BOOKS

Author is the mother of reinvention

Mary Kay Andrews writes about strong, sassy Southern women who share her 'DNA'


Bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews will speak about the women in her novels on July 13 at the Millhopper Branch Library.

Courtesy of Mary Kay Andrews
Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 4:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 4:44 p.m.

Mary Kay Andrews, The New York Times best-selling author of “Ladies' Night,” is well known for populating her books with plucky Southern women. Up-and-coming floral designer Cara Kryzik, the central character in Andrews' latest novel, “Save the Date,” is no exception.

Facts

IF YOU GO

What: Mary Kay Andrews, The New York Times bestselling author of “Ladies’ Night,” discusses her latest novel, “Save the Date.” The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
When: 2 p.m. July 13
Where: Millhopper Branch Library, 3145 NW 43rd St.
Cost: Free
For more information: Visit www.aclib.us, or contact Nickie Kortus at 334-3909, nkortus@aclib.us

When Cara inherits a small florist shop where she worked in Savannah, she borrows $20,000 from her father to start her own wedding floral business. And when Cara learns that one of Savannah's wealthiest families is thinking of hiring her to create the floral arrangements for their daughter's wedding, she jumps at the chance to audition for the job that could establish her as Savannah's go-to wedding floral designer.

But her father, who doesn't believe she has what it takes to run her own business, suddenly calls in the loan; her goldendoodle puppy, Poppy, is dog-napped; the shop's refrigerator goes on the blink, wiping out $12,000 of fresh flowers in a matter of hours; and a prominent florist from Charleston has expanded to Savannah, threatening to muscle in on her territory.

Andrews' characters also share another common trait: the character makeover.

“That's a recurring theme in my books — my characters reinventing themselves,” said Andrews, author of “Hissy Fit,” “Little Bitty Lies,” “Savannah Blues” and “Summer Rental.” Andrews will speak about the women in her novels — including “Save the Date” — at the Millhopper Branch Library at 2 p.m. July 13. The program, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, is free and open to the public.

Andrews said her novels generally open with protagonists who feel somewhat defeated and powerless. Through the novel's plot twists and turns, the women learn that not only can they change things, but they must. At some point, she said, they realize they have more strength than they think they have.

“That's probably something I've learned from watching the women in my own family,” Andrews said. “I've had a strong mother and grandmother. And I think what has inspired me has been watching other women struggle not only to survive but to thrive and to reinvent themselves.

“I think all of my protagonists have some of my DNA,” she adds.

Andrews has reinvented herself more than once during her writing career. In fact, Mary Kay Andrews is a pen name she adopted some years ago, when she first started writing women's fiction. “Save the Date” is her 13th novel in the women's fiction genre.

Andrews started out as a newspaper reporter and feature writer at The Atlanta Journal Constitution. One of her first assignments was to cover the real-life murder trials that were the basis of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

But as the newspaper industry began to change, and after she and her husband started a family, Andrews was determined to find a way to stay at home with her two children. She began writing mysteries under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

After writing 10 mysteries, Andrews had an idea for an entirely different kind of novel. And because her mysteries featured a specific character, Andrews, her agent and her publisher felt a name change was in order.

“That's when I reinvented myself from mystery-writing Kathy to women's-fiction-writing Mary Kay,” she said.

The name Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children's names: Mary Kay after her daughter, Mary Kathleen, and Andrews after her son, Andy.

The seed for Andrews' latest book, “Save the Date,” was planted while she was planning the launch party and fundraiser for her last book, “Ladies' Night.” Every time Andrews launches a new book, she hosts a party to benefit a nonprofit organization. Her publicist suggested they send out “Save the date” cards for the party.

“ 'Save the date.' That's a title!” Andrews exclaimed. “And the book took off from there,” she said.

Andrews' research took her to Savannah, Georgia, where the novel is set. Andrews' friend, a wedding stylist, put her in touch with a wedding florist, who invited the author to her shop to observe.

The inspiration for Cara's goldendoodle puppy, Poppy — an obedience-school dropout who runs away and leads Cara to her new love interest — came from Joey, a goldendoodle bred by Andrews' sister-in-law who was adopted by a friend of Andrews in Savannah.

Although Andrews has written some 22 or 23 books (“I've lost count,” she said), she still gets nervous at the thought of writing the next one.

“You're only as good as the book that just published,” she said. “It's the same anxiety every time … the same 'Oh, my god! I don't know if I can do it.' ”

To boost her confidence, Andrews said, “I have my book jackets framed to remind myself 'You did this before. You can do it again.' ”

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