Mary Kay Andrews Q & A and Giveaway!

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I love reading more than most other things in life. I read just about everything too, from the most dense non-fiction to the flightiest of chick-lit novels. Lately, with all the academic reading I am doing in grad school, I find I need a little “literary sorbet” during my school-free time. By literary sorbet, I mean books light enough that I don’t have to look up every other word, but with enough character and story development that I get sucked in and can’t figure out the ending by page three. (Please, I can’t stand bad writing, no matter how popular the trilogy may be!)

This is not an easy task, writing well enough to be interesting yet not taxing for my brain,  but Mary Kay Andrews has done it. I just finished reading Ladies’ Night which is about a Lifestyle Blogger who as a condition of her messy divorce has to attend a counseling support group. Talk about the perfect book! A blogger who goes to counseling? It’s as if she wrote it just for me. Anyway, spot-on main character aside, I loved the book from start to finish. Great characters, a fantastic story and just enough plot twists to keep me coming back for more.

Mary Kay Andrews has a brand new book out called Save the Date about a wedding florist in Savannah that looks to be just as delicious as Girls’ Night Out. I got the chance to ask a few questions about both books. Check out what Ms. Andrews has to say herself down below. I’m partial to answer #2.:)  If you want to win free copies of both Ladies’ Night and the brand new Save the Date, add your email to Reinvention Girl’s email list on the top right of this page. If you already get the RG Weekly, then leave a comment below. Winners will be announced next week. 

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Q&A with bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews

Author of 23 novels including Ladies’ Night and Save the Date

 

Q: The protagonist of your novel Ladies’ Night (recently released in paperback)is a lifestyle blogger. How did you come to create such a character? Is she based on anybody in particular?

A: In Ladies’ Night, Grace Stanton writes a lifestyle blog called TrueGrace. She’s a former interior designer who starts blogging as a creative outlet after her business tanks during the recession. Her character isn’t based on any actual bloggers. I certainly don’t claim to be a lifestyle blogger, but on my own blog at MaryKayAndrews.com, I find that my most popular posts are the ones dealing with my junking finds, recipes for entertaining, and my always-in-process home decoration and renovation projects. These are my own long-time passions, so it was inevitable that I would eventually dream up a character like Grace.

Q: Your novels frequently have a theme involving design, decorating or renovation. Hissy Fit featured an interior designer, The Fixer-Upper was about a woman trying to restore an antebellum mansion in a small Southern town, and Save the Date features a florist and event planner. What speaks to you about this theme?

A: The theme of most of my novels is reinvention. I start with a protagonist whose life is in turmoil, than I search for a way she can turn travails into triumph. To me, rehabbing a house is a symbol for rebirth, of hope for the future. Maybe you can’t cure a broken heart with a power sprayer, but you can certainly concentrate on the small details that make life sweeter and more bearable. I love that quote from the society decorator Elsie deWolfe, who said “I believe in optimism and plenty of white paint.”

Q:  What kind of research did you do into the world of blogging for Ladies’ Night? Any favorite blogs you trolled for research?

A:  For the technical stuff—like how a blog could be hacked, I talked to my own website folks. As for favorite blogs—there are too many to mention, but here are some of the ones I never miss. For junking/antiquing, Vintage Rescue Squad, Fresh Vintage, Flea Market Style, Old Thyme Marketplace, My Vintage Soul, Vintage Junk in My Trunk and Oodles and Oodles. Design blogs I read include Cote de Texas, Lime in the Coconut, The Polished Pebble, Adventures of Tartanscot, Design Indulgence, Velvet and Linen and Little Green Notebook. These DIY crafters, thrifters and all-things-home-centric keep me in awe; The Lettered Cottage, Miss Mustard Seed, Young House Love, Pretty Handy Girl, Southern Hospitality, Bower Power. And there are many more. You know how it is, you’re cruisin’ somebody’s blogroll . . . the next thing you know it’s two in the morning and you have saliva all over your nighty.

Q: There are so many different types of weddings described in Save the Date from high society chic, to art student funky, to country barn rustic. How did you come up with the ideas for all these affairs?

In a word—Pinterest! I also liberally borrowed wedding theme ideas from magazines and my friend Liz’s book about vintage-inspired weddings.

Q: Save the Date is set in Savannah, as are several of your previous novels. What speaks to you about this location?

Savannah’s historic district is lined with beautiful 19th century homes, ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. I love the sense of history that meets you at every turn, and the fact that it’s really such a small town.

 

Q: Anything you can tell us about your next novel?

A: I have a title, which my editor and agent and I all love, a protagonist, and just the barest sketch of a plot. If all goes as planned it will be published June 2015.

Just Keep Swimming?

oppositeofmaybeThe Husband described me once as a shark. He meant it as a compliment. According to him (which might mean it’s totally untrue) sharks have to keep moving forward in order to breathe. Like I said, it might be a totally made up fact about sharks, but it makes for a good metaphor and there is nothing The Husband likes more than a good metaphor.

I was pretty proud of that description when The Husband first gave it to me. I have always fancied myself someone who can move on from things like pain and disappointment without allowing them to hinder any growth. For me, life is all about growing and anything that might get in the way of that needs to be faced head on so that it can be dealt with and put away. I make decisions after thorough, but quick research and I don’t look back. I don’t hold grudges. I don’t spend time with regret. I analyze. I learn. I move on. Like a shark, I keep moving forward for fear of losing my breath.

