Cooking has always been a challenge for me. When I first got married, my
repertoire consisted of anything that could be opened, heated, and served.
Seventeen years later, I am proud to say that I have added sauté, boil, and
broil to my vocabulary. As for baking, if it weren't for my sister-in-law,
Christine, I would be so toasted. Not only can she whip up the most delectable
confectionaries at the drop of a hat, but also she always finds a way to make
my latest baking blunder seem like it wasn't my fault Take it from me. Life is
so much sweeter when you have someone like Christine in your family.
This month's jewel, New York Times Bestselling Author Mary Kay Andrews, is best
known for her sweet Southern charm and witty humor that make each of her novels
a sure hit with her fans. In her latest release, DEEP DISH, she puts a
hilarious spin on the reality show craze as her lead characters stir up a
comical yet flavorful cook-off on a remote barrier island. Even Paula
Dean, one of my favorite hosts from The Food Network, plays a part
in this concoction. From start to finish, Mary Kay will most certainly keep you
As part of this interview, Harper Collins has graciously donated five copies of
DEEP DISH for you, my
readers, to win! So, don't forget to check for the trivia question at the end!
Now go ahead and grab yourself a glass of sweet tea and get to know the very
talented Mary Kay
Jen: The first book I ever reviewed was yours, Little Bitty Lies, which
landed me my job at FreshFiction.com. Since then, I have always considered you
my lucky charm! If you don't mind a trip down memory lane, please tell us a
little bit about your educational and professional background.
Mary Kay: I have a degree in newspaper
journalism from the University of
Georgia (Go Dawgs!) and I was a newspaper reporter for 14 years--the last ten of
which I was a features writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Jen: Currently, I reside in Maryland, but I was fortunate enough to have
lived in Atlanta so I can truly appreciate your Georgian flair. What was it
like working for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution? Do you miss the newspaper
Mary Kay: I miss all my newspaper buddies, the sense of collegiality,
the immediacy of daily journalism. But I don't miss the daily grind, inept
editors and mindless, meaningless, endless meetings.
Jen: When was the defining moment in your life when you decided to leave
the newspaper business behind and become an author?
Mary Kay: The day I decided it would be more fun to undergo oral surgery
than report to work at the paper. That's when I knew it was time to pack it in!
Jen: I was tickled to learn that your real name is .
Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym? And, how did you arrive at your
Mary Kay: I'd written ten mysteries as Kathy, and when I had the idea
for SAVANNAH BLUES, I
decided since it was a totally different type of book, I should write it under
a pseudonym. The name is derived from my children's names--Mary Kay for my
daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for my son Andrew. I also wanted a name
that was higher up in the alphabet so my readers wouldn't have to squat when
they were searching for my latest release.
Jen: Although I am not familiar with the series, I read that you wrote
ten critically acclaimed mysteries under your real name. Please tell us about
them. And, was this before or after your rise to fame as a sweet, Southern
writer with the ability to keep your readers in stitches?
Mary Kay: I wrote eight installments of the Callahan Garrity mystery
series. Callahan is a former Atlanta cop who gets a private investigator's
license, and owns a cleaning business called The House Mouse. She lives with
her mother, Edna, and has a wacky crew of women who work for her. The books are
still in print from Harper Paperbacks, and your readers should immediately go
out and buy them. They're fun and funny, and I'm really proud of them all.
Jen: From what I have learned, it seems that everyone has her own method
of madness, if you will, when it comes to plotting a novel. Please take us
through your writing process. Outline first? Character sketches? Notecards?
Mary Kay: I come up with a premise and a book title and then the
protagonist starts creating herself in my head. I don't really outline, but I
do create a synopsis, so I can know what the storyline is and the cast of
characters. Then, I just start at the beginning and write to the end.
Jen: With each novel, your readers are introduced to such loveable
characters ...some sassy and quirky and others down-right eccentric...but all who
contribute to a good read! How did you arrive at the premise for your latest
release, Deep Dish?
Mary Kay: My husband and I love to cook and entertain together, but we
always have a lot of good-natured bickering when we're in the kitchen together.
That's how I came up with the idea for a pair of television chefs--a man and a
woman, who have to compete for something they both dearly want--and who have to
figure out how to get what they want without destroying what they might
possibly have together.
Jen: From what I understand, Paula Dean from
Network played a part in the writing of this novel. Please fill us in on
Mary Kay: Because of my background as a journalist, I always try to do
research to make sure my books have realistic settings. For DEEP DISH, I needed to see
how a television cooking show is created. Paula was gracious enough to invite
me down to Savannah to watch her show being taped. It was magic!
Jen: How much research went into the writing of this novel, especially
the scenes in the coastal barrier islands?
Mary Kay: The island in the book, Eutaw, is fictional, but I'd visited
Cumberland Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, several times in
the past. This time around, I spent a few days on Daufuskie, which is off the
coast of South Carolina, as research. I also did some reading and first-hand
interviews with a biologist who specializes in indigenous foods of the islands.
Jen: Personally, I thought it was a brilliant idea to incorporate
reality television into the plot since it is so hot these days! Your lead
character, Gina Foxton, is such a firecracker and her antitheses and potential
love interest, Tate Moody, is your typical Southern guy. How did you come up
with these characters? Were they modeled after anyone in particular? What are
your characters' strengths and weaknesses?
