In In 2003, a writer named Mary Kay Andrews burst on the book scene with an entertaining, lighthearted confection entitled Savannah Blues. Hailed as a promising debut, the book received positive reviews; but not everyone realized it was actually the work of journalist-turned-novelist Kathy Hogan Trocheck, author of a bestselling mystery series begun in 1990 and featuring ex-cop-turned P.I. Callahan Garrity.
Trocheck explained in an interview with Reading Group Guides.com the reason for adopting a pseudonym (derived, by the way, from combining the names of her two children): "Because Blues is so different from my Callahan books, I wanted a chance to try for a whole new group of readers, people who like women's fiction, Southern fiction, and still, mysteries. That Mary Kay is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck is not a secret from my fans."
Savannah Blues introduced readers to Eloise "Weezie" Foley, whose marriage to the wealthy Talmadge Evans III suffers a fatal blow when he announces he is in love with someone else. When Talmadge's mistress moves into his Savannah mansion, it's the backyard carriage house for Weezie, who soon begins to devise a plan to get revenge on her cheating hubby. Blues may have been a marked departure from Trocheck's grittier early work, but it was a rousing success on all fronts. Publishers Weekly hailed it as "delightfully breezy, richly atmospheric" and Kirkus reviews called it "pure fun."
Soon, Mary Kay Andrews had assumed a life of her own. A year later, she published Little Bitty Lies, followed in 2005 by the joyfully wacky New York Times bestseller Hissy Fit. Having revisited the world of her irresistible protagonist Weezie Foley twice more in Savannah Breeze and Blue Christmas, Andrews continues to craft her winning brand of witty, Southern-fried fiction -- much to the delight of her many fans.
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When Andrews was a journalist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she covered the famous "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" murder case.
As Kathy Hogan Trocheck, Andrews's mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity Awards.
When she isn't writing, Mary Kay Andrews lectures and teaches at writing workshops.
A few fun outtakes from our interview with Andrews:
"When I finish writing a book, I always celebrate with my favorite junk foods: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Wink grapefruit soda."
"I have no sense of direction and am incapable of reading a map."
"I'm a charter member of the Salty Dog chapter of the Andy Griffith Show Re-run Watchers club."
"I love afternoon naps, junking, reading, cooking with my husband, anything with avocados, English Setters, old movies, anything blue and white. I hate shopping for clothes, cigarette smoke, math, magic, mimes, scary movies, and Star Trek re-runs."
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In the fall of 2006, Mary Kay Andrews took some time out to talk with us about some of her favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. It awakened in me the joy of reading for the sheer fun of it as a very small child. That, I can remember thinking, is what I want to do when I grow up: write books! Have fun! Later, as I read that book and his others to my children, I was struck by Seuss's juicy, playful language which manages to obscure the very real, important message behind the madness. And when I had the amazing opportunity to interview Dr. Seuss, during my days as a journalist, meeting him reminded me of that old dream of mine of writing fun books.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier -- Amazing use of setting, suspense, and unforgettable characters.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- I first read it in eighth grade -- I stayed up all night, reading in a bathtub to finish it. What a wonderful, sweeping saga.
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin -- The wartime biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's marriage gave wonderful insights into this most unlikely marriage.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott -- Simply the best, most hope-giving book on writing, which I keep on my bedside table.
Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith -- Whose lyrical storytelling brings Ivy Rowe to life.
Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie -- My kind of funny, poignant sexy romance novel.
Void Moon by Michael Connelly -- The best mystery writer in the business, and this one has a female cat burglar protagonist.
The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais -- A thriller that really is thrilling.
Capote -- A beautifully insightful biography of a writer who is as important for who he knew as he is for what he wrote and why.
Jincey by Celestine Sibley -- A long out-of-print Southern coming-of-age novel by my dear friend and mentor.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?Sabrina -- Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart, and those gorgeous Givenchy gowns; what a wonderful romance!
The Philadelphia Story -- With Katharine Hepburn -- another lovely romantic comedy that makes me long for a life that never really existed.
White Christmas -- My favorite Christmas movie; I want to be Rosemary Clooney in that chic black net dress in the last night-club scene.
Body Heat -- Talk about modern-day film noir.
When Harry Met Sally -- The best kind of chick flick, and I love Billy Crystal.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
Some of the current country stuff -- especially the Dixie Chicks, classics like Eric Clapton and Van Morrison and James Taylor and Harry Connick Jr. Then, I love the oldies -- the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Carolina beach music, sixties girl groups, Sinatra. I rarely listen to music when I'm actually writing, although I did listen to Phil Spector's Christmas album to put me in the holiday mood last July and August while working on my Christmas book.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I love beautifully illustrated cookbooks and home decorating books -- to get as well as to give, and am always on the lookout for fiction to share with my book-loving friends.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I have a writing shrine with a statue of St. Therese, and I honor her with little bouquets of flowers. I like to burn aromatherapy candles while writing, and I usually have a secret stash of peanut M&Ms.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I've been writing professionally my entire adult life. Years ago, when I was a newspaper reporter, my paper's managing editor told me I was not a writer and would never be a writer. I experienced one of those Scarlett O'Hara "As God Is My Witness Moments," cried, cursed, and set out to prove him wrong.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Find your authentic voice and make it the very best version of you. Take your writing seriously, but not yourself. Really work at craft. Go to a writer's workshop where New York agents and editors are critiquing manuscripts. Finish what you start.
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