Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite authors…if you haven’t read anything by her before, I highly suggest picking up a few copies – they make for the perfect summer reads. We are thrilled to have MKA on the blog today and I hope you enjoy her guest post as much as we did!
RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME TO WRITE by Mary Kay Andrews
There’s no place like home . . . unless you’re knee-deep in a stalled manuscript.
You’d think I could write anywhere. I cut my writing teeth working in daily newspaper journalism, crafting stories under the gun of a looming daily deadline—in a newsroom full of clattering typewriters and chattering reporters. When I was a reporter, I prided myself on the fact that I could and did write anywhere—in the backseat of a cab, on the side of a country road, even in an abandoned pasture during one memorable assignment covering a hostile prison take-over in a rural Georgia county.
Ironically, when I first left journalism a couple decades ago, my children were school-aged, so I could and did write whenever I had free moments. I would arrive at their school an hour before pick-up time, roll down my car windows and scribble away on a yellow legal pad.
But somewhere along the way, I began to crave solitude and quiet once I was deep into the writing process of a manuscript in progress.
I began to understand the need for isolation, so that I could immerse myself in the world of the book.
Every work of fiction has its own world. Mine is inhabited by imaginary people—but if my storytelling is to succeed, I have to be able to utterly believe in their existence—and understand the world around them. Turns out that’s not easy to do if you’re worrying about afternoon carpool or that night’s dinner menu.
I was still writing an Atlanta-set mystery series when I startled my husband by announcing that I planned to run away from home to work on the new book. At first I think he thought I planned a permanent furlough. But after I explained what I wanted, he graciously acquiesced.
A newspaper colleague had written a story about a cozy mom-and-pop motel in Destin, Florida, which seemed like just what the doctor ordered. It was within a day’s drive, dirt cheap, and situated right on the Gulf of Mexico.
I ran away to The Murmuring Surf motel, and it was pure magic. I bought a week’s worth of groceries and a tiny disposable charcoal grill—and a big bottle of cheap chardonnay, and the words seemed to flow non-stop. My story pulled together, and I’d discovered a cure for an ailing manuscript.
In subsequent years I sometimes took myself off to the physical location of the book. One memorable time I was working on a mystery whose denouement would occur at the sprawling Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. To my husband’s concern, I checked myself into a cheesy budget motel for a long weekend. He was worried about my safety, but the only danger I encountered was the fact that my room’s amenities didn’t include a corkscrew for that all-important cheap chardonnay.
Later on, I borrowed friend’s mountain cabins and beachside bungalows. My family grew grateful for my pilgrimages. Nobody wants to be around a writer who is freaking out about an impending deadline.
The turning point of my travels occurred the summer I began writing my first novel under the Mary Kay Andrews pseudonym. SAVANNAH BLUES was set in Savannah, not Atlanta, and besides, our vintage 1926 Craftsman bungalow was literally under siege of a horde of construction workers who were remodeling and building a new kitchen addition.
I removed myself to Savannah for the summer, renting a basement apartment in a historic downtown townhouse, not just because it was quiet and sane—unlike my own home, but to insert myself into the fictional world of my protagonist, Weezie Foley.
Since then, I’ve run away from home with every new book. Last year, when I was writing BEACH TOWN, I went on a crusade to find the perfect, old school Florida beach town, in the same way Greer Hennessy, the protagonist of the book does. Eventually, Greer and I found ourselves in the real Gulf coast town of Cedar Key. I settled into a cheap motel room—which later inspired the Silver Sands Motel of the book, and later into a rented cottage.
Riding a golf cart around Cedar Key, strolling to a late night dinner at the town’s best restaurant, and taking a boat tour of the surrounding waters, I began to feel the tension of deadline ebbing. I found myself in the world of the book. My mind got quiet, and my fingers found themselves tapping a happy tattoo on my laptop keyboard.
Ahhh. I’m already planning my next runaway adventure.
Connect with Mary Kay Andrews:
- Website: http://marykayandrews.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marykayandrewsauthor
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/mkayandrews
To celebrate the release of her new novel, the wonderful team at Tandem Literary have provided Karen’s Korner with a copy of Beach Town for a giveaway! Enter via the Rafflecopter below (US Entries Only):