Summer reads are my favorite kind of books. Being able to
relax on the beach or sip sweet tea poolside with a new release in hand is what I look forward
to all year. This monthâs jewel, Amy Mason Doan, could not agree more. Her latest work,
Summer Hours, is a novel about friendship, love, and ambition set in the mid â90s and 2008.
Sometimes the path to achieving lifeâs dreams can be a little rocky as depicted in this thought-
provoking book filled with hope and forgiveness. Go ahead, and grab a cold lemonade and get
to know the superbly talented author behind the story, Amy Mason Doan.Â Â
What inspires you to write novels set in summertime?
Summer seems like this lazy, golden season, but I think
thatâs deceptive. The summer months can be surprisingly intense. Summer is when we
reinvent ourselves; I donât think Iâve ever shaken off my shock over classmates who came back
to school in September completely transformed. My mom has this long frame in her bedroom
with a bunch of my pre-teen and teen yearbook photos in it. Itâs held together with gold
hinges, and I stare at it every time I visit her. I try to remember everything that happened in
the hinge part of the frameâthe summers. The flirtations, the ways my friends and I were
experimenting with growing up, and the long, unplanned days.
I probably have a heightened sense of summer as a
period of change because my birthday is August 31! All summer, Iâm keenly aware of that date
looming and time passing.
What sparked the idea for your new release, Summer Hours?
The June after I graduated from U.C. Berkeley, I got a job
writing newsletters for an industrial real estate company in Oakland, Calf. Iâd been an English
major, so Iâd gone from blissfully reading Bronte and Donne in the library to writing about
âabsorption ratesâ and âbuild-to-suit creditâ for this loud, all-male team of brokers. I was
lucky to get that job, because I had few marketable skills. But I definitely didnât fit in. I was so
unhappy and anxious about my future that I used to sneak out to noon movies with another
Iâve long toyed with the idea of writing a novel about that
pivotal time in my life, but I wasnât sure how to structure it. Then one day I realized that it
could work extremely well as an answer to The
Graduate. Like the iconic movie and novel by
Charles Webb, SUMMER HOURS
has some juicy, age-old themes â our 20something fear of selling out, sexual temptation, a
love triangle between someone older and someone our own age. Whether sheâs floating
around on a pool raft or sneaking onto a boat to sleep with the one person she knows she
shouldnât, Becc is all of us in those âfloatingâ or âdriftingâ months after school ends and weâre
facing adulthood. It can be scary, especially if youâre someone (like Becc) whoâs tried to plan
and play by the rules her whole life.
The story takes place in the mid â90s and 2008. What attracted you to these time periods?
I graduated into a recession in the 90s, so itâs my era! I
love the music, the movies, the fact that we werenât constantly connected. People on the
cutting edge had BlackBerries, but most of us lived more in the moment.
Journalism plays a big role in the plot of
SUMMER HOURS, because Becc is an aspiring,
idealistic cub reporter. I picked times when the Internet and then smartphones dramatically
transformed the industry. Newspapers started shrinking and online news changed everything.
Setting the novel when I did made for a dramatic backdrop that added conflict and intensity to
Beccâs story. Â Â
How does the seductive power of nostalgia come into play in your latest novel?
I LOVE it when readers and reviewers use the word
nostalgic to describe my work. Iâm endlessly fascinated by how we grapple with the past. In
SUMMER HOURS, Becc is nostalgic
for her high school friendships, for the girl she used to be, and for the comparative purity and
simplicity of those years.
Sheâs 32 in the present thread of the story, and a
weekend of reuniting with old friends forces her to grapple with the adult sheâs become. Itâs
like The Big Chill in that way. Has she sold out? Has she turned into the grownup she promised
to be? And if she hasnât, can she live with that fact? Sheâs pretty hard on herself both as a
recent college grad and a 32-year-old, but by facing her choices she begins to forgive herself
for themâŚand to make the most of the years ahead of her. Thatâs what we all strive to do,
whether weâre 32 or 42 or 82.
As a woman, what expectations does Becc impose on herself that her male counterparts
may not experience?
