Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author Nancy Thayer, Author of Summer House

Nancy Thayer is the author of nineteen novels, including Summer House, The Hot Flash Club series, Moon Shell Beach, Stepping, and Three Women At The Water's Edge. Her books concern the mysteries and romance of families and relationships and the humorous adventures of growing older. In 2008, Redbook magazine chose her novel Moon Shell Beach for their “Hot Summer Read.” She has lived on Nantucket Island for twenty-five years with her husband Charley Walters. They have two children and two grandchildren. Her new novel, Summer House, was published by Ballantine Books on June 23, 2009, the same day her daughter Samantha Wilde’s first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, was published by Bantam Dell. Nancy’s website is You can sign up for her newsletter there.

Thank you for this interview, Nancy. Can you tell us what your latest book, Summer House, is all about?

Nancy: Thank you! Summer House is about three generations of women who face turning points in their lives during one summer when the large, fortunate Wheelwright family gathers at their summer house on Nantucket.

Is this your first novel? If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

Nancy: This is my nineteenth published novel. The writing experience was different because this time around I had a contract, and an editor whom I adore, not to mention a deadline! Oh, yes, and my children are grown and out of the house! But in many ways Summer House is as close to my heart as my first novel was. I’m older now, too, and could write from the point of view of women 90, 60, and 30.

How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

Nancy: I’ve been thinking about these characters, especially Nona, who is a bit like my own mother, for years, and I used some of the letters my father wrote my mother during WWII in the novel, so I knew what I wanted to do. I don’t actually get writer’s block—but I do delete lots of material. I find I’m always able to write, but a lot of it is just awful and gets deleted, or I go down the wrong path and have to start over. I am incapable of just sitting and waiting and then writing it all perfectly the first time. I write. Then I have to be sure to let it “cool,” then I read it critically, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

How have your fans embraced your latest novel? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

Nancy: So far, the response has been great. The really funny experiences have come with the Hot Flash Club novels, which are humorous, perhaps because the older I get, the funnier life seems. Summer House deals with some serious issues like alcoholism and family secrets. I’m getting wonderful emails from people who say the book touches their lives and is meaningful to them. Those emails mean so much to me.

What is your daily writing routine?

Nancy: I write every day except Sunday. I wake around 7, make a cup of coffee, and go to my study. I work for about 5 hours, and I return in the afternoon to answer email, etc. When I’m in the red hot middle of a book, it drives me crazy to have to stop, but I’ve found over the years that anything I write after about 5 hours I ended up tossing.

When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Nancy: Movement helps me make the transition from the fictional world to the real one. Often I jump on my exercise bike, blast some rock ‘n roll on my CD player, and bike for at least 30 minutes. Or if my back and shoulders hurt, as they often do after hours of typing, I lie down and listen to quiet music. Music really helps clear my brain and restores me.

What book changed your life?

Nancy: Oh, my—I’d have to say all the books I read when I was a child. Dr. Doolittle, Alice in Wonderland, Nancy Drew—I read voraciously as a child and by the time I was in 6th grade, I was writing short stories. I knew very early in my life that reading and writing were my passion.

If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Nancy: Well, no one has asked me this before!  I guess it would be “To the Stars through Difficulty.” I lived in Kansas the first 20 years of my life, and that is the Kansas State Motto. It is a good adage to base a life on, I think. It’s very optimistic, but also realistic. No one has a life without difficulties, and if there’s one thing a writer needs, it’s perseverance. To be a writer means to write and work and get rejected, then write and work and get rejected, and do it all over again—and someday to succeed.

On the other hand, that motto is a little pompous, more suited to a politician than a writer.
So let’s go with: Pretty Lucky.

Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

Nancy: . . .that I believe in something else, something more, because the synchronicity between life and fiction is dynamic and playful and as real as the earth beneath my feet.

Thank you for this interview, Nancy . I wish you much success on your latest release,
Summer House!

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