Interview: August 20, 2004
August 20, 2004
In this interview Mary Kay talks about her love of interior design and some of the pieces she has collected over the years from tag sales and auctions. She admits that, although she is a sweet, Southern belle in everyday life, she has been known to throw a hissy fit of her own when extremely agitated. Mary Kay also describes the sequel to SAVANNAH BLUES, which will focus on the character of BeBe Loudermilk and is scheduled to be released late next summer.
BRC: When you started writing HISSY FIT did you see the scorned bride-to-be first or did the story actually take shape another way?
MKA: I actually had the title HISSY FIT before I had a plot to go along with it. The story of the bride-done-wrong seemed to follow pretty naturally. And I'd known a man who bought a house and decorated it for a woman, hoping she would move into it, so the pieces seemed to fall together pretty naturally.
BRC: Reading about Keeley decorating Will Mahoney's house, we sense that you were loving this part of the writing. We could feel you salivating over each find and seeing the house coming together. When you wrote, did you sketch the rooms or do any kinds of drawings to use as reference?
MKA: I'm a nester by instinct, and a voracious reader and clipper of design magazines like Verandah, House Beautiful and Country Home. I did some quick (bad) sketches, and actually shopped at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center with an interior designer friend for some of the pieces Keeley buys in HISSY FIT.
BRC: The fact that Will has come to town to revitalize the local bra plant is a great subplot. Why bras? Is this any sort of a social commentary on the fact that so many manufacturing jobs are now moving overseas?
MKA: At first I was going to have Will buy a struggling textile factory, and then, one night, it came to me: bras! Once I started doing the research, I discovered, to my dismay, that almost no bra manufacturing still takes place in the U.S. So I needed to write about those job losses in a meaningful way. Living in North Carolina now, I see almost daily stories about the losses of jobs in textiles and apparel manufacturing, which once accounted for a huge number of jobs here and in the rest of the South.
BRC: Your knowledge of period furniture as well as decorating detail is one thing that makes your books such great reads. Do you have any formal training in decorating or interior design?
MKA: I had to laugh at the notion of my having any formal training. I'm just like a lot of my friends, women who get joy out of making their surroundings beautiful. I love the hunt, and I love seeing beautiful, liveable homes. My husband says I'm a house voyeur.
BRC: If you were not writing, would you want to become an interior designer, or is it more fun to write the houses of your dreams without the clients to interfere with them?
MKA: As a teenager, I was attracted to interior design, but then, writing carried me away. Still, I'd love to be able to buy at "To the Trade" prices and places, just like the real pros can.
BRC: Reading your books, we know there are going to be great laughs. We would love to know, do you laugh as you write these books as much as we do when we read them?
MKA: I don't laugh as much as I chortle. Or maybe snigger. I'll admit to sniggering.
BRC: We know you love to shop at tag sales, hit the auctions and collect, which now, of course, all fall under the heading --- research. What's your favorite recent "find"?
MKA: My favorite recent find would have to be a beautiful mahogany 1850s secretary I bought last weekend at the Metrolina Antique Show in Charlotte. I've been looking for a piece like it for months, and was elated to find it at a reasonable price. Of course, I had to bargain the price down!
BRC: Is there one day that is truly memorable for you for junking and collecting? If so, can you tell us about it?
MKA: I love to junk when I'm out on a book tour. Years ago, I was in San Diego, on a Sunday, with no signings. I jumped in the rental car, drove to Long Beach and went to the outdoor flea market there. I bought little things I could pack in my suitcase, but it was a great day. And last Friday, my friend Mary and I had a fantastic time at Metrolina. It was my first time, and I made some major scores --- like a chandelier for a hundred bucks, and an oil painting for $49.
BRC: Do you watch any decorating shows like "Trading Spaces" or "Merge" or antiques shows like "Antiques Roadshow"? Any faves?
MKA: I'm an HGTV junkie. Love Kitty Bartholomew's show and "Curb Appeal."
BRC: I gave some thought to your name when I was in Dallas recently and there were 11,000 Mary Kay reps in town at the same time. I know your pen name came from your children's names, but we could not help but notice that you share the same name as the ladies with pink Cadillacs. Care to comment on this? Anything subliminal going on with your name?
MKA: Stupid me, I didn't even consider the Mary Kay implications when I chose my pseudonym. I don't think there's any subliminal meaning there, but who knows?
BRC: We have to ask. Can you, ahem, pitch a hissy fit of Olympic proportions if necessary, or do you always keep your emotions in check?
MKA: In real life, I'm an easy-going, polite, Southern belle. But yes, if you get me sufficiently riled up, I WILL pitch a hissy, especially if my family is involved.
BRC: Many authors tell us that they scribble notes for future books and hold onto them in folders or notebooks. What's your style for this?
MKA: System? You're supposed to have a system for this stuff? I make notes in journals, then lose them. If I have a system, it's telling my agent about my brilliant ideas. If he likes them, then I pursue them.
BRC: You are working on a sequel to SAVANNAH BLUES. What can you tell readers about this book, and when can they expect to see it?
MKA: I'm working on the sequel to SAVANNAH BLUES right now. This time the story belongs to Weezie's best friend, BeBe Loudermilk, and most of it takes place out at Tybee Island with, of course, suitable junking and design expeditions. Look for it late next summer.