Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

 We recently caught up with author Kristy Woodson Harvey and chatted about her new book Slightly South of Simple, available April 25th . Pre-order your copy here!

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What inspired you to write Slightly South of Simple, the first book in an all-new series about three sisters and their mother?

This was such a fun book to write. The inspiration came from a lot of different places, I think. For one thing, I am fascinated by first-love stories and the ways in which they can manifest themselves later on in life. Usually, those first loves are the people who know us long before we became the people we were in our adulthood. I think that certainly colors the relationship between Jack and Ansley. I’m also endlessly fascinated by how people react when their “Plan A” doesn’t work out. For Ansley, becoming a young widow with three daughters was obviously not in the plan. Caroline has orchestrated this seemingly perfect life for herself, and she never expects for it to all come tumbling down. In some ways, coming back to Peachtree Bluff is part of Plan B for all of the women.

Caroline Murphy is at a crossroads in her life. What brings this New York City girl back to Peachtree Bluff, Georgia?

Caroline’s New York high society husband, James, is in the midst of a very public, very scandalous affair with one of the city’s newest “it girls.” He’s appearing on a new reality show with her. Caroline is probably as tough as they come, but very pregnant and with an impressionable eleven-year-old daughter in tow. She decides to head home to her mother for a little TLC, despite the fact that she ran out of Peachtree Bluff kicking and screaming. With the whirlwind that her life has become, though, the quiet, slow pace she despised as a teenager is seeming a little more appealing. Being back with her sisters and mother is incredible. Of course, but in a lot of ways, it is the town of Peachtree Bluff that rehabilitates Caroline.

How does matriarch Ansley adjust to having all three of her daughters underfoot?

At first, she isn’t totally thrilled. Tapping into Ansley’s true emotions about some things about her daughters was actually one of the really interesting things about writing this book. I think as the child, we always just assume that our parents are thrilled to be around us! But when I really delved into that, there are certainly some mixed emotions as the parent of adult children. Most of Ansley’s nerves have to do with the fact that the sisters don’t always get along perfectly. Those feelings are justified! Nothing has changed just because they are all grown up. Ansley has also worked really hard to cultivate a life of her own, and she’s a little nervous about what having all of her girls back will do to that.

How does Ansley’s relationship with her daughters evolve from being a mother figure to becoming a friend?

I think in her way Ansley is always a mother to her girls first. But, certainly, being a mother to adult children is a transition. She is walking that line between letting them run their own lives and intervening when they need her. I imagine that must be a very delicate balance. My mom always talks about how hard that is, to be a parent of an adult, because you still want to put your two cents in but you also know that your children need to make their own decisions. I think Ansley strikes that balance well—and you’ll continue to see her struggle with parenting these adult children as the series moves forward.

Are you currently at work on your next project? If so, what may you share with us?

Oh, yes! I just finished the first draft of the second book in the Peachtree Bluff series. The working title is THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM. This is the middle sister Sloane’s book. I can’t say too much about it because it will give away some of SLIGHTLY SOUTH OF SIMPLE. Let’s just say that both Sloane and Ansley are at major crossroads in their lives. The Murphy women have to rely upon one another—and Peachtree Bluff—more than ever. Grammy also figures heavily into THE SECRET OF SOUTHERN CHARM. It was great to get to focus more on her character and delve into yet another generation of these wonderful women!

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On Second Thought: A Novel by Kristan Higgins

On Second Thought

On Second Thought: A Novel is now available wherever books are sold! Check out our exclusive interview with New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins.

What inspired you to write a novel focusing on the complex relationship between sisters?

Sisters can be our best friends, worst enemies, fiercest competitors…. I think it’s one of the most interesting relationships a person can have (and yes, I have a sister…the best friend kind!). No one can bug you as much as your sister, no one can make you laugh as hard, and no one understands you as much as someone who shared your childhood.

I loved mucking up this pair of sisters—they have an unusual set-up because they have different mothers, but were raised in the same household after a brief separation. It made for a complicated dynamic, as you say, which always makes things more interesting.

How does Nathan’s death change Kate’s perception of her life?

In a lot of ways, I think Kate was trying to live a simple, conflict-free life. Her parents didn’t have the best marriage, and she’s one of those people who really enjoys solitude. She’s just getting used to the idea of being married when Nathan dies, and all of a sudden, she has this unwanted role to fill—widow of a man universally adored. She’s never felt more out of place; she moved to his hometown when they got married, moved her business, doesn’t even have her own furniture in his house yet. She’s lost, and what she finds out is who’s really there for her when the chips are down. She was once so in control and so capable, and is now reliant on others to help and comfort her, and it’s not the easiest adjustment for someone who was so private in her old life.

As the sisters come to terms with their new normal, how does their relationship change?

Well, they live together for the first time in a couple of decades, so there’s that. There’s a new, strange intimacy between them that wasn’t preceded by the closeness that some sisters have. They kind of take turns being the one who’s suffering, and being able to help the other gives them each a sense of usefulness. As the weeks pass, I think they both realize how much they love each other…even more, now that the poop has hit the fan in both their lives.

Kristan Higgins

What personal advice are you able to share with moms who are facing similar challenges while trying to cope with the stressors of modern motherhood?

