Between the lines with Mary Simses (Q&A w/ event details)

Connecticut native Mary Simses will be promoting the paperback release of her second novel, The Rules of Love & Grammar, at several local events this month. Details below:

Saturday, June 10, 2017
2:00 p.m.
Darien Library
Book & Bike Event with Schwinn Bicycle Company
and honoring Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Connecticut
Free raffle of Schwinn Bikes, Bike Accessories, and Copies of the Book

Saturday, June 17, 2017
2:00 p.m.
Burgundy Books
Westbrook
Book Talk & Signing

Thursday, June 29, 2017
7:00 p.m.
Ridgefield Library, Ridgefield
Sponsored by the library & by Books on the Common
Book Talk & Signing

Saturday, July 1, 2017
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
House of Books
Kent
Book Signing

***

Today, I’m cyber chatting with Mary Simses.

Mary is the author of The Rules of Love & Grammar (Back Bay Books), out in paperback on June 13th. She previously wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café (2013), which was adapted for telefilm as The Irresistible Blueberry Farm by the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. Mary grew up in Darien, and spent most of her life in New England. She worked in magazine publishing and later as a corporate attorney, writing fiction on the side—which resulted in several of her short stories being published—before selling her first novel. Mary now lives in South Florida, where she enjoys photography, listening to old jazz standards, and returning to Connecticut in the summer.

Photo by Chris Salata/CapehartCopyright 2016
Mary Simses

Praise for The Rules of Love & Grammar:

“Mary Simses is a fine writer, very fine, and The Rules of Love & Grammar is a smart, well-told story about memory, family, and of course, love.”–James Patterson

“Simses … gives readers a protagonist they can simultaneously root for and cringe over as they read about Grace’s antics … In this sweet and heartfelt story, Simses provides a valuable lesson in the futility of striving for an error-free book of life. A lovely read.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Grace’s journey of personal growth skirts the line between relatable and aspirational, as Simses contrasts the security of small-town life with Grace’s dreams of Hollywood grandeur. Fans of Mary Kay Andrews, Elin Hilderbrand, and Jennifer Close will adore the picturesque setting, genuine characters, and rom-com feel.”—Booklist

“Simses … creates a barrel-full of great characters in this book, as well as the picture-book scenery they live in. Grace is something of a Bridget Jones—both endearingly human and fallible, but also heartwarmingly honest and open—with sometimes clumsy, though always well-meant adventures.”—Barnes & Noble

From the publisher:

A woman finds love and closure, and rediscovers herself, when she returns to her roots in the enchanting new novel from the author of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café.

Newly jobless, newly single, and suddenly apartmentless, writer Grace Hammond has come unmoored. A grammar whiz who’s brilliant at correcting other people’s errors, she hasn’t yet found quite the right set of rules for fixing her own mistakes.

Desperate to escape the city and her trifecta of problems, Grace hits pause and retreats to her Connecticut hometown. What begins as a short visit with her parents quickly becomes a far more meaningful stay, though, as she discovers that the answers to what her future holds might be found by making peace with-and even embracing-the past.

As Grace sets out to change her ways and come to terms, finally, with the tragedy that took her older sister’s life so many years ago, she rekindles a romance with her high school sweetheart, Peter, now a famous Hollywood director who’s filming a movie in town. Sparks also fly at the local bike shop, where Grace’s penchant for pointing out what’s wrong rattles the owner’s ruggedly handsome schoolteacher son, Mitch.

Torn between the promise of a glamorous life and the allure of the familiar, Grace must decide what truly matters-and whether it’s time for her to throw away the rule book and bravely follow her heart.

Love & Grammar - Paperback

Now, Mary reveals a few pages from the book of her life …

John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

Mary Simses: I have to admit I wasn’t a huge reader as a child. I read a fair amount, but not voraciously. That came later. I did, however, like to write my own stories and I’d often illustrate them (poorly) and staple them into little books. So I guess I was a writer, illustrator, and publisher at a very early age.

JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

MS: As a kid, I loved Nancy Drew. I read all or most of those, as did my friends. There was also a series called Encyclopedia Brown. He was a boy detective who would solve mysteries (a different one in each chapter), but you’d have to go to the back of the book to find out how he did it. That way, you could try to figure it out yourself first (I don’t recall being too successful at that.) My best friend and I wanted to be detectives or spies back then, something that found its way into my second novel, The Rules of Love & Grammar. I also remember reading and rereading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and The Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermeyer and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund. I forgot to mention that I wrote poetry when I was young, all the way through high school, and I poured over that Golden Treasury book and its illustrations. I still have it and still love it. Oh, and those dark and often creepy Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. They’d give me nightmares now, but I used to enjoy them as a kid.

JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?

MS: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. It’s a novel about an 85-year-old woman’s reminiscences about her career as the highest-paid advertising woman in America, as well as her marriage, motherhood, divorce, and breakdown. So far so good. I’m enjoying it.

JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?

MS: One? You’re asking me to name one? That’s a tough question because (1) I could name several right off the bat, and (2) my list of favorites changes a bit over time as I continue to read new books. But I’ll mention a few of the contemporary books I recommend:

  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • Life After Life
  • Angle of Repose
  • Atonement
  • The Secret Life of Bees
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
  • A Dark-Adapted Eye
  • Euphoria
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
  • Once We Were Sisters

JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?

MS: I’ve written two. My first novel, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, seemed to strike a big chord with people (as did the Hallmark movie, The Irresistible Blueberry Farm, which was adapted from the book), but I consider my second novel, The Rules of Love & Grammar, to be a much better-written book. It has more depth and more layers, and I guess that makes sense because of course you gain experience each time you write a book.

JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?

MS: I’d love to tell you I’m deep into the definitive guide to breeding Nigerian dwarf goats or a handbook on rare antique lightbulb collections, but, alas, it’s not so. I typically like to read the kind of books I like to write, which are basically character-driven fiction. Sorry, but no big surprises there.

JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

MS: I’d love to meet Bill Bryson. I’ve read his travel books for years and have laughed almost non-stop through all of them. I adore authors who are funny and wish there were more of them out there. Bryson does it so well, keeping the reader entertained while imparting a ton of knowledge about the history and culture of the places he visits.

JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?

MS: Yes, when I found out that my first novel, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, became Number 1 on the best-seller list in Germany. It also did well here in the U.S., but, let’s face it, Number 1 is Number 1.

JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?

MS: I feel such joy when I hear from readers who have been touched by what I’ve written. They tell me they relate to my characters and their stories or that they love the settings I create. I’ve also heard from people who have lost a spouse, undergone major surgery, lost a child, or have gone through some other major life experience or tragedy. And they’ve written to tell me that my book helped them in some way – gave them a lift when they needed it or made them believe in second chances. That means so much to me. So I guess my greatest literary ambition would be to know that I’m touching more and more people emotionally. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing?

JV: Fill in the blank: John B. Valeri / Hartford Books Examiner is _____.

MS: … someone I hope to meet.

Thank you, John!

***

With thanks to Mary Simses for her generosity of time and thought and to publicist Laurie Graff for facilitating this interview.

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