Readers' Favorite

August 9, 2020

Virtual Event with Mary Kay Andrews

by Donna Huber

Many authors are doing virtual events these days. The alumni association at the university where I work started the "Between the Pages" book club this summer. The books are by alumni and in addition to the book discussion they are also hosting a chat with the author. The book for July was Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews.
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Hello Summer
The book club is open to all members of the university community, not just alumni, and since I had read Hello, Summer (read my review) I signed up for the virtual author chat. It was so much fun.

I've never seen Mary Kay Andrews "in person" and I doubt I ever would have if wasn't for the pandemic causing events to be virtual. So I wasn't really sure what I was in for, but she is funny and had great stories. Monica Kaufman Pearson, another alumna and a local news personality, hosted the chat which took place via Zoom. 

I know many people are missing in-person author events so I thought I would share a bit of what I learned about Mary Kay Andrews and Hello, Summer.

I didn't realize that Mary Kay Andrews was a pen name. She had written mysteries under her married name, Kathy Trocheck, and when she wanted to branch out to more women's fiction she decided to create a pen name. Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her daughter's and son's names. Also, she figured if she was going to create a new name she wanted one that put her on the top shelf.

The idea for Hello, Summer came from an obituary about a congressman. That's not the only real-life bits that got into the book. Many of the characters were based on the people Andrews worked with during her time at the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC). (Andrews was a newspaper woman before she became a published author.) Most notably, the characters of the society columnist and Michael Torpy were based on real people. 

Buddy's "the Man in Black" look was inspired by a photographer she worked with at her first newspaper job in Savannah, GA. The radio station in the book is based on one that sits in downtown Fairhope, AL. 

Grayson was originally going to be Conley's brother, but the editor wanted for Conley to have a complicated sister relationship. I was a bit disappointed that Andrews was going to have a man be in charge of the paper. I thought it added something extra to have a female running a newspaper. She has expectations and responsibilities that a man wouldn't necessarily have.

With this book, Andrews wanted to look at the role of journalism in a community. She is a big believer in community reporting so she liked being able to feature a small-town newspaper and explore the challenges facing print news today. She also wanted to provide contemporary commentary on the role of journalism - she wanted to make readers think but she doesn't see herself as a crusader.

There is a scene at the end of the story involving a minor character (I don't want to give too much away in case you haven't read the book, yet). The scene comes as a bit of a surprise to readers and Andrews discussed her motivation. She stated she has a strong sense of right and wrong (she attributed it to her Catholic upbringing). She doesn't like to see a bad guy to get away without punishment. Punishment can come in many forms. For her, justice does not always mean prison.

I know a lot of people are interested in the writing habits of authors and Andrews offers up that she is a pantser. She found figuring out the how and the why, the motive behind, the Senator's death to be tricky as well as determining how to save the newspaper. She wanted it to plausible. I think she accomplished it well.

She shared some of her favorite reads. She said The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah "blew me away". Elinor Lipman, Michael Connely, and Party of Two by Jasmine Guillery were also mentioned. Of her own books, she said she's most proud of The High Tide Club (that was the first book of hers that I read).

She took questions from those in attendance and I asked what her advice for people who wanted to write a novel. She recommends reading the kind of books you want to write - read widely in the genre you want to be in. She also said to work on your craft. When she was starting out, she would take a week of vacation every year to attend writer conferences. She also said to attend author events and try to really talk to the authors about how they got started.

Are you anxiously awaiting next year's book? She didn't give any details but did say she was already halfway through writing it. If you ever get to attend an event with Mary Kay Andrews, I highly recommend going as she is a great speaker. And in case you can't make an event with her, you can watch the replay below.

Buy Hello, Summer at Amazon

Watch the talk

This month's book is An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. I have attended an author event with Jones before when was in Athens promoting Silver Sparrow (you can read my coverage of the 2011 event). I'm not sure if I'll read the book but I did sign up to go to the virtual event.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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  1. One good thing to come from the Pandemic is the accessibility to author talks etc through Zoom. Thanks for sharing your experience