Interview: June 5, 2014
Mary Kay Andrews’s latest novel, SAVE THE DATE, is about Cara Kryzik, a cynical Savannah florist who is about to score the wedding of a lifetime. But when the bride goes missing, Cara must find the wife-to-be and figure out whether or not she believes in love after all. In this interview with Bookreporter.com’s Jamie Layton, Andrews shares how she nailed all the details of wedding planning (hint: Pinterest is a great place to start!), as well as why she thinks modern brides are throwing over-the-top weddings. She also talks about her love of rehabbing old homes, her favorite flowers, and who the real gardener in her family is.
Bookreporter.com: Your new novel, SAVE THE DATE, revolves around Cara Kryzik, a struggling florist in Savannah, Georgia, who has the opportunity to finally break into the big time with her handling of a $250,000 wedding. What was the spark for this plotline?
Mary Kay Andrews: Last spring, when we were planning the launch party for LADIES’ NIGHT, we looked at a wedding venue, and that got me thinking about what a huge business weddings have become. My publicist mentioned that we should have Save the Date cards made for the launch party, and that gave me a title. Then things started to click.
BRC: Flowers play a huge role throughout the book, and you sprinkle in gorgeous descriptions of floral arrangements, wedding bouquets and gardens. What type of research did you do to provide such accurate detail? Am I correct in thinking you are a woman who appreciates fresh flowers?
MKA: I love flowers. For research for the book, I spent a couple of days hanging out with a wedding florist in Savannah, and I did a good bit of online research, too.
BRC: Additionally, there are a LOT of weddings --- both beautiful and, let's just say, interesting --- happening in the book. Did you have access to a wedding planner to gain the inside scoop of that business? Or have you just been to a lot of Southern weddings?
MKA: I’m lucky to have a friend who is a wedding stylist, and she was an enormous help. I also looked at a lot of Pinterest boards and wedding magazines and books.
BRC: I loved watching the remodel of the barn at the estate. A ramshackle stable was transformed into a delightful space that would house not only a big after-party, but also family events and future grandchildren's escapades for years to come. Did you model the barn on an actual repurposed structure you'd seen, or did it just come together in your mind? Do you want one in your backyard as badly as your readers will?
MKA: I’d seen several photo spreads of barn weddings, so I just took the best of those, placed them in the South Carolina low country, and put in everything I’d want in an old barn. So yes, now I’m on the hunt for a barn. Please don’t tell my husband.
BRC: I know rehabbing old houses is one of your favorite hobbies, and fixer-uppers often appear in your books, including 2009's THE FIXER UPPER. In SAVE THE DATE, Jack and Ryan Finnerty have a restoration business in Savannah that is finally taking off. In fact, they undertake the barn remodel. When you incorporate this aspect into a book, are those portions easier to write because of your personal experiences and love for the subject?
MKA: My husband and I have rehabbed several old homes, so having lived through that process more than once, I’m familiar with some stuff, but other things I have to research. Fortunately, the Internet can tell you everything you need to know about things like unsealing painted-up windows or trying to resuscitate an air conditioning unit.
BRC: In SAVE THE DATE, all of your characters cross paths so seamlessly. The ensuing relationships seem organic. When you sat down to start writing the book, did you already have the beginning and/or the ending in mind? Can you tell your readers more about the process that goes into developing one of your novels?
MKA: I start with a title and a premise, and then spend a good bit of time trying to understand my protagonist and her goals. I write a synopsis, and then I write in a pretty linear way, praying that by the time I get to the end of the story I’ll be able to wrap up all those sub-plots. The final result may look seamless, thanks to my amazing editor, Jennifer Enderlin, but I promise you there are lots of false starts and dead ends before I type “THE END.”
BRC: The wedding industry has changed dramatically in the past 15 years, with lavish showstoppers becoming more and more the norm and so many side businesses cropping up around it. What do you think has been the biggest contributing factor to this shift? Is Savannah a popular "destination wedding" spot?
MKA: I’m always amazed by the big-budget, over-the-top weddings today’s brides plan. Demographically, today’s brides are older, so maybe they can afford to spend more. Maybe the proliferation of wedding publications and reality television shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” play into that. Not to mention Pinterest. And yes, Savannah seems to be a major draw for destination weddings these days.
BRC: Do you consider yourself a gardener? If so, what is your favorite plant to have in the garden, and what is your latest gardening project?
MKA: I like to look at gardens, but the real green thumb in our family belongs to my husband, who actually enjoys yard work. My idea of gardening is loading up the back of my SUV at the garden center --- and then directing him as to where I want things planted.
BRC: Likewise, can you share what your favorite cut flowers are?
MKA: I love big, blowsy pale pink peonies, any color of hydrangeas, stocks, Stargazer lilies, tea roses.
BRC: SAVE THE DATE is without a doubt going to be a very hot title this summer. It's just a wonderful, feel-good read with SO much "virtual eye candy" between the Southern charm of Savannah, Cara's flowers, society weddings, old buildings and the people. I know, though, that you never sit still. So what can you tell us about your next project?
MKA: Thanks for your kind words about SAVE THE DATE. The only thing I can tell you about my new project is that I have a title, a premise, the name of the protagonist and her love interest, and a November deadline. Everything else is top secret!