Friday, May 22, 2015

Nancy Thayer...Mystery Fiend?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING here, stepping in for Rhys for the day. One of the great pleasures of being a writer is meeting other authors - usually at conferences or literary festivals or bookstores. I met today's guest in an entirely different fashion. I was headed to Nantucket - you all remember my wintery island adventure, right? - and my agent said, "I have a client/friend who can come pick you up at the ferry. Her name is Nancy Thayer."

"Nancy Thayer!" I squealed. "I love her books!"

"That's good," my agent said, "because she loves yours."

Nancy Thayer, like the heroines of her intimate family sagas, seems to have come to rest in an enchanted place. For the past thirty years, she's lived in a lovely historic home in Nantucket with her witty, good-looking husband, Charley. She's been on the New York Times bestseller list 157 times (roughly.) Her life is enriched with kids (2), grandkids (4), cats (several), and the praise of book reviewers everywhere. Her newest book, The Guest Cottage, is out now, just in time for your Memorial Day weekend.

I’m delighted that Julia Spencer-Fleming invited me to write a guest post on Jungle Red Writers. I’m a mystery fiend. Just ask Julia, who sat in our Nantucket living room with our bookshelves packed with books and after a moment asked me, “Why don’t you write mysteries? That seems to be all you read.”

Or ask my good friend Jill, who knows about my obsession and made me a notebook cover AND a fleece-lined throw out of Nancy Drew material.

What IS it about a good mystery that is so inviting and delicious? Part of it is, maybe, the brain-fun of trying to solve a puzzle. Much of it is getting to know the characters who become part of my life. (When I first met Julia, I hope I said hello before demanding: “Does Clare have her baby?”) It might also be the location, the sense of being in another place while tucked away at home. There’s the excitement, too, the What’s-Going-to-Happen? that makes my heart pound and keeps me reading until I’ve finished the book. And, for me, I suppose much of it comes from the sense that by the end of the book, someone will have set things right, at least for a while. 

Oddly, my favorite season for reading mysteries is winter. It’s great to know I won’t be interrupted. Nantucket is crazy busy in the summer, and lonely, dark, and isolated by gale force storms in the winter. This is what you see on my little book shrine when you enter our front door in December.

I’m also fascinated with women who write mysteries. I write novels about families, and to me families are enormous mysteries. My sister and I still argue about whether our father loved her more than me. (He did.) But I haven’t yet succeeded in writing a mystery. . .maybe someday.
Now that I’m a grandmother, I’m happy to say I’m continuing the tradition of mystery reading in my grandchildren. 

One of my top five favorite pleasures is curling up with a brand new mystery and a huge bowl of popcorn, or a nice box of chocolates. I take the phone off the hook and silence my cell for 45 minutes. My husband and children have learned not to speak to me when I’m in my special zone.

I wonder: Do any of you have a similar habit of curling up in/with a book?

Nancy Thayer’s newest novel is The Guest Cottage. Sophie and Trevor are strangers dealing with deep personal losses in their lives. They rent a house on Nantucket for the summer to help them and their children heal. When it turns out to be the same cottage, they decide to make it work, and all is well, so extremely pleasant that they begin to fall in love with each other. But a handsome, wealthy, gentle European pursues Sophie and a hostile, gorgeous, territorial widow tries to claim Trevor. In the midst of this all, Sophie rediscovers a talent that awakens her to the joys of life.

Nancy Thayer is the author of twenty-seven novels, including The Guest Cottage, Island Christmas, Nantucket Sisters, A Nantucket Christmas, Island Girls, Summer House, The Hot Flash Club, and twelve other novels available in e-format. You can find out more about her books on her website, and visit her on Facebook, where she posts daily.


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  2. There's nothing that compares to curling up with a good book, is there?
    It's always fun to meet another fan of mystery books, Nancy. [And, yes, the "Does Clare have her baby?" question looms large for all of us who love Julia's books.]

