The latest — and 35th — novel by Nantucket author Nancy Thayer arrives May 3, but it’s already beach season in the pages of “Summer Love.”
The chapters of his new book alternate between two different summers: 1995, when four 22-year-olds find themselves as roommates in a dilapidated old hotel being renovated; and (a non-pandemic) 2020 when The Sand Palace Four — Nick, Ariel, Sheila and Wyatt — reunite after going their separate ways, with their adult children having their own romantic experiences.
The setting for friendship, love, drama, reflection and life-changing moments is, of course, Nantucket, where Thayer lived his own love affair with husband Charley Walters for more than three decades, in a house just five minutes walk from the outside. downtown. The beloved island is Thayer’s muse, his constant literary setting, and an escape for many of his characters and, at least by proxy, for his readers.
Previous novels have included “Summer House”, “Surfside Sisters”, “Summer Breeze”, “Girls of Summer”, “The Island House”, “A Nantucket Wedding”, and “An Island Christmas”.
The island was also supposed to be the setting for “Nantucket Noel,” last year’s Hallmark Channel Christmas movie based on Thayer’s “Let It Snow” and the second of the author’s island books to success Thayer – after his 1988 ghost story romance “Spirit Lost” – to become a movie.
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Cautious not just about COVID-19 but her own battle with Lyme disease, Thayer says she has no travel plans but will make a virtual appearance at 7 p.m. May 5 via Titcomb Bookstore to East Sandwich, usually a favorite stop on Cape Cod.
She can’t wait to talk about “Summer Love” and meet remote fans in ways she never did when her first novel was published 42 years ago. She is also booked for the 7 p.m. after-show on May 18 of the “Friends & Fiction” show airing on Facebook Live and YouTube.
While on the island, she’ll sign books in person from 10:30 a.m. to noon on May 7 for a book launch at Mitchell’s Book Corner (which features a special Nancy Thayer Book Club kit), then attend the Nantucket Book Festival in mid-June. .
Thayer spoke to The Times this week about her characters, her inspiration, and why she adopted the term “beach book.” (Interview has been edited for clarity, space, and spoilers.)
Q: What inspired you to write the story “Summer Love” about friends who got together over a summer and reunited years later?
A: “I think almost all of my novels are inspired in one way or another by my life and that of my children. I have lived on the island for 37 years and feel like I belong here. And my (two) kids are in their 40s and I can look at their lives and compare that. When I see my children or my grandchildren, I think: ‘Has their life turned out as we hoped?’ I know that my life has turned out the way I hoped, and it’s kind of a fabulous, wonderful luck. So I thought about people in their 40s and thought back to their lives and what they thought they wanted to be when they were in their 20s…and that’s what I decided I wanted to write about. .
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Q: Was there a particular character in “Summer Love” that you felt most connected to?
A: “I guess I connected the most with Ariel, partly because I grew up in Kansas and lived in Kansas City and partly because she wanted to be a writer. It was her ambition when she was 20. (Thayer says she’s wanted to be a writer since she was 4.) … I really feel like all of these characters were either part of me or people I know. And I loved Sheila. She was my favorite because somehow she was so innocent and she didn’t trust herself, she didn’t feel like she was as cool as Ariel and the guys, and yet it was she who took the most risks or took the greatest chance of her life.
Later in the conversation, Thayer noted that as an introvert, the pandemic hadn’t changed many aspects of her daily life, especially her frequent reading and her daily routine of getting up in the morning, taking a coffee and bring it to his study to write. “In ‘Summer Love’, Nick would have been miserable in COVID. He loves people – that’s what he does, charming people. Ariel would have been really happy because maybe she could have just focused on his writing.
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Q: Much of “Summer Love” was written from the perspective of young people. Was it difficult to write from the perspective of that age?
A: “No, I don’t think so, because I’m very close to my daughter and her children and the eldest is 16 and I’m close to my sister, who is in Kansas City, who is nine years younger, and I have friends who have children in their 40s and we have known each other forever.
The topic also sparked its own thoughts. “Writing about people in their early twenties reminded me of some stupid things and decisions I made in my early twenties. It reminded me of, for example, when I was 20, I married my psychology professor who was 36 years old and he had divorced twice, and I thought that was very cool and we had two kids, but then we got divorced and so I think about that – when I I was 20, how ignorant I was and how I was living in a fantasy of what was to be because I always wanted to write books, and I don’t think before my kids came, I really clung to reality.
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Q: How important is the Nantucket setting to you coming up with ideas and making them work?
A: I think it’s almost mystically important to me. I grew up in Kansas, but met Charley while visiting a friend, and lived here for 37 years and… Charley is a great walker. We walked on the moors and we walked on the beaches and I really feel part of the island and the sound and the ocean and the beaches and the trees, and I also feel part of the city.
She spoke of the many island changes in recent years, including sky-high property prices and the wealthy tearing down long-standing homes and businesses to rebuild them – a trend she tackled with her new book’s hotel renovation . “I’ve written about it (gentrification) a bit in my other books, but I wanted to put this book in 1995, because that was kind of right before it all got even more over the top” on Nantucket.
Q: Do a lot of your fans come to Nantucket to see what you’ve written?
A: “Yes, there are a lot of people coming and a lot of people in the summer will come and call me and if I can I’ll go downstairs and have a coffee with them, an iced coffee. The readers I know well, I met them either during a book signing or on Facebook and so I know what they like. I know where they’re from, whether they’re from Ohio, Indiana, or Connecticut, and I love that so much because I get a sense of who my readers are, how they live their lives and what is important to them. …I’ve always wanted to write about normal life and especially about women, who kind of hold everything together, so I love getting out there and meeting these women.
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Q: Your books are often marketed as “beach books”. Do you find this term limiting in any way or do you accept it?
A: “I accept it now. I think I’ve learned a lot in all my years of writing. … My first book, ‘Stepping,’ was published by Doubleday and my agent said I was line between literary and commercial. I was living in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which is a university town, at the time, and… so I thought, “I have to stay literary, I don’t want to be commercial. But that’s 40 I’ve been doing this for years and the publishing world has changed and I find that “beach books” are important to both men and women because they deal with difficult issues, but they have happy endings. …
“I think when we start reading, most of us don’t want to read about tortured children or terrible deaths. But we want things to go well for people we know and people we don’t know. I mean, look at Ukraine and everyone trying to support it. I never went there, never paid attention to it, but now I feel very, very concerned about it. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, yeah, I like the term. A beach book may be a cousin of the romance novel, but I think life is so hard for all of us, even the luckiest of us, that we need beach books to read and we give faith that things will be difficult and then things will get better.”
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Q: Along with your usual writing routine, you have to work on your next book.
A: “Yes, it’s called ‘Everyday of Summer.’ Before “Summer Love”, I think I had written several books with grandmothers, and I was like, “OK, I better try to do something without a wonderful grandmother”. days of summer” is from two points of view. One is a young woman… who is a kind of aristocrat of the island because there is an aristocracy on the island of people whose ancestors settled here and had businesses and now they’re…many generations. But they really know the land and the history. (She gets engaged) and there’s a woman named Heather who’s going to be her mother-in-law and at first they really don’t like each other. And that’s all I have. It’s funny because I think a lot of people have mothers-in-law that they might not immediately feel close to , but they come to take care of. But it’s a journey.
Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.