1. What book changed your life?
The Poky Little Puppy is the first book I remember reading. I could read at four, at which point I was addicted. The Borrowers. Doctor Doolittle. Anne of Green Gables. Any Nancy Drew novel, who wasn’t even a person but a collaboration of male writers! As soon as I held a book, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
2. Was your first published book the first manuscript you ever wrote?
No. I sent my first manuscript, titled A Faithful Woman, to a New York agent, the elegant Julian Bach. He liked it, but it didn’t sell. My second novel, Stepping, he also liked, and he sold it to Doubleday in 1978; it was published in 1980.
Before that, I wrote short stories and sent them to literary reviews and a few got published, and one even sent me a check for $50! Any crumb of affirmation was blissfully accepted. Still is.
3. Stephen King says, “The hardest part is just before you start.” What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Waiting to get back to work. I write first thing in the morning, and my coffee gets my mind going. At night, when I’m trying to fall asleep, I often jot notes down for the next day and sometimes these are helpful. But I’ve tried writing at night or in the afternoon, and it never has any magic to it. I do emails, et cetera, in the afternoon, and I walk every day, but I have trouble falling asleep at night.
4. Do you know the story’s ending before you start?
Sometimes. More often I start writing three chapters, get to know my characters, and somewhere around page 100 I think: Oh! This is how the book will end.
5. When you’re having a difficult writing day, what do you tell yourself to get through it?
I tell myself I need more chocolate. So I get more chocolate. I’ve actually eaten a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food at 8 in the morning while writing. Caffeine and sugar, baby! And many days I’ll write five or six pages, only to discover later on that only one paragraph is right—but I wouldn’t have gotten that paragraph without those five or six pages.
6. Do you read your reviews?
If my agent or editor sends me a review, it’s always a good one. Other than that, I don’t read my reviews. Actually, reviews terrify me and send me into a very paranoid mental closet for a day.
7. Besides being persistent and correcting your spelling errors, what’s your best advice for a new author?
I think it was Stephen King who said, “Always do what your editor tells you.” I believe that. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful editors and I’ve learned to trust editors and to be so, so grateful for them.
8. What’s your definition of writer misery?
Envy. Constant envy. Every time I read a really good book, I think: Why didn’t I write that? It might be a book by Stephen Fry, whom I idolize because of his rapturous use of language, or by Deborah Crombie, an American who writes the most delicious British mysteries. It might be a book by Anne Lamott or Annie Proux or A.A. Milne. (Did you know Milne wrote a mystery?) I wish I’d written them all.
9. What’s your definition of writer happiness?
Writing. Also, of course, when someone tells me they like my books. Especially if that someone is not a relative, but I’ll be glad to hear that from a relative, too.
10. What’s your favorite book on writing?
No contest. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
11. What book are you reading right now?
Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank, which is fabulous and funny and not just a “beach read.” A book of poetry by Craig Morgan Teicher. I subscribe to “Poem-a-Day” so each day I find a new poem in my email. All the poems are so different, funny or angry or heartbreaking, but with brilliant use of words. I keep buying books of poetry and sort of fueling myself up on the words and the emotions. And I just finished The Case of the Twisted Candles, another Nancy Drew book by Carolyn Keene, which I read because my 11-year-old granddaughter was here.
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Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of 31 novels, including A Nantucket Wedding and The Hot Flash Club. Her books are about families and friendship and the beautiful island of Nantucket. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages, including Lithuanian, Hebrew and Finnish. A Fellow at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in 1980, she was also awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in Mainstream Fiction in 2015.
Nancy has two grown children and four grandchildren. She has lived on Nantucket for 34 years with her husband Charley Walters. She grew up in Kansas, so every morning when she looks out the window at the harbor, she reminds herself never to wear ruby red slippers and she never clicks her heels.
Her latest novel Surfside Sisters is about two friends who dream of becoming writers—and what happens to them as they reach for that dream.