Interview: June 8, 2012
In Mary Kay Andrews’ new novel, SPRING FEVER, Annajane believes she is over her ex-husband of four years --- so much so that she attends his wedding to another woman. But when fate intervenes in the middle of the ceremony, she begins to question everything. In this interview, conducted by Bookreporter.com’s Jamie Layton, Andrews shares her thoughts on marriage, friendship and commitment. She also discusses plans for her next book and reveals one of her favorite Southern treats.
Bookreporter.com: SPRING FEVER opens with Annajane attending her ex-husband’s wedding. Did your concept for the book start with that scene, with the storyline of an unfinished relationship, or something else?
Mary Kay Andrews: I actually dreamed the opening of SPRING FEVER, and literally wrote the book to figure out for myself what happened next.
BRC: Which characters were already formed in your head when you began writing the novel? Which ones came later?
MKA: Annajane, the protagonist of SPRING FEVER, and her best friend Pokey were the first two characters to arrive on the page. Mason and his brother Davis arrived next. It took me a while to get to Celia, Mason's intended bride --- maybe because I knew I didn't like her!
BRC: Mason admits that part of the reason he is marrying Celia is because he got swept up into her personal agenda, which included marrying him. Mason’s mother, Sallie Bayless, has a few more redeeming qualities than Celia, but they do seem to have their similarities. Is there a little bit of Mason that might also be subconsciously “marrying Mama”? Do you think men often “go along” with a woman's plans because it’s easier not to have to really think about their own needs and expectations of a relationship?
MKA: I think men often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to relationships, and even strong men are not immune to being railroaded into something by a woman they're attracted to. Also, you know Southern men and their mamas...
BRC: Mason is Annajane’s first love. Do you think we ever really let go of our first love? Do you think we are more able to forgive that person because of the incredibly strong emotions and special memories attached to them?
MKA: Unless our first love is just a train-wreck, I do think we cling to sentimental versions of our first love. And yes, forgiveness is probably rooted in that sentiment.
BRC: I found Sophie to be a fascinating lynchpin to Mason and Annajane's relationship. What gave you the idea for that character and her vital role in SPRING FEVER?
MKA: When I imagined Mason's wedding scene, I saw this curly-haired little girl with thick, sparkly cat-eye glasses tripping slowly up the aisle. Then I had to figure out who she was. I liked the idea of her literally arriving on Mason's doorstep as the "baby in the basket." Then I had to figure out the part she played in the plot.
BRC: Annajane's love for Mason continues to run deep, even five years after their divorce. Yet, despite her strong emotion, she walked away from their relationship for what she believes to be his infidelity. Which do you think requires the greatest strength: forgiving a spouse for their transgressions, sticking with them and trying to get past it, or walking away from everything you know and hold dear, including financial security, to start over?
MKA: I think forgiveness requires the most intestinal fortitude.
BRC: I loved Pokey and Annajane's friendship. What woman doesn't yearn for a girlfriend bond that stands the test of time? You clearly understand the solidarity of female friendship. Did you draw on any of your personal experiences as you created these characters?
MKA: I've been blessed to have strong, lifelong friendships, like Annajane's and Pokey's. If you've grown up with somebody, survived the trials of puberty, dating, divorce, disease and the death of parents together --- as my friends and I have done --- then there are stories to be told...thank Gawd!
BRC: Do you think more forgiveness is required in a marriage or in a close, long-term friendship?
MKA: I think the grace of forgiveness is an essential part of any long-term relationship. Forgiving, and forgetting.
BRC: There is less house decorating or, as one might say, “house porn” in this book than in your others. Was that deliberate, or was this a surprise as you wrote?
MKA: I consciously try with every book not to repeat something from a past book. So with last year's SUMMER RENTAL still very much in my mental rear-view mirror, I had to mightily resist the temptation to have Annajane redecorate everything in sight.
BRC: You seem very familiar with Southern small towns and their plight over the last 50 years: lifeline industries have shut down or moved away, unemployment rates have skyrocketed, Main Street has died. Are you originally from a small town? What do you think the answer is to revitalizing these many deteriorating southern communities?
MKA: I'm a lifelong Southerner, although not from a small Southern mill town. But as a former journalist, and an intrepid traveler of back roads, I'm painfully aware of the plight of these small communities, and I feel for their denizens. I wish I knew how to save them all. I do think strong community activism --- often lead by one, strong-minded person --- could be their salvation.
BRC: What are you reading right now, and what are some titles on your summer reading list? Where do you plan on reading them?
MKA: I've got double stacks on my nightstand, and on my Audible.com account. I love a mix of nonfiction, memoir and fiction. I'm reading Carole King's memoir, A NATURAL WOMAN, and listening to the audiobook of Lisa Scottoline's COME HOME, and I'm nearly through Eloisa James' memoir, PARIS IN LOVE. Next up is THE DARLINGS. I'll be on book tour most of June and July, so I'm sure I'll be reading "real" books, as well as eBooks on my iPad and more audiobooks on my iPhone for the driving portion of my tour.
BRC: Will you get some time off to enjoy the summer, or are you already working on your next project? Can you share anything about that?
MKA: I'll be meeting up with my bffs in July when we all attend our (ahem) 40th high school reunion in St. Petersburg, but the rest of the summer is mostly work-related. My next book is due in mid-September. Eeek! It's about a group of people who meet in a divorce recovery group.
BRC: Last question: North Carolinians wants to know. Cheerwine --- do you love it or hate it? (Note to readers: Cheerwine is a “bubbly cherry concoction named for its burgundy red appearance.” It was created in Salisbury, NC in 1917 and is every bit the southern legend that Quixie is in SPRING FEVER.)
MKA: Love Cheerwine. And have you ever tasted a Cheerwine Krispy-Kreme doughnut? Mmmm.