I’ve been pondering lately if I still want to be a shark. I mean, I do appreciate my resiliency and ability to make a life wherever I land after a fall. But lately, I’ve been wondering if I wouldn’t benefit from treading water for a bit; slowing down to notice where I am, feeling things for a little longer and then looking to see whether the direction I’ve chosen as forward is really the correct one. I see no need to go back and dredge up, but there may be something to staying still, or at least swimming in circles long enough to think about a new route.

This all sounds very vague, as if it is hinting toward there being some giant problem to solve. That is not the case. Everything  here is pretty solid right now actually. I just stop sometimes and question where I am going and now, while I have no desire to swim backward, I think there may be some benefit to staying still.

I wonder what The Husband knows about sharks breathing when still. Let’s hope his big book of metaphors says what I need.
This post was inspired by the novel  The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home, but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Teaching Empathy?

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It’s not a punctuation error, putting a question mark in that title. It really is a question I have. Can you teach empathy? I’ve done a fair amount of reading lately about empathy, as it is a pretty central concept for successful counseling relationships and every text-book I read treats empathic tendencies as if they’re something we bring the table as part of who we are. As if being empathic is ingrained. So, my question is, are you born this way or can you learn?

I am old enough now to embrace parts of me that I think are good and admit them without worry of judgement for being pompous or haughty. (It took close to forty years, but I have finally realized liking yourself is not a crime against others.) One thing I am proud of is my empathic nature. I want to be clear that when I use this word I don’t mean sympathy. My tendency is not a simple, “aw too bad” one. What I do, and always have done is readily put myself in someone else’s shoes. Ask The Husband, I believe he’d tell you it is the thing he loves and hates about me most. Not only does this make arguments difficult as I try to see ALL sides but  through our life together I have turned him into an over-tipper with the detailed stories about the server’s life that I spin while he calculates his 15, no 20, no 25% tip.Continue Reading

The Shift for Weight Loss

The-Shift_NY-Bestseller.jpeg-e1379967152235It is very rare that I do straight-up book reviews around here. Yes, I read like a maniac and I write posts inspired by some of the books I have read but rarely do I just come to this ole’ blog and flat out gush about something I’ve read.

Today, I’m going to do just that. A little while ago, I read something called Spark & Hustle, which was a book for business women and men that spoke right to me. I really loved not only the writer’s message about what it takes to be successful, but I appreciated her style, which was both no nonsense and soft at the same time. I wasn’t sure how she managed to pull that off, but I was hooked on Tory Johnson from that moment forward as someone I could look up to as a powerful, realistic working woman.

Imagine my surprise when I was pitched a weight-loss book to review and the author was none other than Tory herself. Huh? Tory Johnson isn’t a weight loss person, she’s a money and business person. Besides, did she even need to lose weight?

Now, you may know Tory from her segments on Good Morning America. Admittedly, I’m a viewer of the “other morning show” <ahem> so I don’t see much of Tory except on book covers and websites. The point is I didn’t see her much, so I never thought of her as someone who would need to lose weight which explains why I was surprised  at first. Then, after internet stalking her to find more images, the startling truth occurred to me-she looked like I do. She dressed in slimming colors, and she stands tall so she could hide a lot. Also, she was a confident, successful woman in the public eye so who would have thought she could struggle with anything, much less food and her weight? It’s easy to hide extra pounds behind a confident walk and some black clothes. At least I used to think so.

The book The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life is about the day when Tory, through some attention from a television boss, had to really look at herself because she couldn’t hide behind slimming colors anymore. The book takes you on her yearlong journey to lose weight but it is so much more than a weight-loss book. There are no tricks or schemes. There is just a lot of truth-telling, inspiration and motivation to get right with your health through fixing your food.

For me it came at the perfect time. After my own successful weight loss journey culminated with me beginning to coach other people on their own weight loss, I noticed my own scale start creeping back up again until my weight became dangerously high. I went through what amounts to stages of grief over the loss of my loss. I was angry that I couldn’t be “normal” and eat what I want. I was sad that clearly I wasn’t good enough to be thin because I knew just what to do and yet I was fat anyway. I was embarrassed to see my clients, guilty that I couldn’t even follow my own advice and finally, beaten down so much that I started to think that maybe I had to learn to accept myself at this weight as if it was the natural order of things.

Tory’s book reminded me of all the things I knew and told clients but often forgot for myself. Things like weight loss isn’t a quick project, it requires life-long changes in behavior. Also, I didn’t get overweight by eating “normal”. Normal (healthy-weight) people don’t eat whatever they want, whenever they want it no matter how tired, or busy, or happy or sad they may be. To eat anything at anytime isn’t normal. It’s disordered. And finally, The Shift reminded me there is nothing to be gained (no pun intended) from taking time to beat myself up over getting here. It is never too late to change and time is better spent moving forward than looking back.

I know all this stuff. Hell, people paid me really well to help them remember all this stuff. But sometimes, the coach needs a coach and Tory and her book acted as just that for me. The Shift is just what I needed to get back into being the person I used to love to be-happy, successful, confident and thin.

I was given a copy of The Shift for review. All opinions are my own.