Rekindling friendships with old childhood friends often happens in the summertime months. Returning to a favorite vacation destination or a much-loved summer home evokes certain special memories. Whether it’s a favorite ice cream shop or the distinct smell of the ocean breeze, revisiting the past has a way of making us appreciate the present. Yet, sometimes unfortunate events from days gone by tend to cloud our memories barring us from seeing the good that may lie ahead.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Meg Donohue addresses this very topic in her latest release, All the Summer Girls. It’s the story of three childhood friends who come back to their summer retreat in Avalon in hopes of reconnecting. Each is struggling with personal issues linked to a tragic event from years past that changed their lives forever. Set on the beautiful beaches of the Jersey Shore, this moving story of friendship, betrayal, and the power of forgiveness is the perfect summertime read while relaxing on the sandy beaches of the seashore.
As part of this interview, William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collin Publishers, 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 of the column. Good luck! Be sure to keep up-to-date on all the latest news in the publishing business by stopping by www.jennifervido.com or follow me on Facebook jennifervido.com or Twitter @JenniferVido. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewelsa part of your reading adventure.
Jen: As a bestselling author, you have made a name for yourself in the publishing business with your noteworthy reads. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.
Meg: I studied comparative literature and art history at Dartmouth College and then worked in publishing in New York (at a literary agency) for a couple of years before entering the MFA program at Columbia University. After graduate school, I worked for about five years as a freelance writer and editor, including a stint as a resume writer. I did just about every job out there that would pay me to write.
Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.
Meg: My editor at HarperCollins is a friend of mine, and at some point we had a conversation about how a cupcake bakery would make a great setting for a novel—and I thought Yes! I want to do that. I wrote an outline, and once I saw the plot detailed in that way—parceled out in manageable, chapter-size pieces—the whole enterprise became very real. That outline gave me the confidence to forge ahead, to have faith in the process, and to regain momentum whenever I faltered. That book became my debut, How to Eat a Cupcake.
Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long does it take for you to write a novel? And, what is the most challenging part of the writing process?
Meg: How to Eat a Cupcake and All the Summer Girls each took about a year to write. And then there were additional months spent revising with the feedback from my editor and agent in mind. The most challenging part of the process is always those days when the writing feels sticky, like the good sentences just won’t come—and that happens more than I’d like to admit! I think a lot of writing is having the determination to stick with it through those bad days and know that there will better ones ahead. The bad writing can and will be revised (or deleted) down the line.
Jen: All the Summer Girls is a powerful novel depicting the emotional journey of three childhood friends who rekindle their friendship one summer in Avalon, New Jersey. How did you arrive at the premise?
Meg: I live in San Francisco but grew up in Philadelphia, spending time each summer in the beach town of Avalon, New Jersey. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting used to the summers here in San Francisco. They’re cold and often foggy—completely different from the muggy, salty, beloved summers of my youth. I found myself thinking a lot about the East Coast summers—the feelings that summer evokes both in children and adults—and the plot for All the Summer Girls spun out of those thoughts.
Jen: Let’s start by introducing the three main characters to my readers. Kate, a successful attorney, is at a crossroad in life when her fiancé breaks off their engagement, and she then discovers she is pregnant. How do these unexpected turns of events cause her to reexamine the choices she has made in the past?
Meg: Without revealing too much, I can say that Kate has been deeply affected by the death of her twin brother eight years ago. She was already a fairly disciplined, goal-oriented person before his death, but after losing him she found herself needing to maintain an extraordinary level of control over every aspect of her life. It’s this need for control that concerns her fiancé, and that makes Kate feel as though her life is falling apart when he breaks up with her and she realizes she is pregnant. Nothing is going as she planned, and that is terrifying for her. But in the end, these unexpected events also offer her a way out of her own self-defeating habits—she has no choice but to let go a little, and to finally face the fears she has been both clinging to and burying for years.
Jen: Vanessa, a well-to-do wife and mother of a toddler, feels disconnected with her husband when issues of infidelity surface. When she voices her fears over the uncertainty of her marital future to Kate and Dani, how does the dynamic of the friendship change?
Meg: Kate and Dani were both under the impression that Vanessa was happy with the direction of her life, and so they are startled to learn the truth that Vanessa has been keeping from them. But her honesty and vulnerability allow them to feel closer to her, and the revelation of Vanessa’s husband’s infidelity becomes one of many dominoes in a chain of revelations over the course of the July 4th weekend they spend together.
Jen: Dani, a free-spirit with addiction tendencies, struggles with self-confidence issues which affect her professional and personal life. How does her unstable relationship with her divorced parents affect her interaction with Kate and Vanessa?
Meg: Dani’s childhood was far from perfect, and because of this Kate and Vanessa were always more like family than friends to her. In terms of family, Dani is sort of on her own, and she really needs Kate and Vanessa. That makes it hard for her to be honest with them all of the time—she’s afraid that if she is honest she will push them away and she will lose everything, because they’re all she has.
Jen: Without giving too much of the storyline away….after spending the summer together, how do the girls now feel about their New Jersey beach town of Avalon?
Meg: Kate’s brother died in Avalon, and so the place is haunted for them. Still, when they find themselves back there, together on the island for the first time since the summer Colin died, they can’t help but find that a lot of wonderful, joyful memories surface along with the more devastating ones. Their feelings about the town are complicated, layered, and ever shifting.
Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Meg: I try to keep my website as streamlined as possible. Right now there is a bio page, a page for each of my books with synopses and reviews, an events page where I detail upcoming readings and signings, and a blog that I don’t update as much as I probably should. I also have form to allow readers to sign up for my newsletter, which I only send out a few times each year.
Jen: Are you present in social media? And, what is the best way for your readers to keep abreast of the latest news.
Meg: I am on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AuthorMegDonohue) and Twitter (@megdonohue)—which is probably why I don’t update my site’s blog all that often. It’s become more natural for me to connect with readers and announce information on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I spend far too much time on both! So come find me there, and we’ll chat more.
Jen: Any chance for a sequel? And, are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?
Meg: I’m not working on a sequel to All the Summer Girls now, but I wouldn’t mind reconnecting with those characters at some point…so maybe there will be a sequel of sorts somewhere down the line! It’s not in the works, but it’s also not out of the realm of possibility. I was quite sad to leave them when I wrote their final chapters. I’m in the early stages of another book right now so I can’t say too much just yet as I’m still working it all out in my head and on the page…but I will say it’s a novel that explores the healing power of the relationships between humans and dogs, and it’s set, once again, in the atmospheric fog of San Francisco.
Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. I absolutely loved All the Summer Girls. I highly recommend it to my Jen’s Jewels readers. Bravo! Best of luck in all of your future projects, and happy summer!
Meg: Thank you, Jen! I’m so happy to hear you loved All the Summer Girls. Thank you for these thoughtful questions, and for having me here. I hope you and your readers will stay in touch!
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Meg Donohue. Please stop by your favorite bookstore, online retailer, or library branch and pick up a copy of All the Summer Girls today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win!
What are the names of the three friends in All the Summer Girls?
In July, I will be bringing you my interview with Julia Heaberlin, author of Lie Still. You won’t want to miss it. Until next time…happy reading!