Becc was always âthe good girl,â âthe nice girl,â âMiss
Perfect Attendance.â Sheâs like the high school me in that respect! My high school Political
Science teacher used to call me âThe Conscience of the Class.â Iâm still not sure why. Maybe
because I did all of the extra credit? He
bellowed this nickname across the room. Itâs a
heavy weight to carry, and women already put so much more pressure on themselves to be
perfect than men do.
Becc also wrestles with guilt over her sexuality, which I
think is realisticâand unfair. Women are sexual beings. And Becc reaches for her older lover.
Sheâs the aggressor in many respects; it was important to me that she have agency in those
flirtation and sex scenes with Cal, as they tryst on his boat and in their Sausalito hideaway. Iâm
hoping that readers will watch her affair play out without judging her, even when her lies trip
her up and hurt other characters for whom we have sympathy. Or, I guess I hope that if they
do start to judge her, that theyâll catch themselves doing so and wonder whyâŚand maybe then
have even more compassion for her. If Iâve done my job well, readers will be rooting for Becc to
make things right with the people she hurt.
And I think itâs simply fun to watch âMiss Perfect
Attendanceâ sort of âbreak badâ and become the 22-year-old who skips out on responsibility.
Itâs fun, and itâs real. Â
What was the most challenging part of writing the novel?
I decided early on to withhold the identity of Beccâs
traveling companion during the first act of the book. On page one we know only that itâs a man
sheâs known for a long time and that things are awkward between them, but we donât know
who he isâand if theyâre married, separated, divorced, maybe having an affair thatâs gotten
strained. I wanted to keep the reader guessing, and then, once theyâre deeper into the story,
rooting for it to be a certain character. And I love how it worked out, but it was incredibly
difficult to figure out 1. How to describe emotions and actions without giving away his identity
and 2. The right point to disclose his name. I didnât want this part of the novel to start feeling
too much like the gimmick of Wilson from the TV show Home Improvement â remember that
neighbor who was only seen above the hedge? You only saw his forehead?
In SUMMER HOURS, Beccâs traveling companion is initially hidden not by a hedge by
their giant wedding present, and I had fun with that. But we do find out who he is before
things get frustrating, and several readers have reached out to say they loved trying to guess
who he is.
Whatâs the best way for fans to stay connected with you?
Visit me on Instagram or on my Facebook page, or send me an email on my website. I may not
respond immediately but Iâm trying to respond to every email! Iâve received incredibly personal
messages about both books, and I truly appreciate it when readers take the time to reach out
and tell me that my books touched them.
With the feminist self-discovery of CommencementÂ and the love triangle
of The Graduate,Â Summer Hours is a sparkling novel about a secret
affair, the summer it all unravels, and the reunion a decade later that will be one woman's
happy ending or her biggest mistake. From the author of The Summer List.
Becc was the good girl. A dedicated student. Aspiring reporter. Always where she was
supposed to be. Until a secret affair with the charming Cal one summer in college cost her
everything she held dear: her journalism dreams; her relationship with her best friend, Eric;
and her carefully imagined future.
Now, Becc's past is back front and center as she travels up the scenic California coast to a
weddingâwith a man she hasn't seen in a decade. As each mile flies by, Becc can't help but
feel the thrilling push and pull of memories, from infinite nights at beach bonfires and lavish
boat parties to secret movie sessions. But the man beside her is not so eager to recreate
history. And as the events of that heartbreaking summer come into view, Becc must decide if
those dazzling summer hours they once shared are worth fighting for or if they're lost forever.
Set in the mid '90s and 2008, Amy Mason Doan's Summer Hours is a warmly told
novel about the idealism of youth, the seductive power of nostalgia, and what happens when
you realize you haven't become the person you'd always promised to be.
Coming of Age | Women's
Fiction Contemporary [Graydon House, On Sale: June 4,
2019, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9781525823572 / eISBN: 9781488096792]
Amy Mason Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon.
Sheâs written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, The Orange County
Register and other publications. Amy has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a
B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.
is best known for her nationally syndicated Jen's Jewels author
interview column. A savvy book blogger she dishes the scoop on the latest happenings in the
publishing business. As a national spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation, she has been
featured by Lifetime Television, Redbook, Health Monitor
, The New York Times
The Baltimore Sun
, Healthguru.com, and Arthritis Today
. She is the author of
the Piper OâDonnell Mystery series. Currently, she lives in the Baltimore area with her husband
and two sons.
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