Oh, what a great question! My kids are older now—21 and 18—but, heck yeah, we live in a busy world. My best advice would be lots and lots of hugs and snuggles, and to really focus on your kids when they’re in your presence. Close the laptop, put the phone on silent, and listen. Another thing…follow through. It’s so easy to get tired of being consistent and firm and doing what you said you were going to do, whether it’s read that extra story at bedtime or take away your kid’s phone because he used your entire data plan in half an hour. But it does work, just like good old Dr. Spock told us it would. Especially the hugs and snuggles part.

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Sisters One, Two, Three: A Novel by Nancy Star

SistersOneTwoThree

What inspired you to write Sisters One, Two, Three, a novel centering on the complex relationship between three sisters?

I’m fascinated by what goes on in families, in general, but you hit it on the head: I think sister relationships are often complex. Maybe it’s because sisters know each other so well; they know the best and the worst parts of each other. You can reinvent yourself completely to the outside world, but not to someone who’s known you since you split your Oreos and dunked them in milk together. And in families under stress, like the Tangles, the relationship among siblings can become even more complicated. Sometimes sisters form an exceptionally tight bond (which is what happens when you have common enemy) and sometimes the relationship turns prickly.

How does writing the story in two time periods add depth to the characters and plot?

In a way you can think of this as a “Before and After” novel. The Before part starts in 1972 when Ginger is 13, right before her family experiences an awful tragedy. The After part is when Ginger and her siblings are adults. By spending time with the family in both time periods we can see what everyone was like before tragedy struck and then how they all turned out. Readers may wonder, as I did when I wrote the novel: Did the catastrophe alter the course of all their lives? Or would some of them have grown up to be the same person even if it hadn’t happened? Some think yes, some think no!

Why do you choose to set the novel in Martha’s Vineyard?

I fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard years ago. On the one hand, it’s a regular place like any other; people who live on the island year-round face the same struggles and triumphs as the rest of us. But maybe because it’s an island, albeit forty-five minutes by ferry from the mainland of Massachusetts, or maybe because it’s unusually beautiful, for visitors and summer people there is a feeling of it being “far away” and magical. This was a perfect place for Glory to go because she’s desperately looking to find a way out of the humdrum. She believes going to Martha’s Vineyard for a month could be her salvation. For one thing, she might bump into the playwright Lillian Hellman, or Arthur Miller and her acting career could become real. As she says to her husband, “It could change my life, Solly, if we went to Martha’s Vineyard.” Of course, her life does change, but not at all in the way she’d expected.

How does Glory’s decision to keep a secret affect her daughters’ parenting choices in the future?

Glory’s secret really puts a burden on her daughters. The atmosphere at home becomes more and more unsettled but the girls don’t understand why. They each deal with it differently, when they become mother’s themselves. Mimi, Ginger’s younger sister, keeps the unsettled feeling at bay by becoming phenomenally busy. She’s like a performer who spins plates in the air. So long as she’s busy she can avoid thinking about unpleasant things. Ginger reacts by becoming hyper-vigilant, super-alert to all the dangers in the world. Had Glory been honest with her daughters, they very well may have grown up feeling safe. Instead they grew up feeling at risk, and without knowing why. By the end of the novel, the sisters come to understand both the toxic power of secrets and the reason parents sometimes make surprising choices.

Sisters One, Two, Three

What personal advice are you able to share with moms who are trying to juggle the many demands of modern motherhood?

First, don’t sweat the small stuff. Kids grow up so fast and sweating the small stuff just steals time. Of course, easier said than done! Small stuff can feel really big in the moment! One thing that always helped me was reminding myself that everything is a stage. Whether it’s a hard stage or an easy stage, it will soon be replaced by another stage! So whenever possible, take the long view. Stay flexible. Love them with all your heart and build some fun memories together! The only other advice I have is to try and keep in mind that while being a mom is forever, the job of raising kids is temporary. The point is for them to grow up and have independent lives. This is another theme I explored in Sisters One, Two Three: how to let go.

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The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White is now available wherever books are sold! Check out our exclusive interview with the New York Times bestselling author of The Tradd Street series.

What inspired you to write The Tradd Street Series which is set amid the sights and sounds of historic Charleston?

The main character, Melanie Middleton, whacked me upside the head one morning while I was trying to shower and wouldn’t let me go. Seriously! And, I needed a good excuse to visit Charleston often.

In the latest installment, The Guests on South Battery, Melanie Trenholm is returning to work after maternity leave. How has she evolved as a wife, mother, and real estate agent?

With the help of her growing circle of friends and family, she has begun to realize that she doesn’t really have it all together in all aspects of her life as she’d like to think and that she might, in fact, be a tad dysfunctional. She tries really hard to change, but as it is with all lifelong habits, she takes two steps forward and three steps back. But, she still tries.

What is the driving force behind Melanie’s affinity for the house on South Battery?

A huge commission!  Beyond that, the previous owner was a friend of her mother’s and loved the house.  And Melanie’s best friend, Sophie, who is a professor of Historic Preservation at the College of Charleston, would probably never forgive Melanie if she allowed her client to sell the house as is without giving Sophie a chance to restore it.

How does the appearance of spirits, both malevolent and benign, affect Melanie’s relationships, especially with Jack?

Jack is used to it, accepts it, and even admires this trait in his new wife. Those who love Melanie, like Nola and Sophie, handle Melanie’s abilities like a special talent. But Melanie is aware that others might not be as accepting, and might actually call her downright crazy, so she tries very hard to not publicize the fact that she can see dead people—especially people who might need a real estate agent.

Will there be a sixth book in the series?

There will actually be two more books in the series after this one—and both of those stories are set up in this one!

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