care for the genre for its overfamiliar tropes—sassy heroine, shopping, love of shoes (but come on…shoes…!)—but you could say that about any genre, really. It’s just what you like.

Who are your favorite authors?

The ones I reach for over and over again are Lolly Winston, Hester Browne, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, Helen Fielding, Sarah Bird, Sherry Thomas, Marisa de los Santos. I know I’m forgetting a lot of favorites. Outside of women’s fiction and chick lit, it’s a bit more eclectic: John Steinbeck, the Brothers Grimm, master biographer A. Scott Berg, Nick Hornby, Wally Lamb, Malcolm Gladwell, Theodore Rubin, Christopher Moore. I read a lot. Like, a lot a lot.

What was the last book you read that you loved?

How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo. I reread it recently—Tuccillo is also the coauthor of He’s Just Not That into You, which heavily influencedThe Breakup Doctor (and my life), as I mentioned earlier. I was single for a lot of years, and those experiences—the unique highs and lows of the dating world—are still so close to home to me, so close to my heart, and she writes about them with such compassion and humor. I might love Liz Tuccillo and want her to be my BFF.

What are you working on now?

The next Breakup Doctor title in the series, Bedside Manners, is due to my publisher, oh, any day now. Once that’s turned in, I am putting a final polish on another manuscript my agent is interested in shopping around. This one is a bit different in feel from the Breakup Doctor series: a women’s fiction novel about a woman who leaves her seemingly happy marriage and recreates herself in a sleepy little Florida town. It’s about loss and guilt, and how we forgive the ones we love when they let us down—which hurts so much more because we love them—and how we forgive ourselves. (That last one seems to be a recurring theme for me!) It’s been titled Falling Together for the longest time, until Marisa de los Santos preempted my title with her last book! I forgive her, though, because I love her writing.

Thanks, Phoebe!

Phoebe Fox has been a contributor and regular columnist for a number of national, regional, and local publications; a movie, theater, and book reviewer; a screenwriter; an actress; and a game show host; and has even been known to help with homework revisions for nieces and nephews. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two excellent dogs. For more information, please visit www.phoebefoxauthor.com.

Author Interview: Ruth Saberton

 

What is unique about Escape for the Summer?

For me the uniqueness comes from the diverse nature of the girls.  They have nothing much in common except the fact that life has swept them together.  As the novel progresses, their friendship grows, and as readers, I hope that we see a journey for them all.  The beautiful Cornish coastline and landscape is the setting for the novel and also uniquely gorgeous. I really hope that it makes the novel stand out.

Imagine that you’re on a plane to Hawaii. What would you say to the other passengers to convince them to buy Escape for the Summer and read it on the beach?

I was once lucky enough to spend an entire summer in Honolulu, and I spent a great deal of time laying on the beach reading.  My book, Escape for the Summer, is brimming full of sunshine and has a real holiday vibe – perfect for your dream getaway! Take it from me, what you really need for Waikiki is a big fat book  you can lose yourself in so that you don’t have to worry about anything else except for soaking up the rays (and eyeing up all the gorgeous surfers). Escape for the Summer has more twists and turns than the Grand Prix and characters that you can really root for, too. Just add a cocktail and a dollop of Hawaiian Tropic sun tan oil and you’re away!

Do you have a favorite book that you have written? If so, which one and why?

That’s a hard question!  It’s a bit like asking a parent which child they love the most!  I am fond of all my books and for different reasons.  They were all written at different stages in my life and reflect emotions and situations I was in at the time. Katy Cater Wants a Hero was my breakthrough book and my first with Orion, while Amber Scott is Starting Over was written during my divorce – although totally a work of fiction(!). I think Escape for the Summer is my favourite in terms of allowing me to play with multiple narratives and plot lines, which have taught me so much about the writer’s craft.  I know this is an answer worthy of a politician, but I love them all.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jilly Cooper, Sophie Kinsella, Chaucer, Miranda Dickinson, Fiona Walker, Dan Brown, Shakespeare – I have varied tastes!

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?

I am desperate to visit Egypt and see the pyramids for myself.  It is something that I have always longed to do.  My psychic granny claimed to have an Egyptian spirit guide so maybe he is with me now?  The heroine of my next book is an Egyptologist, and I am really enjoying doing all the research for writing about her. I spent hours in the British Museum looking at the mummies.

Which five words describe you best?

Easily distracted, sensitive, ambitious, emotional, and imaginative. (Is 6 cheating?)

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Linking back to an earlier question – it has to be Hawaiian! And the more ham and pineapple the better!

If you could take five things to a deserted island, what would you take?

Hmm…my boyfriend because I love being with him, a stack of paper to write on, a pen that has an endless supply of ink, sun cream because I am a red head, and my asthma inhaler. 

What is your most memorable vacation and why?

A few years ago, my ex and I went to Mexico, and it truly was the holiday from hell.  I learned that you can be in paradise, but if it’s with the wrong person, then it is worse than the deepest pit of Hades.  We got snowed in at Gatwick before we left, I had a terrible asthma attack, and he was a million times meaner to me than Tom in Escape for the Summer ever is to Andi. I filed for divorce almost as soon as the plane’s wheels touched down back in the UK.  That is one horrible holiday I will never forget and for all the wrong reasons, but it’s all fantastic novel fodder!

What's the funniest movie you've ever seen?

As a teenager I watched Young Einstein over and over again. My friend Pete and I thought it was the most hilarious thing ever.  I’m not sure how well that movie would age.  I do love Austin Powers, too.  The last film I watched which had me snorting with mirth was The Hangover 2.  My boyfriend laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe.

