Sunday, July 12, 2020

Mary Simses

Mary Simses grew up in Darien, Connecticut and began writing stories as a child. After majoring in journalism in college, she worked for a few years in magazine publishing, but then decided to go back to school to become a lawyer. While working as a corporate attorney, Simses enrolled in an evening fiction writing class at a university in Connecticut and began writing short stories “on the side.” Several of her stories were published in literary magazines. She finally took the advice of a friend and decided to try writing a novel. That manuscript ultimately became The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & CafĂ©, which was published in 2013 and later adapted as a movie called The Irresistible Blueberry Farm for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. Simses has since written The Rules of Love & Grammar and the newly released The Wedding Thief.

Simses enjoys photography, old jazz standards, and escaping to Connecticut in the summer. She lives in South Florida.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Of my three novels, the only one with a title that really explains the story is The Wedding Thief. To me, the most likely interpretations are that the book is about someone who steals things at weddings or someone who actually tries to hijack the wedding itself. It’s the latter one that’s going on here, of course, as Sara wants to sabotage the wedding of her younger sister, Mariel, and get back the man she’s still in love with.

I don’t remember when I came up with that title, but I know I was pretty far into writing the book. My original title was The Harrington Sisters Come Home. That explained a bit about what was going on. And the idea of coming home is also a metaphor for the sister’ need to find common ground. That was the working title, but I wanted something better, something more catchy, more intriguing. When I thought of The Wedding Thief I knew that was it. Sara is a mischievous girl and the title captures her personality and spirit. It also lets people know there’s a big event in the wings. My editor loved it.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I think my teenage reader self would be stunned that I’d written a book at all, let alone three. What did I read as a teenager? The big classics come to mind – books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye. I loved them. But I also loved Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and Agatha Christie’s detective stories. My teenage self would probably have predicted I’d write a spy or mystery novel, but that’s not at all what I’m interested in writing about.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Endings are much harder for me, no question. Beginnings are easy. I knew I wanted to start The Wedding Thief with a phone call from Sara’s mother, telling Sara she’s very ill and asking her to come home right away. The whole thing is a ruse on the part of the mother – who’s an actress, by the way and is good at making up stories – to bring her daughters home two weeks before the wedding and get them to reconcile, something Sara has no intention of doing.

Sara reminds her mother that Sara is the injured party, the one betrayed by her sister. Reconciliation is not in her vocabulary (although sabotage is!) That phone call was a good way to get things rolling and immediately introduce the three women characters.

The ending of the book was a bit of a challenge. As I was writing, I went back and forth on that. I wasn’t sure who should end up with who or if anyone should end up with anyone, relationship-wise. I’m happy with the ending I chose. It did take more work than the beginning, though.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality or are they a world apart?

There are definitely some connections. Sara, for instance, loves old jazz standards, the music her father loved. A Broadway producer, he enjoyed listening to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald sing songs by writers like the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and Jerome Kern. But the real reason why Sara loves that kind of music is because I do, and I enjoy slipping it into my writing when I can.

I’m unlike Sara in many ways, though. She assumes there’s nothing she can’t fix or resolve. As an event planner, she’s used to thinking on her feet and working through whatever emergencies arise. That’s fine, but she has a tendency to assume her way is the only way, a trait that can alienate people. (Now, if my husband were reading this, he might say, Wait a minute, that does sound like you….)

I think I have a bit of Camila, Sara’s mother, in me. She’s an actress and she’s used to creating other personas and letting them tell their stories. That’s what I do in my writing, so we have a lot in common there. And I love her as a character. She’s funny and quirky and so dramatic at times.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Movies, movies, movies! I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy or a good dramedy. Anything that includes some humor and a love story wins me over pretty easily. It’s that blend of poignancy and wit I adore. It’s so important to be able to laugh, especially these days. The best compliment I get is when a reader tells me they laughed and cried over my book. That’s exactly what I want to happen.
Visit Mary Simses's website and follow her on Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe.

The Page 69 Test: The Rules of Love & Grammar.

--Marshal Zeringue