Thursday, July 9, 2020

Q&A with Mary Simses

Mary Simses, photo by Capehart Photography
Mary Simses is the author of the new novel The Wedding Thief. She also has written the novels The Rules of Love & Grammar and The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe. She lives in South Florida.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Wedding Thief and for your character Sara?

A: Ideas for my novels seem to come to me in bits and pieces over time. I don’t necessarily recognize the “bits” as story generators when they happen, but I remember them later.

I think the main idea for The Wedding Thief came from an event I attended where there was a little box at each guest’s seat at the table and inside were slips of paper with questions printed on them – conversation starters. The slip I pulled out asked, “Would you rather be the smartest person in the room or the best looking?”

I thought it was an interesting question, although I didn’t immediately think, Oh, I should write a book about this. In fact, it wasn’t until quite a while later that I decided to use it as the springboard for a novel.

Over time, things began to push me in the direction of sibling rivalry, including discussions with friends who have had difficult relationships with their sisters. Being an only child, the whole idea of siblings is something I’ve always been interested in. Somehow, it all came together.

When I started writing The Wedding Thief, I knew I wanted Sara to be an event planner because that would tie into the plan she concocts. And I wanted her to be the “smart” one who didn’t get the guy and would now be going after him in round two, against her sister. That was my main thought.

When I got further into the writing, Sara became a woman who believed she could accomplish anything and could handle any problem. This came from her years of experience working on events, where things go wrong all the time and the people handling them have to think on their feet and fix them a hurry.

Q: How would you describe the relationship between Sara and her sister, Mariel?

A: Ah, well, for a start I’d say it’s fraught with difficulty. Sara thinks Mariel has always gotten all the breaks because she’s beautiful. She thinks their mother favors Mariel and that their mother’s habit of continually coming to Mariel’s aid, financially and otherwise, has contribute to her “failure to launch.” In short, she resents her sister.

Mariel, on the other hand, thinks Sara is too critical of her, that Sara wrongly assumes she knows best about how everyone else’s life should be run, and that she doesn’t understand who Mariel really is. They have a lot to learn about one another.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I definitely made changes along the way. I had a few different ideas for the ending and I went around and around on them. Each idea would have required that certain plot points be set up along the way, which would have taken the book in slightly different directions. So I had to balance the endings with what I wanted to happen as the book went along.

I also had to decide what kind of people I wanted the characters to be by the end.

Q: Do you have any favorite books or movies about weddings?

A: I love movies and I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy. Some of my favorite rom-coms about weddings are The Philadelphia Story, the 1991 version of Father of the Bride, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Birdcage, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Meet the Parents, Mamma Mia! and Bridesmaids.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’ve just begun another novel with, again, a woman protagonist. As usual, there will be drama and humor. I hope my readers will enjoy it when it’s done.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Well, let’s see. If you’re looking for a “true confession,” I’m a terrible dancer. I step on my husband’s feet. He’s used to it by now, but I know it’s inconvenient. I’ve always fantasized about being one of those people who goes onto the dance floor at a wedding and the crowd just steps back and watches because I’m so good. I’d need years of lessons. So far, it hasn’t happened.

When I was a kid, my best friend and I wanted to be detectives. We read all the Nancy Drew books, donned our detective attire (raincoats and handbags with magnifying glasses in them) on the hottest of summer days, and went searching through our Connecticut neighborhood for mysteries.

We never found any, but that didn’t stop us from making up stories about the people on our street and pretending they were involved in nefarious activities. Even then, I could spin a good tale.

In case anyone’s interested in pets, we have two cats. One is a female Siamese named Blossom and the other is a male Tonkinese named Cinnamon.

Cinnamon thinks he’s my assistant. He likes to keep me company when I’m working, which is great. But he has a habit of wanting to fall asleep on my laptop keyboard. He also insists he wrote The Wedding Thief, which of course is ridiculous. He’s not that good a typist.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Mary Simses.

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