Change is difficult no matter what season of life you are in. Take Oprah for instance. After twenty-five years, she has turned off the lights at the Oprah Show temporarily saying good-bye to her millions of fans world-wide. For some, four o’clock in the afternoon will never be the same again. However, this is an exciting time for Oprah as she embarks on a new adventure at the OWN Network.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Nancy Thayer addresses this very topic of a life change in her sensational summer read HEAT WAVE. After the sudden death of her husband, Carley Winsted along with her two young daughters is forced to move on while coping with her loss. In order to make ends meet, she decides to open a bed and breakfast in her family’s home. A delightful, heartwarming story, HEAT WAVE is a must-read book for this summer’s reading list.
As part of this interview, Ballantine Books has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.
Jen: A New York Times bestselling author, your career is the envy of many aspiring authors everywhere. So that my readers may have a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background prior to becoming published.
Nancy: I have a B.A. and M.A. in English literature from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. In my twenties, I taught freshman English in several colleges and read, read, read, all the classics from Fitzgerald through Tolstoy, and Agatha Christie and Victoria Holt as well. I also wrote, wrote, and wrote. Mostly I wrote short stories, trying to find my voice. My first short story was published in the University of Tulsa’s literary review, “Nimrod” and also in a Spanish journal. But I wanted to write about women like me, and gradually I found a way to do it. My first novel wasn’t accepted for publication until I was thirty-five.
Jen: Please describe for us the “Ah! Ha!” moment when you made the decision to pursue a writing career.
Nancy: Honestly, when I was four, when I began to read. As soon as I learned this was something people could do–write stories–I wanted to do it. And I began to do it. In sixth grade my teacher allowed me to read my short stories to the class. I never ever wanted to do anything else; although there were days–and years–when I thought I would never be published.
Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, please share with us your writing process. Do you plot and outline first? Or, do you simply allow the novel to take on a life of its own?
Nancy: The most important thing for me is discipline. I write every morning as soon as I wake up–as soon as I get a cup of coffee! I start with a character or several characters, and write the first page, allowing it to lead me to the next page, even though I know that eventually I might throw the first page away. I don’t outline or plot, but after a few pages, I make a kind of constellation of characters, with lines between them, scribbling notes about who does what to whom. After a few chapters, the novel does take on its own life, but after the first draft my editor reads it, and she is remarkable at pointing out what I’ve left out or overstated. I can’t stress how important a good editor is. I do many revisions, large and small, for my editor, and she’s right every time.
Jen: Best-known for emotionally captivating beach novels set in Nantucket, your latest release HEAT WAVE once again takes us to that locale. How did you arrive at the premise?
Nancy: I’ve lived on Nantucket for 26 years, and I never tire of writing about its beauty. When Carley is widowed, she needs to find a way to support herself and her two daughters. Nantucket is a small island with no chain businesses, and Carley has little work experience. But she loves people and she loves baking, and her house is enormous, set on a cliff overlooking the water. Thousands of people flock to the island for the cool summers, the sandy beaches and the small town atmosphere. Nantucket provided the perfect setting for Carley to open a Bed & Breakfast.
Jen: The book begins as the main character Carley Winsted learns of the sudden death of her husband. Carley must face the ultimate decision as to whether or not she and her daughters will remain in Nantucket or flee to New York to reside with her parents. What is the driving force behind her decision to stay?
Nancy: Carley is fortunate to own the house she lives in. She and her husband were given the house by her husband’s parents, and her husband left it to her in his will. So she has a home, one she loves, one her two daughters, 12 and 5, have lived in all their lives. She doesn’t want to take her children away from this wonderful house, their town, their friends, their school. She doesn’t want to inflict another change on them after they’ve lost their father.
Jen: How does her decision to open a Bed & Breakfast in the historic Winsted home set the tone for the future of her relationship with her in-laws Russell and Annabel?
Nancy: Carley loves her in-laws and admires her mother-in-law. It is a historic family house she has inherited, one that has never been slept in by anyone but family. Annabel and Russell are horrified that Carley wants to turn it into a B&B, but Carley has considered all her options and all her preferences. She disagrees with her beloved in=laws and strikes out to realize a dream. Her decision to run a B&B is Carley’s first step toward discovering the power and potential she has in her own self. Deciding to run a B&B is in way Carley’s Declaration of Independence from her lovingly domineering in-laws.
Jen: How does the physical proximity of her in-laws affect her healing process, as well as theirs?
