Read the interview that the EC&M made the author of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe, Mary Simses.
Mary Simses grew up in Darien, Connecticut and started writing stories when she was eight. In college she majored in journalism, concerned that she could never make a living as a fiction writer. She worked in magazine publishing for a few years and then went back to school to become a lawyer. Not long after starting her legal career, Mary heard about an evening fiction writing class at a nearby university in Connecticut, and decided to enroll."From that point on, I was hooked."
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to get to know you a bit more. I’d like to hear from you, who is Mary Simses?
I’m originally from Connecticut, in the northeastern part of the United States. That’s where I grew up and spent most of my life. It’s my true home. I live in Florida now, which I also enjoy very much. Being an author is actually my third career. I studied Journalism in college and worked for a couple of years for a trade magazine that covered the field of magazine publishing. Then I decided to change careers and become a lawyer.
After I finished law school I worked for a law firm for two years and then for a large company, in their legal department. I did that for fifteen years. So law was my second career. While I was working as a lawyer, I began to get the urge to do some creative writing again. I’d written a lot as a child and all through school – mostly short stories and poems – but over the years I’d given it up. I enrolled in a night class (held once a week for three hours) at a local university and that was it. I fell in love with fiction writing again. And now I’m on my third career –as a writer – and it’s the one I’m keeping!
Besides writing, I love taking photographs. I’ve had a camera of one kind or another ever since I was seven or eight years old, so it’s always been a serious hobby of mine. I also love listening to old jazz music, and, of course, I love to read books, especially fiction.
You have a degree in journalism and law, have you always liked to write?
Yes. When I was a child, I was always writing little stories and poems, and drawing pictures to go with them. My mother saved some of the things I wrote when I was young and I have them in a box. Some of them are very funny. I was also lucky to have great teachers along the way, who encouraged me to write.
When I went to college, I never seriously considered becoming an author because I didn’t believe I could do it. I just didn’t have the confidence. So I chose a more practical career – journalism. I liked it, but it wasn’t the same as writing fiction of course.
I’ve always loved putting words together. Even when I was a corporate lawyer, I used to enjoy working on complicated contracts, where I would have to do a lot of drafting, because I liked the process of building with words and sentences.
What was the creation process for The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe?
As far as the process went, I tried to have a routine for my writing, but it never really worked well. I didn’t always write every day (and I still don’t). Some days, I would write a ton of pages and other days I would only write a little or I wouldn’t even touch the laptop. My husband and I have a daughter (she is seventeen now) and when I was working on Blueberry Café, she was younger and needed more of my time. I was also still working in our law firm, although not full-time. So there were days when I just didn’t have the time or the energy to write at all.
I usually wrote in the same place in my home, however, and I still do. There is a little “nook” in our bedroom with a banquette (an upholstered bench) against two of the three walls and there are windows in two of the walls, making it a nice, bright spot. I usually sit on the banquette with my laptop on a small laptop table and that’s where I write. Sometimes I take my laptop, leave the house, and find a nice place outside to write, just to vary the routine.
About the publication, when did you feel you were ready to publish? Did you have any struggles for it to happen?
I honestly didn’t know if the book would ever be published. I redrafted the manuscript several times, trying to get it as good as I could make it. I hadn’t gotten to the next step, of figuring out how to get it published, because I was still revising it. Then, one night, I ran into a friend whose husband is one of the world’s best-selling authors. We got into a conversation and I told her that I had been working on a book for two-and-a-half years. She offered to read the manuscript and I was thrilled. I gave a copy to her the following week. After reading it, she gave it to her husband to read. He liked it, met with me and gave me some terrific suggestions, and then offered to show it to his publisher. It was the most exciting time in my life. I kept thinking, I don’t believe this is really happening to me! The author is James Patterson.
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe is your first romance, what was the inspiration for the building of the plot?
The idea came from something I heard on the radio. A woman told a story about her dying grandmother and how, just before she died, she said, “Erase my hard drive.” I began to wonder what was on that grandmother’s computer that she didn’t want anyone to know about. That led to me to the idea of an eighty-year-old woman reviewing her life and feeling the need to set certain things right before she died. Although I used a letter as the vehicle to get the story going, rather than a computer, the hard drive story is what ultimately led me to write the book.
Ellen is a very stubborn and objective character, what was the inspiration for the construction of her personality and of the other characters?
There was an American actress named Katharine Hepburn, who I loved. (She was from Connecticut, by the way.) She often portrayed very strong-willed, confident women in the movies she was in, but they were also women who were vulnerable underneath. They would sometimes sound tougher than they actually were. Hepburn was partly the inspiration for Ellen. Ellen likes to make people think she can do anything, even when she can’t, as in the near-drowning scene in the opening chapter, when she tells Roy she can swim back on her own.
I felt that Ellen needed a good-looking, successful, politically astute fiancé from a well-established family, so I created Hayden. And then, of course, I needed someone who would be very different from Hayden (outdoorsy, creative with his hands, from a small-town) for the character of Roy.
How can you manage both careers, and, at the same time, be a writer?
Fortunately, I’m no longer managing two careers. Now I concentrate solely on my writing. As I mentioned before, however, for many years I worked as an attorney and wrote fiction (mostly short stories) “on the side.” That all started with the class I took at night at the university. I managed to get five stories published in literary magazines during that period, so my efforts did result in some success. And writing short stories was great practice for writing a novel.
Have you got any new projects in mind?
I have a new novel coming out next summer. I’m working on the final revisions now. It features a woman as the main character and it takes place in a small, fictional town in Connecticut. The story involves romance, friendship, and a past tragedy that Grace, the main character, must finally confront in order to move forward with her life.
If you could leave a message for the blog’s readers, what would it be?
Never give up on your dreams. Fiction writing was something I always loved, but I didn’t have the confidence to think I could be an author, so I took more practical career paths. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could be a full-time writer, but I did get there. Have a goal and chip away at it. Don’t ever give up.