Please join us in welcoming author Mary Kay McComas to Book Club Girl! Mary Kay is the author of What Happened to Hannah, and her latest novel, Something About Sophie, is an unforgettable story about the power of love...and the things people will do, both right and wrong, to protect it. The book is on sale today, and Mary Kay is here to talk about how she got the idea that set this tale of dark secrets in motion. You can read an excerpt of Something About Sophie here!
Ask any author and they’ll tell you that the question they are most frequently asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" My best answer is that they come from everywhere, from personal encounters to dreams to – as Stephen King in his wonderful book On Writing suggests – simply asking “What if …”
On rare occasions ideas arrive in a short summary with a beginning, a middle and an end that the writer must flesh out, warp and manipulate into a story with substance, with conflict and resolution and vivid images that will, hopefully, resonate with the people who read it. But more often they come as a kernel or two that must be ground into flour between a rock and the top of your head – not so easy.
The idea for Something About Sophie was of the former breed. A fully developed concept that I kneaded like clay then pressed and squeezed into a story of my own. And I can tell you exactly where it came from ….
I live in the country. It takes 7 hours straight to mow my entire lawn front and back. I don’t have a gardener or even a lawn service and before my kids were old enough to take their turns, I did it.
It is a wonderfully mindless job. Going around and around and around I pondered many a seed of a story that gradually grew and produced fruit in the form of one of the many short contemporary romances I wrote for the Loveswept line at Bantam Books. For 7 hours a week it was just me, my lawn tractor and my choice for album-of-the-day played full blast (so I could hear it over the mower, of course) over and over so I could belt out the songs with unabashed off-key enthusiasm.
I did a lot of mowing with Motown – The Supremes of the 60’s before Diana went solo, a little Marvin Gaye and the Greatest Hits of Mary Wells who didn’t record enough, if you ask me. And of course, The Four Seasons – who better to scream out those high notes with than Frankie Valli? I was soulful with the amazing Aretha Franklin. I was killer at Thriller. And who doesn’t love Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Bette Midler, George Strait and Fleetwood Mac? The Who? And Dan Fogelberg? Billy Joel is my favorite piano man and little Dolly Parton’s big voice was a favorite. Plus, here it is in black and white: I love ABBA and the Bee Gees – my children accept this about me.
In the summer of 1994, a year after the release of Garth Brook’s sixth album In Pieces I was all about Standing Outside The Fire, Callin’ Baton Rouge and American Honky–Tonk Bar. I mangled them all. The Night I Called The Old Man Out, One Night A Day, Kickin’ And Screamin’. The whole album is lawn mower legend.
Except for The Night Will Only Know.
The Night Will Only Know is not the sort of song you sing along with – not happy or upbeat or even broken-hearted sad. It’s disturbing. And haunting. I listened.
It tells the story of two people cheating on their spouses, having an affair, who accidentally witness the attack and murder of a woman. The next day the woman’s death is reported as a suicide. The couple didn’t step in to help her and doesn’t step up to tell the truth later because to do so would bring to light the sin they committed that night. They chose to hide their secret. But it gets worse. Not only is the night privy to their deception and a daily reminder of their cowardice and failure but it also keeps the secrets of the murder that took place, why it happened … and who got away with it. Is that twisted or what? It’s so wrong and so morally depraved – and so human in that heroes are heroes because the rest of us are not; because looking away is not uncommon and because we all might be tempted do the same thing, only hoping we would not.
Of course, it’s not the sort of fare a writer of short contemporary romances would cook up for inspiration. But it is certainly a scenario to be dumped into the caldron of ideas on the back burner, stewed for 18 years and eventually ladled out as my version of southern-small-town gumbo … Something About Sophie.
I hope you enjoy Sophie’s story. I hope it does justice to the thought-provoking song written by Stephanie Davis, Jenny Yates and Garth Brooks that so stirred me.