Please welcome author Amy Mason Doan to the blog!
Amy has written two novels, the lastest being The Summer Hours which came out in June of this year. I was fortunate to meet Amy at a book event last year and I can tell you she is FUN! (Play Five Truths and a Lie with Amy).
Reviews are calling The Summer Hours a sweet love story. Engaging. Nostalgic. “A touching novel of friendship, forgiveness and compassion.” And her covers are so sunny and perfect for beach time reads!
Thank you Amy for taking the time to answer my questions and to your wonderful publicist Kathleen Carter for putting us together!
Q. Can you describe Summer Hours in three words?
A. Honest, sexy, nostalgic.
Q. Can you tell us about your connection to Orange County? What’s your favorite place/ restaurant/library/bar/event in Orange County?
A. I was born in Orange County—Placentia—and lived there until I was in third grade, when my family moved up to Northern California. Then I lived in Newport Beach in my 20s and 30s with my husband, Mike. He was managing editor at the Orange County Business Journal while I was an editor and writer at The Orange County Register. My daughter was born in Newport Beach. She was one of the first babies born at Hoag Hospital Women’s Center!
My favorite spot in Orange County is the beach shacks at Crystal Cove. I loved them when they were run-down and abandoned, and they play a pivotal role in the plot of SUMMER HOURS. I’m so happy that they didn’t get demolished and I’d love to stay there someday, now that they’ve been fixed up as lodging. I adore Orange County, and though my SUMMER HOURS characters don’t hold back in describing some of their frustrations with the OC in the 90s, I think my attachment to the area shines through.
Q. Why were your compelled to write a coming of age story?
A. I’m fascinated by how we grapple with the past. In SUMMER HOURS, middle-aged Becc is forced to confront choices she made at 22 that changed her forever and affected everyone in her life. The story pivots between the 30something Becc driving up the California coast to an old friend’s wedding and flashbacks to a secret affair she had when she was just out of college, drifting. The story is my answer to The Graduate & explores the same timeless coming-of-age themes in the film (and movie). What kind of adult do I want to be? How can I follow my bliss but still earn a living? Who’s my soul mate? And, of course, will people accept me if they know about my inner life and my flaws, including my forbidden affair with a sexy “Mr. Robinson” figure?
Q. How did you create the characters of Becc and Cal?
A. Becc is a bolder version of me, and Cal is a younger, slightly-less-cynical version of someone I once dated in Silicon Valley. This book is definitely more autobiographical than my first novel, THE SUMMER LIST.
Q. What authors do you like to read?
A. Elizabeth Strout, Ann Patchett, Richard Ford, J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Richard Russo, Curtis Sittenfeld, so many others.
Q. What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
A. I was an English major at Berkeley so I was influenced by the classics—Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, the poetry of John Donne (a distant relative). I love a good orphan story. Judy Blume influenced the way I write teen characters and dialogue, and Wallace Stegner influenced the way I write about nature. I started raiding my grandparents’ library at nine and I read everything I got my hands on, even mature stuff that my parents probably didn’t know about. I devoured all of it—Colleen McCullough, John Irving, Tom Robbins. I read The Thorn Birds three times in middle school.
Q. What do you do when you are not writing?
A. Kayak on the Willamette or Columbia river with my husband and 13-year-old daughter, run, and in general spend as much time as possible outdoors. In Portland we go outside rain or shine, because life would get pretty dull otherwise. And as Pacific Northwesterners like say, “There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.” But I’m still a California girl at heart so it’s taken me years (and many styling products for curly hair) to get used to our rain. I’m also a huge fan of movies—classics, blockbusters, indies—and movie references are a big part of the new book.
Q. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
A. I’ve been very lucky. I was a journalist for decades, and then started writing fiction the year I turned 40. (A few weeks before my 40th, I won this random online contest and got to meet Judy Blume, and that inspired me to try my hand at fiction.) 18 months later I had an agent, and now I have two books out and two more on the way from Graydon House/HarperCollins. I know beautiful writers who have struggled to get published for decades. It’s not easy these days, so I do count my blessings.
For me the biggest challenge was not getting published but grappling with the exposure and vulnerability that come along with it. I’m an introvert, like most writers. I’m still getting comfortable having my heart out there on display so fully. 99 percent of the time my social media interactions are lovely and thrilling, and I enjoy hearing from readers. But there are trolls out there who will tag authors, especially female authors, in nasty comments. I got one the other day that said my book was “probably hedonistic trash.” That’s not fun.
Q. What is something you cannot live without? (excluding computer or phone).
A My Bose white noise machine for sleeping and writing.
Q. Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects?
A. My next novel is a juicy family drama about two cousins who’ve kept a secret for 20 years. It’s set on the gorgeous Lost Coast in Humboldt County, California. I’m obsessed with the story and the characters.
Q. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
A. Don’t second-guess your first draft. Just get the story down. Stick your drafts in a drawer for a month before you even attempt to revise. Be wary of toxic critique groups—don’t lose what makes you unique because you’re trying to impress or please everyone else. Critique partners are often excellent at identifying problems in a manuscript, but terrible at proposing solutions.
On the business side, visit queryshark.com to learn how to write a strong pitch letter for literary agents.
Q. Name two things you consider yourself to be very good at.
A. Typing and identifying lesser-known actors in movies.
Q. Can you share with us the best way to reach you and where to learn more about your books?
🆒 ARE YOU THERE JUDY – article by Amy Mason Doan, Oregon Live
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