Literary Review

Literary Review

Amidst Writing Her Third Novel: An Interview with Mary Simses

Mary Simses, author of the novels, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café and The Rule of Love & Grammar, is in the midst of writing her third novel. A native of Connecticut, Simses is influenced by the East Coast scenery. Prior to becoming a novelist, Simses majored in Journalism, working in magazine publishing for a few years after graduation. Simses then returned to school to become a lawyer. While working as a corporate attorney, Mary enrolled in a fiction class, which reminded her of her love for writing and prompted her journey as a novelist. Fortunately, Simses took the advice of a friend and wrote her first novel, which was later adapted into a movie called, The Irresistible Blueberry Farm, and aired in October of 2016.


Elisabeth French: What influenced you to become an author?


Mary Simses: When I was a kid, I loved writing, short stories especially. I made books out my stories and illustrated them. I’m talking about second, third and fourth grade. They weren’t more than stick figures. I did it all the way into college, but life goes on, you get busy and into a career. While I was working as a lawyer, I decided to get back into some kind of fiction writing, mostly because I would drive around thinking about dialogue and characters. I thought, I’m going to get into a car accident if I don’t find another outlet. I took a class once a week. That was it, it changed me. I said, I would always be writing after this. I am never going to put it away again.


Do you still have any of the short stories from your childhood?


I do, I have them all. Once and a while I’ll go back and read a couple of them. I know they’re my stories, but it’s like another me—like when you look at an old picture of yourself and know it’s you, but it’s not you now.


Do you still have the same voice; has it been consistent?


I think so, but that is a really good question; I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that. When I was writing about serious things, I could not resist putting in quirky details—sometimes they would be funny or they would be odd. The voice, it is there; it’s a young voice, but it is there.

In my classes, we’ve talked about recognizing our voices.


What inspired you to write each novel?


The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café was based off a story I heard one morning on the radio. A woman’s grandmother said before she died, “erase my hard drive!” I started thinking about a grandmother with a secret. The Rules of Love & Grammar stemmed from when I was in ninth grade and went to the Cinderella Ball with this boy on whom I had a mad crush. It was one dance, and he was going steady with somebody else, but it was such a magical moment. I used the idea of a special dance, because I never forgot it. Then I combined it with this thought: what if as a young adult, you were having the most incredibly wonderful night, and then following, the worst night. That is how life is.


I love that. Now you are in the process of your third novel—how’s it going?


I am over halfway through. My goal is to get the draft done by the end of year. It is going to need a lot of work. It takes place in a fictional town in Connecticut. A woman’s younger sister is about to marry the guy she was seeing and is still in love with—it is sort of a sibling rivalry story.


What goes into your research process?


With my first novel, I wanted to take the character as far from New York City as I could, yet keep her on the East Coast. I went back to Maine a couple more times while I was writing the book. I took a lot of pictures, visited a library and a town hall. For the second book, I did a lot of online research. I cannot even remember what it was like to do research without the internet, yet we all did. For the movie component, I tried like crazy to get myself onto a set, but I was not able to. However, I was able to get an interview with a producer. She worked as Stephanie Meyers’s assistant, but by last two Twilight movies, produced them with Meyers.


What a great experience!


Talk about being in the right place at the right time. The irony is that after I had already finished that book, The Irresistible Blueberry Farm was being filmed. That would have provided me the perfect opportunity to get first-hand experience for the movie component of my second book! That’s what I needed!


Your first novel was adapted into a movie; how did it come about, and how involved were you?


My agent sent the book out to a contact she had at United Talent Agency in LA. They gave the actress Allison Sweeny a copy, and she read it. My agent called me back and said Allison Sweeny is really interested in doing a movie. We set up a phone call. She was great and said she wanted to pitch it to Hallmark, with whom she had previously worked. I sold my rights to Hallmark for the story. They asked me to write the script, but I said no; I figured my time was better spent writing novels.


Would you be interested if the opportunity presented itself again?


I would. I would co-write with someone who has already done screenplays; then, I would get screenwriting credit. It would be fun to do.


Sounds like an interesting experience.


It is a lot of work. If it is a 90-minute movie, it is a 90-page screenplay. It is so different from writing fiction. I flew to Vancouver, where they filmed The Irresistible Blueberry Farm; it was fantastic. It was an experience of a lifetime.


You appeared briefly in the movie; can you share your experience?


I wanted to be in the background, not in an actual scene, but the director, who’s such a cool guy, said, “Okay Mary, were ready for you!” I said, “Okay,” and he replied, “you’re going to stand right here and act like your checking in,” I replied, “Oh no, my god!” It was funny, and they kept it in.


Do you read your book reviews? As an author, how do you deal with them?


The Kirkus Review is usually one of the first to review, and they are tough. I am on pins and needles waiting for that. I have been lucky with Kirkus. The Library Journal, which is prominent among librarians, is another big review with which I have been lucky. With my first novel, I would go to GoodReads and Amazon and read everything, because I had never had any reviews before. I started to see some that were not that complimentary, and I just stopped reading. I thought, “not every book is for every person.” It doesn’t bother me.


One final question, what advice would you give to individuals trying to become novelists?


I will tell you the advice I keep telling myself and will tell others “Write for yourself, write as if nobody else is watching or reading, and that is how you’ll find your truest voice.”

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