An interview by
Sheila invited one of her favorite authors to be interviewed for Wild on Books, and we are so pleased that Maryann McFadden accepted!
Maryann McFadden's Site:
Posted June 18, 2008
Maryann McFadden: The Richest Season is the story of Joanna Harrison, a corporate wife from NJ who runs away from her life to Pawleys Island, SC. At 46 years old, sheís desperately lonely and panicked at the thought of starting all over again when her husband is promoted and another move is on the horizon. She runs to Pawleys Island because years ago sheíd visited briefly and fell in love with this tiny island in the Low Country and hopes now it can be a place she can finally put down roots.
Joanna finds a live-in position with Grace Finelli, an older woman who has come to the island to fulfill a girlhood dream. But each is keeping secrets from the other. And then thereís Paul Harrison, the corporate warrior, who has lost his wife, his job and everything that defines him as a man. He still loves Joanna and wants her to come home. But Joanna has met another man, a local fisherman, who shows her that even grown-ups can have fun. And she becomes involved in the loggerhead turtle rescue project, which she loves.
As her family tugs at her from afar, Joanna must decide if she will pull up roots again, or finally stay in the place that has come to feel like home.
I worked as a real estate agent for more than a decade when I decided I wanted
to go back to writing. And Iíd worked with many corporate families, who move
every year or two as the husband works his way up the corporate ladder. Itís a
tough life, although the rewards are bigger houses and nicer things along the
way. But there are few roots, friends are left behind, and the husband/father is
rarely home. Iíve often said that being a corporate wife is like being another
kind of single parent. They do it all, alone.
Sheila: What do you do when not writing?
I love to garden. And I love to walk. Both are therapeutic to me, but often they
trigger ideas in my head. When my mind is free to wander, as it is when Iím
planting flowers or walking in the woods, my brain starts to relax and then the
imagination kicks in. The next thing I know, Iíve got characters talking in my
Sheila: I know you had an interesting rollercoaster ride while trying to get The Richest Season published, can you tell us a little about that?
Oh yes, itís been a ride. I finished the first manuscript just before 9/11 and
it was awful timing because publishing in NY City was in flux. I shelved the
book and waited a year, and then Chick-Lit was exploding. This wasnít Chick-Lit.
I shelved it for a while again. Then I had an agent who wanted me to totally
change it into a formula romance. Thereís so much richness to the characters,
and depth to the story, and enough romance in it that I felt it couldnít be
changed like that. I finally self-published it in 2006 and the response was
phenomenal. By the following year, I had a top agent who sold The Richest Season
at auction, with multiple publishers bidding on it!!! It is also being
translated into Italian and German and my agent is currently going for movie
rights (fingers crossed!).
Sheila: Are any of your characters based on people you know?
Maryann McFadden: There are bits and pieces of many people in all of the characters. Grace is a compilation of my mother, mother-in-law, a dear aunt, and myself, all rolled into one. While my son lived in Montana for a few years, Joannaís son lives there but is a completely different type of person. So you take a little bit here and a little bit there, kind of like a recipe, and when youíre done, hopefully you have something that is good.
Maryann McFadden: Iíve always wanted to write, from the time I was a little girl. I would sit down the cellar and type on my fatherís manual typewriter (anyone remember those?). When I was in high school, my desire to write kicked into high gear and I started writing poetry. Then in college I began working for a local weekly newspaper. By the time I graduated, I had some nice articles and began freelancing for magazines after marriage, and a few babies, as I wanted to stay home. But then I left writing for about 12 years when I sold real estate. I was so busy with the kids, I didnít have time to miss writing.
But when the kids were leaving for college, I began to long for something creative again. And I had more time to do it. So I went back to school, because fiction wasnít something I had a lot of experience with. And as I said, the novel began as my thesis.
Maryann McFadden: Oh, thatís a tough one. I left this question and came back, and still Iím not sure. Maybe that I love to sing, although I donít have the best voice! My sister even got me a program for the computer called ďVoice DoctorĒ for my birthday 2 years ago and I still havenít had a chance to sit down and learn how to use it.
I also play poker on Thursday nights. It started because I was trying to get my Dad away from the TV, now itís my one fun night out, to just relax and forget about work and everything.
Maryann McFadden: Yes, my new novel, SO HAPPY TOGETHER, is a sandwich generation novel, about a woman who has finally reached that age where she thinks itís finally her turn to have some adventure, and go after her dreams. But she finds out that when youíre a mother, or a daughter, youíre never really free.
Maryann McFadden: I do get nervous, and excited. I love meeting people, and itís the one thing I now miss about real estate. People have been so amazingly enthusiastic and supportive about this book! I have a groundswell of people, including a nun with her convent, praying for this book to make it big!
Maryann McFadden: At first it was hard, but once I got into the charactersí heads, and really knew them, it was kind of fun. Itís kind of like being an actor and playing all the parts. I was the corporate wife, the husband, and an old woman! But I loved it. It was thrilling for them to become so real to me. And people are amazed that I wrote a man so authentically. Theyíre kind of floored by that. But I really wanted to show both sides of a marriage, and most womenís books donít do that. When I added the husbandís voice, I felt the book took off to a whole new level. And he is a character everyone falls in love with!
Maryann McFadden: My favorite place to write is outside, in the yard, looking at my flowers. But the weather doesnít always cooperate. So I move around the house a lot. My office looks out at the yard, but I get antsy and will move to the dining room, or even spread out all over the bed. Having a laptop makes all of it so easy.
If I listen to music, there canít be words. I just canít concentrate, if there are. So I listen to lots of new age/spa/soothing music.
I also learned that I work best if there isnít a lot of clutter around. My office is often where junk gets tossed when weíre cleaning up fast for company, or we donít know what to do with something. Next thing I know, thereís stuff everywhere and Iím looking for pages! So I try to keep it neat, but sometimes, like right now, itís really hard, because weíre repainting the bathroom and all of that got tossedÖyou guessed it, into my office.
Maryann McFadden: Oh, thatís a story. Weíve had 4 covers! The first was an actual painting of a woman walking on a beach and while it was very pretty, I didnít think it was evocative, or really pulled the reader in. My publisher decided, a few months later, that it was too dated. I was glad of that, and we were off to the next one. And the next one. A series of hands, and shells, and different colors, until this one. I love this one! It really stands out in the bookstores and it is so beautiful and inviting.
And yes, they did listen to my feedback. I really didnít like the second or third covers at all, but when I saw this one, I knew we had a winner.
Maryann McFadden: Oh boy, Iíll be past a very big age! And thatís hard to imagine, because I canít believe Iím the age I am. Like Grace, I still feel eighteen inside!
I see myself, hopefully, as an established author with a loyal audience of readers. Thatís part of this dream. Hopefully, things will also settle down by then, because this has been the wildest year of my life. And when they do, Iíd like to spend more time gardening, at the beach, and with my beautiful granddaughters. And writing the kinds of stories I love, like this one. Always with a beach setting and nature, two of my big loves, too.
Maryann McFadden: Yes, do not give up! I shelved this book 3 times, while I worked on another one. But I always came back to this one because I believed it was so special. When I couldnít get it taken and self-published, I felt it was the right thing for me. It was all part of this unique journey I was meant to take. If you believe in your work, get it out there, even if you have to do it yourself. If you persevere, it will happen!
Maryann McFadden: That was my dream, believe me! I felt it was very special because of the reactions by people who read it. It was absolutely astounding. I received a letter from a woman in England who told me my book changed her life. And others that were emotional, as well. The book seems to speak to women very deeply, women of all ages.
Iím still a newbie in bookstores, but the rest of this dream is to become a bestseller, God willing!
Maryann McFadden: I love research. Itís fun, and I love to learn when I write, and when I read novels. I researched some parts of the turtle plot, although I had quite a bit of first hand knowledge from all of my visits to Pawleys Island.
Right now Iím researching whales for my new book, and just loving it. Like the turtles, they are fascinating creatures most of donít know much about.
Maryann McFadden: It is simply mind-boggling that my book is being translated at this moment into other languages! Wow!!! I am beyond excited. I just learned that my title, THE RICHEST SEASON, when translated for the German edition is: THE SUMMER OF MY LIFE. Isnít that beautiful. I think the Italian title is the same as the English. I just got the German cover, which I put on my website and it is just gorgeous. I canít wait to see the Italian cover. Itís all a bit like Christmas, waiting for these surprise presents to show up.
I will absolutely make myself available to go there, just waiting to hear what they have in mind. I have never been to either country, and I especially anxious to go to Italy, which looks so beautiful
Maryann McFadden: I now write full-time, which is hard to believe sometimes. I sold real estate for 20 years and was ready to leave it. Especially with how difficult things are now. I was lucky enough to sign a 2 book contract that enabled me to make this big change in my life. Hopefully the book will sell and Iíll get another contract after the second one!
Maryann McFadden: There are actually 2 different covers in Germany, I just learned. The one on my site is for their ďBook Club Edition,Ē kind of like our Book of The Month Club, etc. That is coming out in July. Next March, the traditional hardcover is being released, and that cover is a bit different. Iíll be posting it on my site soon. They had asked for some input from me, and I had sent a photo of a boardwalk going across a dune to the beach. They did take that into account, and I love both of their covers a lot. I canít wait to see what Italy comes up with!
Maryann McFadden: Just that I think this line I came up with for the self-published version, and that my publisher is using on the inside of the jacket, says it all:
ďSometimes you have to leave your life to find yourself againÖĒ
All three characters leave the lives they had once chosen, by chance or by circumstance, and find parts of themselves theyíd all but forgotten. I think in the busyness of our lives, itís a common thing. I hope to touch readers with that message, to reach back inside and find those pieces of ourselves that weíve lost along the way.
Finally, Iíd like to say THANK YOU!!! This has truly been a pleasure.