Thursday 23 August 2018

Author Interview: Wendy Francis Author of The Summer Sail

Today I have a real treat for you. I was lucky enough to be able to interview Wendy Francis, author of The Summer Sail. This book came out in the US on May 1st and you can click here if you're interested in buying this one. 

Here's what i'ts all about: 

A trio of college friends who reunite aboard a cruise ship experience an unforgettable vacation in this compelling novel from the author of The Summer of Good Intentions, which was hailed as “everything a summer read should be” by Elin Hilderbrand.

Three college roommates are celebrating a twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a cruise to Bermuda. As the ship pulls away from the pier, everyone is looking forward to lounging by the pool, sipping sunset cocktails, and reminiscing. Abby, the mother hen of the group, will be celebrating her wedding anniversary in style, even as she and her husband keep a secret from the group. Ambitious career woman Caroline happily anticipates several stress-free days away from her magazine job with her boyfriend, Javier, who may or may not be finally inspired to propose. And single mom Lee (annoyingly gorgeous and irresistibly popular in college) hopes she’ll win back the affections of her formerly sweet daughter Lacey, who after her first year in college, has inexplicably become a little bit of a monster.

As the balmy pink shores of Bermuda come into view, tensions simmer, and old jealousies flare, sending the temperature from soothing to scorching in this engrossing tale of three best friends on a vacation they won’t soon forget—but not for the reasons they expect.

This one was also the subject of a discussion between Fred Armisen and Seth Myers on Late Night...

First question-bit of a cliche-how did you get into writing?

Not cliché at all! I was a book editor for about fifteen years before switching over to the author’s side of the desk. For about a year, I’d had an idea percolating for a novel about two sisters, one a recent divorcee and the other, a new mother. My own son had just been born, so I was missing my family back in Wisconsin. Three Good Things was both a valentine to my son, Nicholas, who almost didn’t make it into this world, and to the Midwest.

Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?

I do now, although “full time” is a bit of a misnomer. I’m also a mom to a ten-year-old boy, so much of my time is spent shuttling him to and from hockey, baseball, or soccer practices. Part of why writing appeals to me, I think, is that you’re able to set your own hours and can sneak a few writing hours in when it’s convenient.
Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer?

I think it’s fair to say that most of my fiction focuses on women’s relationships – families, sisters, friendships. Usually there’s a secret involved, something at stake. My tastes in both writing and reading tend to lean toward women’s fiction and summery beach reads. But I also love books that are wonderfully character driven. Novels like Stephen McCauley’s My Ex-Life, Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, and Amy Poeppel’s Limelight were all favorites of mine this summer.

How do you develop your characters as you write, are any of them based on real people?

I generally have a pretty good idea of who my characters are and what “issue” they’ll be dealing with when I begin. In my new book, The Summer Sail, I wanted to write about three college roommates who’ve stayed in touch and who reunite one summer only to discover that one of them is hiding a big secret. But I couldn’t figure out the setting. A typical college reunion on campus sounded too complicated (too many people/events to keep track of!). But then it dawned on me that a Bermuda cruise might present the perfect setting. Three best friends stuck on a boat for nine days with their families? What could possibly go wrong? ;)  And, yes, my college roommates and I do try to get together every year for a mini-reunion, but no, none of my roommates is remotely like Abby, Caroline, or Lee!

What was the inspiration behind The Summer Sail

See above!

What is your writing process-do you map it out first? Write in chronological order?

How I wish I were a plotter, with color-coded index cards for each character. But after writing three novels, I’ve acquiesced to the fact that I’m more of a seat-of-my-pants kind of storyteller. I once heard Elinor Lipman describe it as “intuitive writing,” which is how Flannery O’Connor, I guess, described letting your characters take you where they may. I like that!

How much of you is reflected in your writing? 

Hmm…that’s a good question. Without getting too psychobabbly, I’d say there’s always some of me (or at least my real-life opinions) interwoven into one (or more) of my characters. There’s typically a character who is, for lack of a better term, Type-A. Someone who worries needlessly, wants everything to go well, and who’s probably over-concerned with everyone’s happiness. And, of course, nothing ever goes perfectly.

What kind of research did you do before/during writing The Summer Sail?

Well, of course, I had to take a cruise to Bermuda! Although, to be fair, when I was cruising, I didn’t know I’d be writing a book about it. Still, it helps to have all those details fresh in your mind – the endless buffets, the lounging by the pool, the unique subculture that comes with cruising, the exquisite pink beaches of Bermuda.

How much attention do you pay to the reviews that you get?

I think we writers tend to pretend that we don’t care, but I challenge you to find any author who hasn’t checked his or her Amazon or Goodreads reviews! Sometimes reviewers get it right, other times they miss the boat, so to speak. It usually depends on the day (or week) how much I let a review bother me or boost my spirits.

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

Absolutely! If I didn’t have the support of my husband, I’d never be able to do this job. He puts up with my self-doubt and my son tolerates my bouts of distraction when I’m deep into writing a novel.

How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

It’s a mixture of excitement, jubilation, and feeling queasy.

Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy reading?

Elin Hilderbrand is a favorite for the summertime. I also always enjoy Elizabeth Strout, Jennifer Weiner, Liane Moriarty, Emily Giffin, Stephen McCauley, and Sally Hepworth. As for nonfiction, Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, blew my socks off this year. Everyone should read it.

Finally...what are you working on right now?

I’m always afraid of jinxing myself, but I will say that my new novel involves a slightly dysfunctional family that comes together over a long weekend to celebrate a milestone. I think I’ll leave it at that!
Thanks so much for having me on your blog.

Thank you so much to Wendy for stopping by today and answering all of my burning questions!

Look out for a review of this one soon!

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