Authors Mary Alice Monroe and Kristy Woodson Harvey are two queens of summer reads, so we were delighted for the opportunity to ask them questions on EVERYTHING bookcation and pop culture! Mary Alice’s newest book, On Ocean Boulevard, takes place on the shores of Charleston, South Carolina, and jumps into the lives of the Rutledges as they reunite for a wedding and experience a season of rebirth and love. Kristy Woodson Harvey’s latest book, Feels Like Falling, takes us just a little farther north up to North Carolina, where her characters traverse down-on-their-luck friendships, first loves, and second chances. Keep reading for a fun chat about vacation memories, book recommendations, and a sneak peek into what they’re working on next!
Describe your idea of a perfect summer getaway. (Yes, we spend most of our time armchair traveling now!)
Mary Alice: I am fortunate to live in the best of two worlds: the beach and the mountains. I do so much travel (or I did) for events, my idea of a vacation is spending time at home. To me, a perfect summer day is spent with a cool glass of wine or maybe a gin and tonic while sitting stretched out under the shade of an oak in the mountains or under an umbrella on the beach (no sun, thank you!) with a good book in my hands—and no one calling my name. The only noise I’d hear is the gentle lapping of waves coming ashore or perhaps the piercing cry of a hawk overhead. I’d wear sunscreen, of course! And my husband would be reading beside me.
Kristy: My entire life, my grandparents took my whole extended family to the beach for a week each summer (24 of us and counting!). We spent long days on the beach, cooked dinner together at night, hunted for ghost crabs with flashlights, and walked to get ice cream. It was pure simplicity and I wouldn’t trade any fancy vacation or luxurious getaway for the perfection of those weeks with all the people I loved the most.
What’s your favorite memory of reading while on vacation? Where were you and what were you reading?
Mary Alice: Having time to relax and read defines a vacation! When I am away, I love to read at least one book that is set in the area I’m visiting. I remember reading Beach Music by the great Pat Conroy during one of my first visits to Isle of Palms, many years ago. There was a turtle lady in it, a dolphin, three young boys, and a manta ray. Everything Conroy wrote was lyrical and infused with emotion. His sharp, snappy humor keeps the story from getting maudlin, and he wrote honestly about tough issues. Pat was a Low Country writer through and through, and I was inspired. I finished that and read The Prince of Tides immediately afterward. Years later, I met Pat and his wife, Cassandra, and we became friends. He left big shoes to fill.
Kristy: When I was nine, I remember sitting on the balcony of my grandparents’ beach condo reading Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—while protagonist Francie Nolan was sitting on her balcony in Brooklyn reading her library book. That remains one of my all-time favorite books, and I think that moment, where I felt so connected to a person with a totally different life from mine, is when I learned the power of story to connect us.
Which of your books would you most like to see adapted for TV or film?
Mary Alice: I used to say The Beach House, but now that dream has been fulfilled! (Thank you, Andie MacDowell and the Hallmark Hall of Fame!)
Landscape is a character in all my books, so they are all very visual. I’d love to see A Lowcountry Christmas come to film. The book won a SIBA award for best fiction of the year. It’s a poignant story of a Marine’s return home from the war with PTSD at Christmastime. He returns to his shrimping family during hard times, and like the film It’s a Wonderful Life, you root for the hero. Instead of an angel, this book has a service dog. And those scenes on the shrimp boat going along the intracoastal…magic. The town of McClellanville in South Carolina is a picture-perfect old-school shrimping village. All they’d have to do is set up a tripod and film!
Kristy: The Peachtree Bluff Series! It’s fun, with just enough drama, and features my favorite family dynamics of all the books I’ve ever written. I would love to watch those characters come to life, especially right now.
If you could have a drink with any fictional character who would it be, and why?
Mary Alice: This is the toughest question to answer. Immediately my mind goes to the characters I’ve created. The chance to meet them, alive, for a drink is enchanting. Yet, to meet someone else’s characters….so many possibilities. I believe I’d say the grown-up Kaya from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I’d love to talk to her about her life alone in the marshes I love; maybe see her drawings, more of her poetry.
Kristy: My drink would have to be chocolate milk, and I think I’d like to have a nice chat with Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl. She’s four years old and pretty much the coolest kid ever. I think she’d have a lot of interesting stories to tell! My son and I are reading the book right now, and she’s just so brave and clever. I think she could give us all some pointers!
What’s your favorite TV show, movie, or podcast right now?
Mary Alice: For TV, I’m waiting for the new season of Endeavour. Also, summer is a perfect season to enjoy the Danish series Badehotellet (Seaside Hotel). It’s in subtitles, but the characters are so well drawn. For podcast, I have to say my favorite is our own Friends & Fiction! This is a new weekly series of live interviews with Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan Henry, Kristin Harmel, Mary Kay Andrews, and me. We bring in a guest author for each episode to talk about writing, reading, and our lives. The idea was initiated during the beginning of the pandemic. Our book tours were canceled, we were checking in with each other, and we wanted to do something to help independent bookstores. Friends & Fiction was born! It is a live weekly program on Facebook—Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. ET. Then we put the episodes on podcast. We’re delighted with its success!
Kristy: I’m super into the Bad on Paper podcast with Grace Atwood and Becca Freeman. It’s like chatting about books, fashion and pop culture with your best friends—no masks required.
What’s your most anticipated read coming out soon?
Mary Alice Monroe: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel (out July 21). Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis. Kristin’s story will keep you turning the pages!
Kristy: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel. It’s a beautiful story of forgers that saved countless Jewish lives during WWII. It will stay with you!
Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next?!
Mary Alice: I have two books coming out in 2021! I’m very excited to announce that my first middle- grades book will be released from Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster in summer 2021. The Islanders was written for children 8-12, an age group I’ve always wanted to write for. This is the story of three unlikely friends stuck on a remote island for the summer—without Internet! What starts as “the worst summer ever,” becomes the best. Now I’m working on my adult novel from Gallery Books. This book will be the next (#7) in the Beach House series, featuring the historic Rutledge family in Charleston, SC—in addition to dolphins, sea turtles, and pelicans. I’m so fortunate that this is such a popular series.
Kristy: Under the Southern Sky releases April 20, 2021, and I can’t wait to share it with my readers! It’s a story about a thoroughly modern love set against the backdrop of the most conservative Southern town—and family—you can imagine. Every character has a secret that contributes to what happens to embryos that protagonist Parker froze with his late wife, Greer. I’ve been dreaming of this one for five years!
For more from these authors, be sure to tune in to their Facebook Live discussion on Wednesday, July 15 at 2 pm ET over on Simon & Schuster’s Facebook page. Don’t forget to RSVP!