Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mary Simses' sweet taste of success...plus a book giveaway

Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

I have a confession to make....I don't like blueberries. Okay, I have to admit something else now. I only like blueberries if they are baked into something, the same way I only like cheese if it is melted on something. So when I saw the cover and title for Mary Simses' debut novel, I immediately thought two things:

1. I want blueberry pie right now.
2. We must feature this author at CLC!

Not only did we get to meet a cool new author and learn about a delicious sounding new book, but I gained a "small world" story, as well. In my attempts to feature Mary here, I contacted her publisher to set up an interview. Her publisher's name sounded familiar so I looked her up on Facebook and it turns out we were classmates in high school. What are the odds that we'd reunite as publisher and book blogger?!? (We didn't even have to schlep all the way back to the Midwest to attend our reunion either.) And I have Mary Simses and her novel to thank for that.

While Mary's publisher and I moved out east, Mary is from this region, as she grew up in Darien, Connecticut. Although she's always been writing stories, her concerns about making a living at it led her to magazine publishing and then law school. In the meantime, she took a fiction writing course and became hooked. After having some short stories published, she became inspired to write The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café after hearing a story on the radio.

Aside from writing and reading, Mary loves photography and listening to jazz music. She currently lives in South Florida with her husband (who is also her law partner) and their teenage daughter. Mary is already working on her second novel, as well. You can find her at her website and on Facebook.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group, we have FIVE copies of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café for some lucky US readers!

What did you learn about yourself from writing The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café?
The most important thing I learned was that I could take an idea and characters and create something longer than a thirty-page short story, which was the longest thing I’d written prior to writing the novel. I never thought I could stick with something for as long as a few hundred pages. But when I heard a piece on the radio one morning, about a woman whose grandmother said, “Erase my hard drive” right before she died, it got me thinking about what that grandmother wanted to hide. Was she a spy? Had she committed a crime? There were so many possibilities. Eventually, though, I took it in a slightly different direction. I began to imagine an eighty-year-old woman looking back on her life and wanting to make amends for something she’d done that she regretted. And that idea took me through the whole novel. So I learned that I could write a novel and I also learned that now I only want to write novels. It’s a format that provides so much room in which to move with a story and characters. I’m sticking with it!

I’m also a huge shutterbug. I’ve been taking pictures ever since I was a child and I learned, while writing Blueberry Café, that the tens of thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years have helped shape my writing style. I love to describe places, like Beacon, Maine, the fictional town in the novel. When I write – especially when I describe my settings – I imagine the scene, with foreground and background and lighting, as though I’m about to take a photograph. Then I add the characters and move them around, as though they’are puppets or marionettes. I assume that all writers do this, but maybe they don’t. For me, it’s a very visual experience, but it didn’t occur to me until I was well into writing the novel that my love of photography has helped hone that skill.

Maine has become a popular setting for books. What made you choose this particular state for your novel?
I grew up in Connecticut and spent most of my life there so I’m very familiar with New England. I’d been to Maine a number of times over the years – just short trips and always to different places – but I just fell in love with it from the beginning. There’s a ruggedness and wildness to Maine that makes it beautiful in a way that’s different from any of the other New England states. It’s also a perfect destination for someone who loves to take photographs, as I do. And the people there are so interesting. When I thought about sending Ellen, the protagonist in "Blueberry Café," to a place that would be a big contrast to Manhattan, the first place I thought of was Maine.

When looking at current reviews of your book, what is one comment that really stuck with you?
The reviews have been wonderful, I’m very happy to say. I’m not sure I could point to one comment but a few reviewers have said that they felt fans of Nicholas Sparks and Elin Hilderbrand would enjoy the book, and I’m thrilled to be connected with them in any way!

If a movie were to be made of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is harder to answer than it would seem. I guess that’s because my characters are just that – my characters – and I can’t imagine them looking and sounding like anyone other than the visions in my mind. That said, however, if someone wanted to buy the movie rights and was letting me do the casting (oh, how I wish!), here is my best take:

Ellen – A young Katharine Hepburn is who I was originally thinking about when I began creating Ellen. Ellen is feisty on the outside, but a lot more vulnerable than she cares to admit on the inside. Hepburn was great at playing those kinds of characters. I’d love to hear your readers’ comments on who to cast for Ellen because I’m still scratching my head on this one. Maybe Claire Danes?

Ruth, Ellen’s grandmotherVanessa Redgrave. Period. She’s always been my first choice for Ruth, although she’d have to don an American accent. No problem for Vanessa, though. She’s amazing.

Hayden, Ellen’s fiancé – Here I’m thinking maybe Bradley Cooper, looking very polished and conservative in a Savile Row suit. Hayden is analytical and “lawyerly” but also very sweet. Cooper could pull that off.

Roy – Roy is a local carpenter whose path crosses with Ellen’s. George Clooney would be perfect, but he’s a little too old for the role, as Roy is in his late thirties. Suggestions, anyone?

Chet – I think Harrison Ford would be great as Chet, the man to whom Ruth writes her letter. The only problem is that he’s about ten years too young. (Yes, here we go in the other direction, but I think we can fix that with make-up!)

Cynthia, Ellen’s Mother –My choice for Cynthia would be Kristin Scott Thomas. She’s great at playing “take-charge” women and I think she could do a wonderful job in this role. Now, I recognize that I’m casting another British actor here so I think this means I’d need to take a trip to England to really see first-hand if this would work out . . . .