What is your favorite quote?

I do love Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, and my upcoming Kindle Single is based on the play.  Writing a story based on a Shakespeare play was an exercise that I gave my A Level students, and I had to try it, too.  When Beatrice says, “I would rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear that he loves me,” I always smile, especially as I know she doesn’t mean it!

What are you working on now?

At the moment, I have several projects on the go.  I am finishing Dead Romantic, which is due to be released in the autumn, I’m writing my Kindle Single Much Ado About Weddings, and planning my Christmas novella, which will feature Andi, Gemma, and Angel. In the meantime, I still teach full time in a school in the Caribbean, so I also have lots of end of year reports to write!

Thanks, Ruth!

Ruth Saberton always knew she wanted to be a writer. From an early age she was busy filling note books with stories, and rather than hero worshipping Wham and Duran Duran (which ages her!), Ruth's heroes were Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins. Several attempts at bodice rippers later, Ruth turned her attention to romance and now focuses on writing romantic comedies. Her debut novel, Katy Carter Wants a Hero, was championed by Richard and Judy and nominated for the RNA's Romantic Comedy of the Year Award, as well as being described by Heat Magazine as, “the heir apparent to Bridget Jones.” Ruth writes under her own name, but also has several pen names which include Jessica Fox, Georgie Carter, Holly Cavendish, and Lucy Hepburn. Ruth is published by Orion, Pan Macmillan, Harper Collins and Notting Hill Press. Although she loves the UK, Ruth now lives in the Caribbean where she continues to write. Ruth loves to talk to her readers. Interact with her on her website www.ruthsaberton.co.uk, on Twitter @ruthsaberton, or via Facebook.

Author Interview: Whitney Dineen

What was your inspiration for writing She Sins at Midnight?

I hate to say it, but there was no real inspiration for She Sins. When I write, I just sit down at the computer and wait to see what wants to be written. A lot of the book comes from my own life, like the town of Bentley is very much like the town I lived in during high school, but Lila et al are a story of their own making, and I love them!

Describe your novel’s heroine, Lila.

Lila Montgomery is loyal, insecure, gorgeous and quirky. She is the best friend we all long to have.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? When and why did you decide to write a book?

I never really dreamed of being an author. Empress of the free-world? Yes, because I thought I might actually be able to do that.  Writing always intimidated me until one day I just started doing it. I am now totally convinced there is no better job in the world.  

Who are your favorite authors?

My favorite authors… SO many. My tops would include Jen Lancaster, who aside from being my same age and from the same part of the country has a smart-ass sense of humor very like my own. I love Marian Keyes for again, a fabulous sense of humor and sense of character. I’m also a huge fan of Jennifer Weiner, Allison Winn Scotch, and Emily Giffin. I would also like to invite David Sedaris to be my gay husband. I adore him!

What was the last book you read that you loved?

The last book that I read that I liked would be an easier question to answer. But loved? I’m going to have to go with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Her imagination is simply beyond what a mere mortal has. Her grasp of history and romance and character…unbelievable! Thrilled that the series is being turned into a television show.

If you could be a character in any novel you've ever read, who would you be and why?

If I could be any literary character, I would pick Jane Eyre. Jane is the classic strong heroine that doesn’t let diversity smother her. It makes her stronger and more interesting. Plus, I’m a big sucker for gothic romance.

If you could have lunch with a fictional character, who would you choose and what would you talk about?

I know I should wrack my brain and come up with some highbrow fictional character to dine with, but  the truth is that I’d love to break bread with Madeline in her house in Paris all covered in vines. I see Brioche, some good cheese, a great bottle of wine (that I don’t have to share because she’s underage) and something smothered in chocolate for dessert. Also, we would talk in the manner in which the books are written. “Then dined on wine and cheese and bread, stuffing themselves ‘til they went to bed.”

What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

Before I had children (now 3 and 5) and actually had spare time, I loved to read anything I could get my hands on, knit, embroider, throw dinner parties and plot to take over the world. However, now that I have no spare time to speak of, I still love to read and wait for it… watch The Real Housewives of New York. Those broads are just so trashy it boggles the mind.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is from Voltaire. “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” My life has been an adventure in Faith. My youngest daughter is named Faith.

Do you stick to a writing schedule or write only when you’re inspired?

I only write when I am inspired. I seem to be full of inspiration at 4 in the a.m. I would change that if I could.

What are you working on now?

I am finishing up editing my second chick lit novel, The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan. Lila and I needed someone to lunch with, so I created Mimi. What a trip she is!

Thanks, Whitney!

While attending the University of Illinois in Chicago, Whitney Dineen was discovered by a local modeling agent and began an unexpected career as a plus-size Ford model. She modeled in New York City before moving to Los Angeles with her husband. When she wasn’t modeling, she was in the kitchen, baking delights to share with friends. Soon, her friends began asking her to send baskets of her wonderful candies and cookies to business associates, agents and production studios. Word spread like wildfire, and the rest, as they say, is history. Whitney’s sensational creations are still in great demand by her loyal celebrity clientele (www.WhitneysGoodies.com). During “The Hollywood Years,” Whitney was bitten by the writing bug and started creating characters that are inspired by strong women with a great sense of humor. In addition to her love of chick lit, Whitney has also written a series of adventure books for girls. The first of which, Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory, will be out the summer of 2014. Whitney and her husband, Jimmy, have recently relocated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to raise their children, chickens, and organic vegetables. For more information, please visit www.whitneydineen.com.