Today's guest: Mary Simses Why we love her: This debut is sweet and charming!
Her debut: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe' (Out July 9th!)
The scoop: A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother's hometown.
Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish--to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough. THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE is a warm and delicious debut about the power of a simpler life.
Our thoughts: A delicious debut you'll devour! (Say that three times fast!)
Giveaway: TWO copies! Just leave a comment to be entered. We'll select the winners on Sunday, July 7th after 12pm PST.
Fun fact: You can read the first chapter of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe here!
CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS...2013 CLUB: MARY SIMSES' THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE
DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do
Start small. I think writing short stories is the best way to get started. Most novelists have done this, including me. Writing a good short story forces you to create and develop a character and take a plot from the beginning to the end in a few pages. It’s also a lot less daunting than writing an entire novel.
Find a fiction writing class and/or writer’s group in your area. What you can learn from others about voice, plot structure, character development, and general story-telling mechanics is invaluable. And other writers can provide so much inspiration. I got back into fiction writing, after a long hiatus, by taking an evening class at a university. That was what really got me going and was probably the most important thing I did.
Write things down – ideas for stories, bits of conversation you overhear, interesting situations you learn of, character names you come up with. Keep a little booklet where you can jot down notes and put it on your bedside table at night. It’s too easy to forget things if they’re not written down.
DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do
Don’t think the fact that you have a regular job means you can’t be a writer. And don’t use that as an excuse not to write. Write whenever you can – at night, on weekends, early in the morning, on busses, on airplanes, on jet skis (well, maybe not on jet skis . . .).
Don’t fall so in love with your words that you can’t be a ruthless editor. It’s important to be able to let go and cut excess verbiage, knowing it’s for the good of the story. Whether it’s legal writing or fiction writing, I’ve found that if I can put the work away for a little while, I can come back to it later with fresh eyes and the will to get rid of what’s not necessary.
Don’t keep your work in a drawer. If you want to get it published, you’ve got to get it out there, whether it’s a short story you’d like to place with a literary magazine or a novel you hope to have accepted by a major book publisher. Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market is a good source of information on fiction markets, agents, and contests. I found it very helpful when I was trying to get short stories published.
MUST HAVES: On your desk? On your Facebook feed? App on your phone?
My writing desk is very small because it’s just a laptop table for my tiny Sony laptop. Although I have a home office, I never write there – that’s where I pay bills and do other more mundane things. I prefer to write in the bedroom, in a nook that has two big windows and a lot of light. I typically have a cup of tea or a cold drink handy, and one of our cats is usually lying near my feet – or in my lap with his paws dangerously close to the keyboard, which sometimes makes for very interesting prose.
Facebook feed. I like to get information on what authors and musicians I admire are doing. Other than that, I’m just happy looking at the photos of graduations, birthday parties, vacations, and dogs-and-cats-doing-cute-things that come in.
Phone apps. Scrabble –I love to play the computer; Shazam – for those emergencies when I can’t identify a piece of music I like; and Pandora – for music in general. I also like to open my Little Piano every now and then and attempt to belt out a tune on its miniscule keys, although it’s tough without sharps and flats. (I used to play the real thing, full-sized and with all eighty-eight keys.)
LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Book you read? Time you laughed?
“It Could Happen to You,” performed by Diana Krall. I could put just about anything of hers on repeat – forever. Sultry voice, amazing pianist, and she does all of the old jazz standards I love.
Last Book I read: Hemingway’s Girl. A sweet novel, historical fiction.
Last time I laughed: In the car with my fifteen-year-old daughter and her friends. I began imitating the music they like (which I don’t like), they thought it was funny (you never know, with teenagers), and we all started cracking up.
HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?
Agents: I was very lucky, and mean very lucky here. The author, James Patterson, who is a friend of mine, read my manuscript. He liked it, gave me some wonderful suggestions, and then took the final manuscript to his publisher, Little, Brown, with the caveat that although there was, of course, no guarantee they would publish it, at least they would read it. They did end up deciding to publish it, which was wonderful news. Although I don’t currently have an agent, I may look for one for my next book.
Hours I write: My days aren’t consistent so it’s hard to say. I try to write every day, at least for a little while, but on some days I don’t write at all and on others I write for hours. When I’m not writing, I feel as though I should be writing – not because I feel guilty but because I enjoy doing it so much.
Hours wasted online: I don’t waste too much time on line. Once or twice a week I post things on my author Facebook page, including photographs I’ve taken. (Like my character, Ellen, I’m a inveterate shutterbug.) I keep up with email and I do sometimes surf the net but it’s usually for research on something I’m writing about. Usually.
BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Trick to overcome writer's block? Way to think of a book idea?
Celebrate a book deal: My husband and I celebrated my book deal by having dinner and a great bottle of wine at a restaurant we love. A good friend and author advised me to celebrate all of the little milestones along the way – from getting the book accepted to finishing the edits to receiving the galleys to returning the galleys to receiving the final copies. She said that because the process is so long, by the time the carton of books finally arrives at your front door it’s almost anti-climactic, and that celebrating along the way is really important. Did I do that? Well, a little bit. Probably not enough. It’s good advice though.
Trick to overcome writer’s block: Brainstorm with someone who can give you fresh ideas. Do something other than write – let your mind go on holiday for a while. That’s usually when I’m able to resolve a problem I’m having or when something that’s been muddled begins to gel.
Way to think of a book idea: Eavesdrop on peoples’ conversations, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, look through magazines. Write historical fiction about someone whose life you think was interesting. There are a zillion stories out there.
NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Book you'll read? Book you'll write?
The HBO show, “Family Tree,” which I think is hysterical. I’m a big fan of Christopher Guest. I love his humor. And I’ve been working with a genealogist on a family tree project myself so I can relate to it. I’ll also DVR Downton Abbey when it comes back on just because it’s such great eye candy.
Book I’ll read – Atonement by Ian McEwan. Although I’ve read a few of his other books I’ve not yet read that one. I’d also like to reread The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies, one of my favorite authors.
Book I’ll write – I’m working on a book about a woman who goes to visit her parents at their family home on the Connecticut coast and must come to terms with some unfinished business in her past.