If you're looking for a memorable summer read, pick up a copy of Amy Mason Doan's new release, The Summer List. Now available wherever books are sold!
1. What inspired you to write The Summer List?
I was half-heartedly plotting a story about two women who hadn’t seen each other in decades, after a mysterious rift. Then, a few years ago, I went camping by the Oregon coast, and a bunch of kids ran up asking for a Graham Cracker for a scavenger hunt. The two ideas collided into a story I couldn’t resist. I saw my characters, Laura and Casey, going on an adult scavenger hunt together, following a list written by someone who wanted them to reunite. It would be initially awkward and sometimes funny, but would gradually help them heal old wounds. The story built layer by layer.
2. The scavenger hunt is a pivotal part of the plot, both in the past and present. How does this simple game become a more complex reality for Laura and Casey?
The first scavenger hunt is at Casey’s sixteenth birthday party, and Laura and Casey worry that it’s too babyish. They go along reluctantly to humor Casey’s mom, Alex. She’s a free spirit, and always looking to spice up life in their small town. Then the scavenger hunts evolve into something much more complicated. The whole town starts talking about them, and Laura and Casey, who were once on the fringes, find themselves at the social center of their school. As they get older, Alex’s after-parties become the real draw, with serious consequences for everyone.
As adults, Laura and Casey resist the idea of the scavenger hunt at first, but they’re drawn in just like when they were best friends so long ago. They haven’t spoken in seventeen years, but they’ve clearly missed each other deeply, so they reluctantly go along with the hunt. Bit by bit, it leads them to the sites of their shared summer memories. Just like back in high school, the game starts out light but eventually unearths secrets about the night that tore them apart.
3. Why did you choose to center the story near Pinecrest, CA alternating between the 1990s and present day?
Some of my happiest childhood memories are from summers I spent around the gorgeous lakes of Northern California—Pinecrest and Lake Tahoe. The town in THE SUMMER LIST, Coeur-de-Lune, is fictional, but it’s based on those idyllic spots. I’m an extremely visual writer and I wanted Laura and Casey to live across a crescent-shaped lake from each other, close enough to swim back and forth. I saw them there. I saw their two (very different) houses, and the trees, and their secret swimming cove, and the ramshackle dock where so many important events take place when they’re young.
The nineties are my era. I love how unplugged we were, the music, and the way that summers used to be unscheduled. There’s definitely some nostalgia in the setting and the time period.
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4. How does the relationship between the women change?
The reunion between Laura and Casey is prickly at first. We don’t know why until near the end of the novel. But as their long weekend together progresses, we see them taking steps closer to each other, then stepping back. They’re tempted to give up, but I think we’re rooting for them to fumble their way back to the closeness they had as girls.
They have to create a new relationship as thirty-five-year-old women, with a lifetime of hurts and resentments and questions, and that’s not easy. When I was writing the book I found this quote by the collage artist Kurt Schwitters—“I had to create new things from fragments.” I love that idea. We can make something beautiful out of our broken parts.
5. As women, what life lessons are we able to learn from Casey and Laura’s story?
Some friendships are worth saving, no matter how much time has passed or how hard it is to reach out. The story also shows what it means to reconnect in real life vs. virtual life. It’s easy to find old friends on social media, but tossing a few “Likes” and heart emojis around isn’t necessarily a true connection. There’s still enormous value and beauty in reconnecting in the real world.
6. Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what are you able to share with us?
I am, and I’m so excited about it. It’s a female nod to The Graduate with a hint of The Sure Thing, so it’s sexy and funny and there’s a road trip up the California coast. Like THE SUMMER LIST, it involves reconnecting with someone from the past. But I can’t say much more than that. Graydon House will publish the book in 2019.
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