Paula Victory – Paula is a nosey, somewhat tough New Englander who owns the inn where Ellen stays during her visit to Beacon. I thought about casting Paula for a long time and I finally came up with Catherine O’Hara, who is well known for her quirky roles in Christopher Guest films. O’Hara is one of my favorite comedic actors and I think she could do a great job with Paula, who has more subtlety than appears at first blush.

Song to open while credits are rolling by: “It Could Happen to You,” by Jimmy Van Heusen (melody) and Johnny Burke (lyrics), performed by the one and only Diana Krall. (If I had to be stranded on a desert island with the music of only one vocalist, Diana would be my pick. She also amazing at that piano.)

The Director – Steven Spielberg or Mike Nichols. Hey, why not go right to the top?

What is the most memorable thing you've done so far this summer (aside from having your novel published)?
So far, spending three days doing next to nothing in Quogue, New York (part of the Hamptons) was wonderful. This has been a very busy summer with the book coming out, so it was a nice respite for me. My husband and I and our teenage daughter and her friend all went out there and stayed with friends of ours who have a lovely house on the water. I spent a lot of time on the back porch just admiring the view!

My husband and I will be going to Colorado in about a week, another trip which I know will also be memorable. That trip is strictly for adults – four other couples are going – and we’re staying at a beautiful private ranch, about seventy miles from Rifle, where we will be able to fly fish, hike, horseback ride, or chill out. I think I know what I’ll be doing . . . .


What is your favorite go-to recipe that includes blueberries in some way? (If you have a link to the recipe, please include it.)
There is a recipe for blueberry muffins that I really love. It’s simple but it produces delicious muffins. Readers can find it in the “Extras” section of my website.

Special thanks to Mary for visiting with us and to Hachette Book Group for sharing her book with our readers.


How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


US only. Giveaway ends August 11th at midnight EST.

32 comments:

pascale said...

Blueberry muffins, of course!

Amber Johnson said...

I love blueberries baked in just about anything! I'm not much of a baker, so if I'm cooking with blueberries myself it's usually thrown into oatmeal! :)

Tina Brannan said...

Blueberry muffins & blueberry pancakes! I saw a recipe on pinterest for blueberry and lemon bread. Can't wait to make it!!

susieqlaw said...

blueberry muffins

Gail said...

My grandma's recipe for blueberry muffins...

Charlotte said...

Blueberry pan cakes with warm blueberry syrup and whip cream.
CABWNANA1@bellsouth.net

Connie said...

I love blueberry muffins just loaded with blueberries. Add some soft butter and sit back and slowly eat it as the butter and blueberry juice runs down your chin. It doesn’t get any better than this!

Anonymous said...

Definitely blueberry jelly especially on homemade buttermilk biscuits.

Ann Ellison

Lisamarie said...

Blueberry Pancakes or Crepes

Mrs Mommy Booknerd said...

I like blueberries in drinks, does that count? Lemon sorbet vodka, fresca soda with fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries! Refreshing yumminess for summer!

Jessica said...

I'm not a fan of blueberries but I do like to make blueberry scones.

Bonnie K. said...

I like the organic wild blueberries on top of greek yogurt and drizzled with honey. I used to bake blueberry muffins years ago, but I don't bake much nowadays. The recipe I always used was: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/muffins/blueberry-muffins/

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

Chrissy TheEveryFreeChanceReader said...

blueberry muffins! blueberry pie!

This sounds like a great book.

PuttPutt1198Eve said...

I'm not much of a cook, but I loved my mother's blueberry dumplings!

Mary Jo Burke said...

i have blueberries every morning in my cereal. My attempt at eating healthy.

Janine said...

I'm not much of a cook. But, my mother-in-law makes this fabulous blueberry cream pie. I love blueberries pretty much anyway.

Linda Kish said...

Blueberry muffins. I really like to just grab a handful and eat them like that best.

Chanpreet said...

I love blueberries. I usually eat them just washed or I'll drop them in my cereal. However, my mother makes a blueberry and peach cobbler and we were recently gifted some blueberry jam which is delicious! It's not too tart and not too sweet and has whole blueberries. It's like a little piece of heaven!

Erica said...

Blueberry pancakes!!

bn100 said...

blueberry muffings

Anonymous said...

blueberry waffles with lots of melted butter! YUMMY!

Christi

GinaB said...

I have an awesome recipe (handed down from my mom)for blueberry cake made with buttermilk.

Bridget O'Neill said...

Blueberry muffins!

Bridget O'Neill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kritter said...

Maybe not a recipe, but i LOVE blueberry waffles from Leggo. Maybe beyond the age to be eating them, but who cares!

Anonymous said...

Blueberry scones or muffins! Yum!

SuzyQ4PR at aol dot com

Rita said...

Love blueberry muffins with my coffee.

Anita Yancey said...

A family recipe for blueberry crunch with vanilla ice cream. Thanks for having the giveaway.

ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

cindy r said...

I love fresh blueberries on my cereal and baked in hot muffins which I put butter on when they come out of the oven. **yummy**
Growing up, there was a field across the street with a blueberry bush and we looked forward to picking berries every year.
write(on)cindy(dot)com

Hailey Fish said...

My grandma's blueberry icebox cake. Blueberry topping, vanilla pudding and graham crackers. So good!

Britney Adams said...

I love making blueberry pull-apart bread with fresh picked blueberries!

texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

Connie said...

I am truly jealous of the winners, but I am so happy for them. I’m betting this will be a “delicious” book! Enjoy!