One of the most popular past times for people is reading. With everything going on in the world related to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a surge in authors who have adapted to sheltering in place; finding creative new ways to connect with their readers. Author Mary Kay Andrews is one of Savannah’s beloved authors, and she is partnering with E. Shaver Booksellers to host an online book launch party on Facebook for her new novel, “Hello, Summer,” with proceeds benefiting the Susan G. Komen For the Cure charity.
Do: Please talk about your newest book.
Andrews: "Hello, Summer“ is set in the small Florida Panhandle beach town of Silver Bay, where Conley Hawkins, formerly a big-city investigative reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reluctantly returned to her hometown to work for her family's struggling weekly newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon. She's given the task of ghost-writing ”Hello, Summer,“ the paper's gossip column, but even that plan is upended late one night on a remote country road when she and an old friend come across a fatal one-car accident. The victim is the area's long-time congressman, and when Conley starts digging into his past and asking questions, life in Silver Bay, where nothing ever happens, suddenly puts Conley and the paper, in a national spotlight.
Do: Please talk about your upcoming online book release event.
Andrews: For the past six or seven years, we've done a big Savannah launch party for my books. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the party is going virtual this year, with a Facebook Live event on my Mary Kay Andrews author page with our book-selling partner, E.Shaver's. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Susan G. Komen For the Cure charity. The event is Sunday, May 3, at 1 p.m.
Do: As an author, what continues to inspire your writing?
Andrews: I love telling stories and tend to find them everywhere I look. Dysfunctional families, betrayal, revenge, small-town secrets, these are all fodder for my imagination. For “Hello, Summer,” I was inspired by my early days working as a newspaper reporter, including at the Savannah Morning News. The plot of the book was inspired by the death of a prominent politician in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. At the politician's funeral it was revealed that he'd had a secret "first family" whose existence had been kept under wraps for decades.
Do: What do you love about connecting with your readers?
Andrews: Writing fiction is such a solitary experience, but I'm an extrovert and I feed on the energy of my fans. I love meeting them and hearing their stories and learning how they connect with my novels.
Do: What types of books do you like reading?
Andrews: I read a little of everything. I started my fiction career writing mysteries, and I'm still a mystery buff. I love the work of Michael Connelly (another former journalist) as well as Lisa Scottoline and Louise Penny. Historic fiction is also high on my reading list, and I've enjoyed Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale), Pam Jenoff (The Orphan's Tale) Jennifer Robson (The Gown) and Kate Quinn (The Alice Network). In the past few years I've binged on the audiobooks of Kate Morton (The Lake House, The Clockmaker's Daughter.)
Do: Would you please talk about your writing habits and discipline? Do you write daily?
Andrews: Discipline??? I start out with a synopsis that tells me who my protagonist is and what she wants out of life. Then I dig in. I plot chapter by chapter in longhand in a college composition book then revise as I type into my computer. A good day's work is 2,000 words. I write faster and harder the closer I come to deadline.
Do: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Andrews: Give your book a blueprint, or a road map, or a synopsis, so you have a rough idea of where you want your story to go. Block out time in your life to write: early morning, late at night, lunchtime or when the baby's napping. Give yourself a deadline. And then write! Don't keep backing up to revise and polish a single chapter. Write all the way through to the end of your story, then you can go back and polish, revise and rework.
Do: With the current global pandemic situation and economic crisis, what advice to you have for writers?
Andrews: With time so elastic now and all the stressers around us, it's hard to concentrate and disappear into the book that's in your head. You might have to revise your writing schedule, settle for smaller chunks of writing time or a lesser output. Or maybe you won't. Maybe you now have all the time you've needed. If so, God bless!
Do: Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Andrews: Independent bookstores are such a community treasure. They're having to adapt to this new pandemic climate. I'd just urge you to support all your local, hometown businesses, especially booksellers like E. Shaver, which has been a Savannah fixture for decades. Go to their websites or call the stores. They're offering mail orders, safe out-of-store pickup and even delivery service, if you live close to the store.