An interview with Mary Kay Andrews

Give us the elevator pitch for LADIES’ NIGHT

Fourth floor, better sportswear, please. Ladies’ Night is the story of lifestyle blogger Grace Stanton who, after catching her husband cheating, drives his convertible into the family swimming pool. Once her glamorous lifestyle goes up in flames, Grace, penniless and homeless, is forced to reinvent her life—while attending court-mandated divorce recovery therapy with a group of oddballs with whom she has nothing in common—except betrayal and revenge.

You seem to write about divorce a lot and revenge a lot—any skeletons in your closet that you’d like to share?

It does seem to be a recurring theme in my work, doesn’t it? After my most recent book, Spring Fever was published last summer, my agent notified me that Amazon had ranked me Number 1 in divorce fiction. Which is interesting, because I’m still married to my starter husband of nearly 37 years. After all these years of researching and writing about divorce and revenge, I think we’ve both concluded it’s easier just to work things out and get along. Plus he knows how to fix things. And he’s a great cook.

Why a lifestyle blogger for a protagonist?

As a lifelong junker, house restorer and decorator in denial, I read a lot of lifestyle and decorating blogs. I’m fascinated with the reach and range of these every-day people, who write about and document their own passions for these topics. Although my protagonist, Grace, is actually an interior designer, many lifestyle bloggers don’t have any formal training in these fields, or in writing or photography, which actually makes their blogs less intimidating and more approachable to the average gal who just wants to know how to chalk-paint an old dresser or make a farmhouse table out of discarded wooden pallets. Some of these bloggers  have millions of followers and have gone on to have book deals and even their own product lines, like Miss Mustard Seed, who has her own line of milk paint, or the couple behind Young House Love, who recently introduced their own line of lighting fixtures.

I thought it would make for great drama, and conflict, for Grace to start out having this seemingly very glamorous, Martha Stewart life, in a fabulous house—and then to have it all snatched away when her marriage fails. One minute she’s shooting a tabletop story with an imported Belgian linen runner, the next, she’s mopping floors at her mother’s run-down beach bar on the Florida gulf coast.

Tell me about Wyatt, the sole male member of the divorce recovery group in Ladies’ Night. He certainly doesn’t seem to be the typical alpha male you see in a lot of commercial fiction.

I loved writing about a vulnerable, damaged, insecure guy like Wyatt. Because he seemed so real to me. Not every injured party in every divorce is the wife, and in Wyatt’s marriage, his wife  was actually the cheater. Now Wyatt is faced with a divorce he didn’t seek, and having to fight for custody of his six-year-old son Bo. He’s conflicted—admitting he’s drawn to Grace, but wondering if he doesn’t owe it to Bo to save his marriage. He’s the polar opposite of Grace’s ex, Ben, who really is the alpha type. Plus I made Wyatt bald—not really bald, but he shaves his head because he works outside, so he’s tanned and bald and buff, which I think makes him incredibly H-O-T. Grace thinks so too.

The setting for this book is Anna Maria Island, off the coast of Sarasota, a new locale for you. You’ve set other novels in Georgia, where you live, and in North Carolina, where you formerly lived. Why Florida?

I grew up in St. Petersburg, which is just across the Sunshine Skyway from Anna Maria. I like Anna Maria because it reminds me of the beaches of my youth; not too developed, sort of low-key. And I gave Wyatt a failing throw-back family-owned tourist attraction, which I called Jungle Jerry’s, because I grew up going to places like Silver Springs, Cypress Gardens and Weeki-Wachee. I was looking the nostalgia factor, and for a lost cause. Also? I wanted to go to Florida and write in January when it’s cold and miserable in Atlanta. So I rented a tiny cottage on Anna Maria and strolled the beach and ate seafood. Nice work if you can get it.

What do you read when you’re working on a book? Or do you?

When I’m starting a book and want a great hook, I’ll read one of my favorite Elmore Leonard novels, like Gold Coast or Get Shorty to inspire me to leave out the stuff readers skip over. Nobody puts you in the world of a book faster than Leonard. If I’m writing a sexy love scene, I’ll turn to Susan Elizabeth Phillips (What I Did For Love)or Jennifer Crusie, (Crazy for You) who manage to do funny and sexy at the same time.  To make myself crazy with envy because she writes books with such heart and warmth, I love Elinor Lipman. I read her novel, The Family Man, when I was writing Summer Rental, and had to write her a gushy fan-girl note to tell her she’d written the perfect book.

What’s next?

I’m finishing up the fourth installment in my Savannah series about Weezie and BeBe. Look for Christmas Bliss in mid-October. And in June, look for me and Ladies’ Night in bookstores all over the place.