When Love Becomes Possible Again
Earlier this year a reader emailed to tell me that one of my books had gotten her through a very tough time in her life. Her mother was terminally ill, in hospice care, and this reader spent most nights sitting by her mother’s bedside, the room lit only by the blinking, buzzing monitors that were measuring out the patient’s last hours. I think the fan was reading SPRING FEVER, and she told me she had come to savor those hours of reading because they took her to a happy place, a place of lightness, where love and renewal and friendship—and most importantly—laughter, were possible.
So this is why romance matters. I try to create stories with believable, three-dimensional characters. They don’t live in a French chateau or on a far-away planet. They live in a funky beat-up motel on Tybee Island, Georgia (SAVANNAH BREEZE) or in an apartment above a beach bar on Anna Maria Island, Florida (LADIES’ NIGHT) or in a falling-down antebellum plantation house in a failing textile town in Middle Georgia (THE FIXER-UPPER).
My characters are like real people—they make bad choices. They choose the wrong man, get betrayed, lose jobs and loves. But they pick themselves up and start all over again, because for them, the only way is up.I never think of my books as straight romance, because for my characters finding a man is actually secondary to their story arc. What my characters are searching for is something elusive—home, happiness, fulfillment—revenge!!! Along the way, as they reinvent themselves, they find—to their amazement, that love becomes possible again.
In my most recent book, LADIES’ NIGHT, the protagonist is ordered to attend divorce recovery therapy—along with a handful of bitter, vengeful women who’ve also been betrayed by their spouses. It’s the last place you’d expect to find love, right? But Grace meets Wyatt, the only male member of the therapy group, and eventually they find themselves drawn together, not by their common experience of divorce—but through the act of reinvention, and forgiveness. Once they find hope, they find happiness—and love.
I have no illusions that my books are literary fiction. I can’t cure cancer, or make Republicans and Democrats work together in Congress, or come up with a way to lose weight in my sleep. (I wish!)
But what I can do is make a pact with my readers. I promise to create stories with characters they will root for and identify with, and a love story that will give them hope. And always, always, I promise to deliver a happy ending. No vampires. No zombies. No cyborgs. Just real people, finding real love, in ways they never expected.
Recommendations: I think fans of MKA novels would also enjoy my friend Patti Callahan Henry’s books. They are deeply heart-felt novels with sensitive characters all set in the South. Her most recent novel is And Then I Found You. (St. Martin’s Publishing)
Questions for Mary Kay:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
A badly-done painting of my daughter Katie as a child, painted by a deceased relative. It makes her look freakish, but the sentiment behind the portrait is so sweet, I can’t bear to get rid of it. So it’s down in the basement, where Katie doesn’t have to see it!
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
Can I re-use a title? Maybe Funny Girl? Starring my favorite wise-cracking golden-age movie star Rosalind Russell.
What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?
My aunt Alice’s old pink 1950s-era Philco refrigerator. It has an aqua interior and a dent in the door from where my cousin Art ran into it in her garage. I named it Phil. It still runs and has a place of honor at the porch of our beach house on Tybee Island.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)
I’m partial to the shower scene between Ellis and Ty in SUMMER RENTAL. For romance scenes in general, I’d choose anything by the masterful Jennifer Crusie—maybe one in Tell Me Lies?
You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August. Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!
Mary Kay is generously donating three copies of LADIES NIGHT to give away (U.S. only, apologies to international readers). U.S. readers, to enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both. (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.) Comment entries must be posted by 11:59pm EST Aug 22 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Mary Kay Andrews is the New York Times bestselling author of 20 novels, including LADIES’ NIGHT, SPRING FEVER, SUMMER RENTAL, THE FIXER-UPPER, HISSY FIT and SAVANNAH BREEZE. A former journalist who worked for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mary Kay divides her time between her 1925 Craftsman bungalow in Atlanta and a vacation home on Tybee Island, Georgia. Both homes are filled with vintage treasures collected over a lifetime of shopping estate sales, junk shops and thrift stores. When she’s not junking, she’s looking for another old house to fix up—and fill with more junk.
Married for 37 years to her high school sweetheart Tom, Mary Kay is the mother of two grown children and two of the world’s most delightful grandchildren. She babysits, but doesn’t do daycare. A frequent lecturer and teacher at writing workshops and book festivals, she is a sought-after speaker known for her sparkling wit and approachable warmth.
In October, St. Martin’s Press will publish her newest novel, CHRISTMAS BLISS, the fourth installment of her Savannah series. She can be found online at marykayandrews.com.
Find Mary Kay’s Books Online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble