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Interview with Nancy Thayer, Author of Summer House

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Nancy Thayer is represented by Pump Up Your Book Promotion, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion.

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Moon Shell Beach. She is also the author of a new June release, Summer House. She is the mother of Samantha Wilde, whose debut novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, comes out on June 23. Nancy lives on Nantucket. You can visit her website at www.nancythayer.com.

We had the honor of interviewing Nancy to find out more about her new book, Summer House, and her life as a published author.

Thank you for this interview, Nancy Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

My first novel, Stepping, was published by Doubleday in 1980. It was about a young woman who was a stepmother and the mother of two small children, and it was fairly –but not totally!—autobiographical.

Since then, I’ve published nineteen novels, all centering on themes of family and friendship.  My last six, including Moon Shell Beach, have been published by Ballantine. 

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Summer House, my latest novel, is about the grandmother, mother, and daughter in a large family dealing with all kinds of crises and secrets while in their summer house on Nantucket Island. It’s not autobiographical, but certain themes are always important to me. My own mother is 90 and an inspiration to me, and may I add, with just the slightest note of euphoria, that my daughter Samantha Wilde, is publishing her first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, with Bantam/Dell this week. She’s an inspiration to me, too.

Moon Shell Beach, which came out in paperback this June, is about two women who were best friends in childhood but had a falling out when they grew up.  When they turn 30, they reunite, and almost trust each other again, when they find themselves involved with the same man.

What was the inspiration behind your book? Why did you feel a need to write it?

In Summer House, Charlotte, 30, builds an organic garden business on her grandmother’s land. She loves this work, even though her family wishes she would work in the family bank. And she uses her hard manual labor as a kind of private atonement for a wrong she did to someone in her family. And she gets involved with a man who is not the man her family wants for her.

Helen, Charlotte’s mother, longs for grandchildren and tries to keep the peace when her youngest, alcoholic, son shows up after a year’s absence.  Oh, yes, and she’s just discovered that her husband’s having an affair.

At the same time, Charlotte’s grandmother, Nona, remembers events during her youth in WWII and tries to decide if the time is right to reveal a profoundly important secret.

My family and friends are so precious to me, and also so mysterious. I think in all my books I’m trying to comprehend what it is that drives and connects us to those we love. Writing Summer House helped me remember how we can’t help failing those we care the most about, and how we learn to forgive them when they fail us.

What kind of research did you have to conduct to write your book?

For years I’ve pored over my father’s WWII album and listened to tales of his sojourn in Europe. Nona’s story in Summer House has been spinning in my mind for a long time. I was thrilled to be able to use some of my father’s WWII letters to my mother in Summer House.

What message are you trying to convey with this book?

I’m always fascinated by how our personal desires and proclivities lead us—and sometimes compel us—away from what we know is right, or at least safe. Away from what will make our parents or children happy. What is that little angel/gremlin within us that makes us who we are and different from our family and those we love? Can we understand ourselves? Can we forgive ourselves and those we love? I think these questions arise in long-term friendships, too.

How do you deal with rejection?

When I was in my twenties, sending off short stories, I dealt with rejection by cursing, weeping, and eating massive amounts of chocolate. It’s odd how powerful rejection can be. We all know we don’t all have the same tastes, yet having a short story rejected made me feel miserable and introverted, and, I don’t know why, it made me feel ugly. I was often incapable of leaving the house for days after a rejection. I could scarcely look the mailman in the eye. But at the same time, I never stopped writing.

Do you have a website? Do you manage it yourself or do you have someone run it for you?

I do have a website: www.nancythayer.com. I also send out a newsletter several times a year, with news about my books, and recipes, jokes, health tips, Nantucket scenes, and of course the occasional photo of my grandchildren. You can sign up for the newsletter on my website. I do the newsletter, but a professional website guru does the website, thank heavens!

How do you deal with a bad review?

Now that I’m older and wiser, I deal with a bad review by cursing and eating massive amounts of chocolate and rereading some of the wonderful affirmative emails I’ve received from readers. I skip the weeping and feeling ugly part.  Could it be that as I’ve grown older I’ve actually gotten wiser?

Thank you for this interview, Nancy.  Do you have any final words you’d like to share with my readers?

If you’re a writer, you love solitude.  But you need comrades.  Join a writer’s community.   Attend workshops.   It will help your writing and keep you sane—well, relatively sane!

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