Build a novel, RESTORE a HOUSE
MARY KAY ANDREWS has a thing for houses.
The New York Times best-selling novelist loves to remodel them, then fill them with interesting furniture and accessories she’s discovered while junking at antique shops, vintage stores and online.
She owns three beach houses on Tybee Island, Georgia, which she rents out – The Breeze Inn, Ebbtide, and Coquina – each cottage is named after fictional houses found in her novels.
And now she’s penned ‘The Homewreckers,’ which just came out on May 3. This is his 30th book.
The story revolves around Hattie Kavanaugh, who works for her stepfather in Savannah, restoring houses and knocking them down. She married the boss’s son but was left a widow at 25. A Hollywood producer comes to Savannah and convinces Hattie to star in a reality show he wants to call “Saving Savannah”. He wants a show about preserving old homes in Savannah, but the network wants a flashier show and pairs him with a narcissistic, superficial co-host who wants to overthrow him — plus, it’s good for the ratings. ‘listen.
And then a wallet is discovered in one of the walls. It belongs to a local schoolteacher who mysteriously disappeared 17 years ago.
The novel does what all Ms. Andrews books do: combine a murder mystery with a romance, set in the South and marinated in its crackling spirit.
“They say, ‘Write what you know,'” she says, referring to the adage often told to writers.
“I’ve never committed murder, but I’ve been a crime reporter, covering the cops and the courts. I’ve always had a fascination for thrillers.
In her spare time, when she worked at a newspaper in Savannah, she would go to the newspaper’s morgue – the library’s archive of past clippings and newspapers – and read cold cases, cases that didn’t have never been resolved.
But also, she says, “I like antiques, old houses, preserving them for the next generation.”
Writing about these things “has turned out to be a successful formula, writing about the things that interest me and that interest and fascinate me. It turns out there are several readers who share my fascination and interests.
When she wrote her novel “The Fixer Upper,” “HGTV was in its infancy and infancy,” before Chris and Joanna Gaines started doing repairs in Waco, she says.
“[HGTV]was doing ‘Trading Spaces’ shows then, that sort of thing. (In my book), an interior designer meets a guy trying to restore an old pre-war house. But ‘Hissy Fit’ was really when I wrote what my editor called ‘house porn’.
“My former editor… told me, ‘Your readers love homemade porn! They love reading the story of someone fixing something, the idea that you can physically transform something. You may not be able to transform yourself, but you can, with a little fairness and intelligence, change something, and sometimes in doing so you change yourself.
The wallet in the wall
The incident of finding a wallet in the wall was inspired by something that happened in her own life while restoring the house that became Coquina Cottage. Contractors were knocking down a wall covered in rot and termites when they found a woman’s wallet that had been there since 1954.
“There was his driver’s license, his social security card, his military card, family photos,” she said. “I looked for her online, but she had died a few years earlier. The obituary named her survivors. I posted on Facebook at 10 a.m. that night, and received emails from her daughter and her son the next morning, they had no idea how their mother’s wallet had ended up in the wall.
“I got a call from more than one TV station about the wallet in the wall mystery. They still had no answer (as to how it happened.) His children came and we told them. gave away the wallet with the family photos. A TV station came and followed up when they got their mother’s wallet.
“I knew I was going to have a body in this book, somewhere, somehow. (Find) this wallet – this is the universe giving me a gift, (I thought .) I will use it in the book.
“The Homewreckers” was written during the pandemic. And besides being a great beach read and page-turner, the novel reflects that. Many characters deal with loss and three people are widowed. And – in a year-old dumpster fire – Ms Andrews included a real dumpster fire in her novel.
As part of her book tour to talk about ‘The Homewreckers’, Ms Andrews will make several stops in Florida. She will speak at lunch and book signing at FM Don’s in Punta Gorda from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11. Tickets are $49 plus taxes and fees. In addition to lunch, attendees will receive a copy of his latest book. The event is organized by Copperfish Books.
She will also appear at Coastal Creative in St. Petersburg from 7-8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 and at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11.
“When people hear that Mary Kay Andrews is coming to town, they get really excited and make sure they’re available,” says Serena Wyckoff, co-owner of Copperfish Books. “She has such a following. There aren’t many writers like her. People just have to see it and listen to it and appreciate it as much.
“We had people from the east coast of Florida coming to see her.”
Ms Andrews has 166,000 followers on Facebook. She is also one of four co-hosts of the weekly online show “Friends & Fiction”. She and fellow authors Kristin Harmel, Patti Callahan Henry and Kristy Woodson Harvey interview other authors about their books and their writing process and also promote independent bookstores. Their show, which recently celebrated its second anniversary at the end of April, has 70,000 subscribers.
In Memory Of Katie
Sadly, in early February, before the book was published, Ms Andrews’ daughter Katie Trocheck Abel, 39, died of liver failure while awaiting a transplant. She was diagnosed with liver failure after a bad bout with COVID-19.
Ms Andrews dedicated “The Homewreckers” to her: “In memory of Katie, my warrior princess, with a heart full of love.”
The author asks people to do kind works in memory of his daughter.
“She cared deeply about the issues of hunger, homelessness and poverty,” Ms Andrews says, noting that Katie has contributed to Free99Fridge, an Atlanta organization where people cook meals and put them in fridges. accessible to the public by anyone in need of a meal.
“You don’t have to register, just show up. Put food in and take food out,” she explains. “They have a website and you can donate to their Amazon wishlist.
“When she fell ill, my husband took over. Every week since the fall, he prepares about twenty packed lunches and puts them in the fridge.
Her daughter was also involved with Helping Mamas, a baby supply bank in Atlanta that provides infant supplies such as diapers, formula, baby food and vintage products for those in need.
“We try to continue this (in his memory.)”
“Just be nice to people,” Ms Andrews says. “If you see someone who needs it, give them a hug, a smile or a sandwich. Give to a pantry. There are so many ways to help.
‘You will get there’
Ms Andrews published her first novel, ‘Every Crooked Nanny’, 30 years ago after leaving her job at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she had worked for 10 years.
“The Homewreckers” is his 30th book.
But each time, she despairs of finishing the book she is writing.
In a writers’ workshop with the late bestselling writer Sue Grafton, she was told, “Every book teaches you how to write this book, but it doesn’t transfer into a new book.”
“The positive side of doing it so many times,” she says, “even in the depths of my desperation, banging my head on the desk, telling myself that I can’t do it, (is that) I got all my framed book covers on my office wall. They remind me, you’ve been through a lot of shit, you’ll get through it. I’ve hit more than one bump in the road.
“Especially when I try to wind it up, I feel like the middle of the book is springy. It keeps stretching and stretching and stretching: when will I come to the end of this story?
It begins with a synopsis, “a very loose roadmap,” she says. “Very loose. As I get to the end, I find myself running in circles of desperation. The good thing is after all this time, I know my desperation is legitimate, but I also know I’m going I have the power to ease my doubts and anxiety, calm my mind, and say, “Keep writing.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to keep moving. ¦
In the TO KNOW
Mary Kay Andrews luncheon / dedication
When: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 11
Or: FM Don’s, 201 W. Marion, Punta Gorda
Information: 941-205-2560 or www.copperfishbooks.com
The prize includes lunch and a copy of “The Homewreckers”.
Places are limited, but Copperfish Books, which organizes the event, will maintain a waiting list, if necessary. The store is also taking pre-orders for signed books.
Mary Kay Andrews also appears in Florida at:
coastal creative in Saint Petersburg from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10
Oxford Fellowship in Tampa, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11