  3. So glad you love mysteries, Nancy! I've been so busy writing them lately that I decided to take the weekend off and just read. Maybe on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, maybe on the deck with a G&T. So many books, so little time. I've only been to Nantucket once, but I clearly have to pick up your books so I can get back vicariously.

  4. Welcome Nancy, how lucky for us that Julia met you on Nantucket! Would love to hear more about the new book--and also, how in the world do you structure a book if you don't have a mystery as the skeleton? Whenever I think about writing something non-mysterious, that's the questions that haunts me...

    I love women's fiction and will definitely be adding yours to the wish list!

  5. Welcome, Nancy!!!!

    I was lucky enough to be able to read an ARC of "The Guest Cottage," and it is stunning. Just like every other Nancy Thayer novel (anyone picking up here that I'm a huge fan?).

    I'm a long time fan of women's fiction and the amazingly talented writers who share these stories with us. So glad to see one of my favorites and one of the best here today.

  6. Welcome, Nancy! I love Nantucket, although I've only been there once. As Edith said, I need to read your books for a vicarious visit there.

    My bad posture can probably be traced back to my childhood habit of stretching myself sideways in a chair to read! When I'm reading my immediate environment disappears and I momentarily believe that I'm in the setting of the book. It's a wonderful feeling! (And I have a three day weekend coming up, which I hope to spend getting away to the world of the books I'm currently reading.)

  7. Welcome, Nancy! Please say hi to Meg Ruley for me!

    Kaye, I'm so jealous you got your mitts on an ARC of THE GUEST COTTAGE....

  8. Long summer days curled up on the deck with iced tea and a book. Long winter nights luxuriating in a bubble bath, turning into a veritable prune, reading a book.

    And I'm with Lucy - how do you structure a book without a mystery? LOL

  9. Look at you two all bundled up!

    And that's exactly what I always think, Lucy and Mary! What would the people DO???

    I shared an event last night though with Elin Hilderbrand. Like you, Nancy, she sure seems to have figured it out, too! Nantucket--ah. That's where I met my husband!

  10. Nancy, I love the picture of you and Julia all wrapped up to brave the elements. I must admit that I would enjoy being somewhere that required a lot of stay-in time during the winter, where I could cuddle up with books. I have had The Guest Cottage on my radar, and I think I have it on my Amazon wish list, will double check that. I do know that I want to acquaint myself with your writing and am rather embarrassed that I haven't already done so.

  11. Nancy, I love the photo of you and Julia!!! Kindred spirits, indeed!

    As for writing, mysteries provide a nice framework for a plot. But I'm sure you have an arc in mind for your characters, and that's all you need to create narrative tension. The Guest Cottage sounds fabulous! It's dark as night and POURING (again) here north of Dallas, and I'm so tempted to curl up on the chaise in my office with a cup of tea and read instead of working.... Shame! (And don't e-books make it easy to give in to tempatation???)

  12. Julia, what a wonderful thing you did in having Nancy here. Thank you.

    Nancy, you write on Nantucket? In the winter? I am impressed. I am in awe. I don't know you at all, but I have a new hero. And I am going to get The Guest Cottage today.

    I spent most of my early years in Salem, where I was born, and Marblehead. My favorite-ever place to snuggle up and read was in a gable alcove on the third floor of our house on Rowland Street. It was a room recovered from the attic. I sat for hours looking out over the harbor. There was no better place during a nor'easter to snuggle up with my great-grandmother's lap quilt and a book.

    My saddest times were when I had to live in other places. When I did… when I had to go elsewhere to live for awhile, I always imagined—oh god i still do—that I was back in that special cozy place. Safe.

  13. I've been away all day and have just now gotten to the laptop to comment!

    It really was funny when Nancy and Charley invited me to their house for drinks and we got all cozy in the parlour/library and I realized it was ALL mystery. Four walls of it!

    I told Nancy I was tempted to set a mystery on Nantucket, but I'd give her the first crack at at it...:-)