by Wyndi Kappes, Mary Kay Andrews Photography by Bill Miles.
Mary Kay Andrews, born Kathy Hogan Trocheck, began writing her first novel as a lot of writers do — in secret while still working her full-time job. While her first shot didn’t sell, her second manuscript, “Every Crooked Nanny,” did and was released to critical acclaim in 1992. After a few years of writing stories centered around Atlanta, she turned her focus to Southern-based, self-proclaimed “beach reads” and she hasn’t looked back, having authored more than 25 novels, including “Sunset Beach,” “The High Tide Club” and, most recently, “The Newcomer.”
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Mary Kay Andrews: I find inspiration everywhere. In an overheard conversation at a restaurant (“Savannah Breeze”), a vivid dream (“Spring Fever”), an obituary dealing with a beloved politician’s secret family (“Hello, Summer”) or a newspaper article about illegal Airbnb landlords in New York City (“The Newcomer”). I don’t really keep a journal or a notebook. If an idea sticks in my mind long enough, I know it must be right for a book.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
MKA: I took a writer’s workshop with Sue Grafton [a prolific writer of detective novels] more than 30 years ago. She talked about the importance of setting goals and asking for what you want. I give myself daily page quotas and have been working toward my goals ever since. Asking for stuff, especially as a woman raised in the South, is hard. But I also remember my literary agent’s mantra, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” So I’m working on that.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of writing?
MKA: Every day, I sit down to write and feel overwhelmed with self-doubt and self-loathing. But I remind myself the only way around these roadblocks is to charge right past them. Just keep writing, and eventually, it’ll come together.
Q: What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
MKA: I’d tell myself that no one gets to define me, and remind myself that I am a work in progress. And, yeah, that sometimes the class clown gets the last laugh.
Q: What’s next for you, and is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
MKA: I’m thankful to anyone who’s read one of my books, reviewed it or recommended my work. Next up? I have a Christmas novella, “The Santa Suit,” coming out on Sept. 28, and next summer’s book is already in progress.
Mary Kay’s advice for aspiring writers looking to publish their first book
Treat your writing as a job. Take it seriously and schedule writing time and stick to it.
Force yourself to write a synopsis. It gives you a roadmap for where your book will start and end.
Be wary of too much rewriting. If you keep deleting and reworking every precious paragraph in a novel, you’ll only end up with a few paragraphs. Publishers want a whole book to publish, not a paragraph.
You can’t fix what you haven’t written. Get the idea down on the page. Then you can go back and rework it.
Writing is a craft. Work hard at it, respect it.
Research the publishing world so you understand this universe you’re trying to break into.