Mary Kay: I never know where my characters come from, although Tate,
like my husband, is an outdoorsman who loves to cook. Gina is somebody totally
new. She's had a disastrous romance with her television producer, and is
distrustful of men now--especially Tate. She's also self-conscious about her
small-town roots. And she's very career-driven.
Jen: With the female lead's "Iron Chef" mentality and spicy language,
the content of this novel seems a little grittier and edgier than your usual
style. What led to this new "feel" in your writing?
Mary Kay: I think Gina's own drive to succeed in a man's world makes her
a little tougher than the woman I've written about previously.
Jen: A question I just have to ask...who is the better cook? You or your
Mary Kay: Ha! He's great at seafood and steaks, and he has amazing knife-
skills. I'm the one who researches the recipes, shops, designs the menu, and
does the sides and desserts. It's really a team effort.
Jen: Of all the books you have written so far, which one was the most
challenging to write and why? Which one was the most rewarding and why?
Mary Kay: SAVANNAH
BLUES was probably the toughest, just because it was such a change from the
category mysteries I'd been writing. With that book I discovered that murder is
easy--but relationships and figuring them out--is really tough. The most
rewarding was probably HISSY
FIT, because it was the first time I made it onto
the New York Times Bestseller List--and I did it while my parents were both
still living. They were so proud.
Jen: Has there been any talk of perhaps seeing one of your novels up on
the big screen?
Mary Kay: I've been talking myself blue in the face about it! Seriously,
we have an agent in L.A. who has been shopping the books around. Keep your
Jen: What has surprised you most about your career and also the workings
of the publishing business?
Mary Kay: The thing that's most surprising is that I have a career as a
novelist at all. I thought I'd be a newspaper reporter for life. DEEP DISH is my 16th
novel, and I still learn something about the publishing business every day. I
had no idea about all the disparate departments who come together to produce a
Jen: Please tell us about you website. Do you have e-mail notification
of upcoming releases? Do you participate in author phone chats and if so, how
would my readers go about arranging one? Do you participate in a blog? Do you
have any contests on your site? Bookmark give-aways?
Mary Kay: My website is called MaryKayAndrews.com. Readers can sign up
for my newsletter, for HarperCollins' Author Tracker feature which notifies
them of new releases and my appearance schedule, and there's a place to contact
me for book club phone chats.
My blog is called TheKudzuTelegraph.com, and I think it's pretty darn cute,
as well as a lot of fun. We'll have a contest for DEEP DISH with some really
swell prizes, which is being sponsored by Bookpage.com, that will be up on the
site in the next few days.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you
tell us about it? When is the expected release date?
Mary Kay: The WIP is called THE FIXER UPPER. It's about a
young woman who loses her high-powered job in Washington, DC and moves back to
her father's family's hometown, where she tries to fix up and "flip" the family
home place. Release date is sometime in 2009.
Jen: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to
speak with my readers. It was such a special treat for me to able to speak with
you! Best of luck in 2008!
Mary Kay: Thank you Jen. I enjoyed chatting with you.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting Mary Kay. As an added bonus, she has included
some of her yummy recipes that are mentioned in the story in the back of the
book! So, why not pick up DEEP DISH at you local bookstore or library branch and fix
something tasty for dinner tonight? Better yet, would you like to win your own
copy? Answer the following trivia question for a chance to win a copy of DEEP DISH. Good luck!
title of one of Mary Kay's previous books... SAVANNAH _________.
Later this month, I will be bringing to you my interview with New York
Times Bestselling Author Laura Lippman. You won't want to miss it.
Until next time...Jen
When a twist of fate landed Jennifer at the "Reading with Ripa" roundtable
discussion with Kelly Ripa and Meg Cabot, she knew that her career as a French
teacher would essentially be over. Instead, she figured out a clever way to
combine her love for reading and writing and "voilà" She became a book reviewer
and columnist with www.freshfiction.com. On the sidelines, her parents secretly
hoped that her French degree from Vanderbilt would one day come in handy and
Jennifer is happy to report that the phrases ‘Je ne sais pas’ and ‘C’est
incroyable!’ have been quite useful when reviewing certain selections! As is
typical in her whirlwind life, one thing led to another and soon she found
herself facilitating a popular moms’ book club and writing a column she cleverly
named Jen’s Jewels. (Jewelry is one of her many addictions, as is the color pink
and Lilly Pulitzer, which when you think about it, would probably make for a
good story! Hint! Hint! ) To keep herself away from her favorite retailer, Ann
Taylor, she serves on the Board of Trustees of the Harford County Public Library
in Maryland. As a national trainer for The Arthritis Foundation’s Aquatic and
Land Exercise Classes, she is an advocate for those like herself who suffer from
arthritis, the nation’s #1 cause of disability. When asked how she manages to do
all of these things and actually get some sleep at night, she simply replied,
"It’s just Par for the Course." Hmm! Now where have we heard that before?
1 comment posted.
I am from Georgia alos and I love Mary Kays books. Hissy Fit was a favorite and the last Savannah story was another fav. I won't say the title because of the contest.
I didn't think you could hate something more than oral surgery. Ouch.
(Gigi Hicks 3:01pm March 1, 2008)