Nancy: Carley’s in-laws are especially important to Carley’s daughters Cisco, 12 and Margaret, 5. At first the entire family comes together to grieve, but when Carley decides to open the B&B, Annabel, her mother-in-law, tries to undermine Carley. This causes a split between Carley and her oldest daughter who is already facing stressful changes in her own life. Carley finds that she is stronger than she ever knew. Russell and Annabel finally learn an enormous lesson that changes their lives.
Jen: As Carley and her girls experience the various stages of grief, they hit some bumps in the road. What is Carley’s biggest challenge in her new role as a single mom?
Nancy: Oh, goodness! There are so many! Carley has to financially support her small family without accepting help from her in-laws, which means she has to become creative, proactive, and willing to disagree with people she loves. She has to discipline her children all by herself, without another parent to help her make decisions. She has to find a way to assure both daughters they are loved and safe.
Jen: During life’s most difficult times, women rely on the kindness of friends to pull them through. Carley is no exception. How does her friend Maud’s predicament help Carley put her own life into perspective?
Nancy: Carley’s two closest friends are Maud and Vanessa. When Maud–not to give too much away–makes some startling changes in her own life, she becomes so self-absorbed she isn’t there to help Carley. But in a way, Maud’s selfish grab for happiness helps Carley understand that in the midst of all her family, she, Carley, matters, too. Her own happiness matters, too.
Jen: And without giving too much away, why does she choose to keep Maud’s secret despite the possibility of hurting others?
Nancy: This is a frog in a warm pot of water that slowly boils sort of action. We are all told secrets by our friends. We promise to keep them, and I believe that mostly, if we say we will, we do. When Carley first promises to keep Maud’s secret, it isn’t as enormous a secret as it becomes.
Jen: Unexpectedly, Carley winds up befriending her husband’s former law partner Wyatt. How does this budding friendship enable her to put the past behind her and focus on the future?
Nancy: Carley learns to move from grief to power, independence, and mental health, but she doesn’t know when or how to allow herself to be happy again. I think many women feel that working hard, keeping their children happy and safe, keeping the house together, is enough, and feel almost guilty at the thought of doing things that make them happy. At one point, Carley wonders whether a new book and a box of chocolates are too indulgent for her as a widow. She has a lot to learn.
Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Do you participate in Author Phone Chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?
Nancy: Thanks for asking this! I have done Author Phone Chats and I love them. I need to have some information about organizing phone chats put on my website and newsletter, but someone can always email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen: Please take us on a tour of your website highlighting points of interest. (I love the seashells!)
Nancy: The opening page is about me, my new novel, and BEACHCOMBERS in paperback. I had my web guru make Heat Wave large, mostly because that turquoise blue is my most favorite color, just dreamy and it captures the summery feel of Nantucket. “About Me” is a peek into my personal life: family and friends, our house, the island. I love seeing photos of others. “Books” is of course a list of my books–all 21! “The Hot Flash Club” is about the four books in that series, what order to read them in, how to start a Hot Flash Club, and discussions questions for book clubs. “Newsletter” provides a space to sign up for the newsletter I send out several times a year, about my books, my grandchildren, events on this island, and my favorite quotes, DVDs and books. It’s always personal and I build it myself. “Events” is a list of events where I’ll speak in the next few months. “Links” is a place to find a few other writers I love–like my daughter, Samantha Wilde! You can click on her link and get to her website. I’m glad you like the seashells; it is so Nantuckety!
Jen: In terms of social media, are you on FaceBook? Twitter? Do you blog regularly on any sites?
Nancy: I am on FaceBook but I don’t get on there very often. I’m trying to go there more, now that there is a Fan Page, or an Author Page. I want to start some discussions on the Author Page, about how other women have found their own strength through crisis, or take part in discussions readers have started. Most of my time at the computer is spent writing. I don’t Twitter, but I’ve been considering a blog. Why do we have to sleep?
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?
Nancy: Yes, I’m working on SUMMER BREEZE, a novel about three young women facing career and romantic choices, set in the Northampton/MA area, which in its own way is as beautiful as the island.
Jen: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by and chat with my readers. I hope you have a relaxing summer!
Nancy: Thank you, Jen! This was fun.
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Nancy. Please stop by your local library branch or favorite bookstore and pick up a copy of HEAT WAVE today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at email@example.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win.
Name one of Carley’s best friends.
Later this month, I will be bringing to you my interview with New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz. You won’t want to miss it.
Until next time…