Hugh: You have one novel out, entitled The One. What’s the book about, and who are your intended readers?
Mary Flinn: I have wanted to write this story in some form over the last thirty years. I used to spend summer vacations from college working at the Outer Banks, and once met a young man who’d had some tragic family situations to deal with. He’d lost both siblings and his father had exiled himself to Mexico as a result of some misdeeds. I had lost a sibling myself, and thought that someone needed to tell his story. Thirty years later, his story had become my story, after losing my mother to a coronary aneurism and then my father, finding him after his suicide. In trying to wrap a story around all of this, I wanted it to happen in high school, remembering from my own experience that when one is that age, no one talks to you about these kinds of things. If you don’t receive counseling, you are more than likely left to deal with loss and grief on your own. I chose “Kyle” to play off of my main character, Chelsea, who lives with her solid mountain family in a centuries old farmhouse in a community called “Snowy Ridge”, but you may recognize it as Valle Crucis. Kyle and Chelsea’s families go way back, when the two fathers were business partners. The partnership dissolves after Kyle’s father engages in some ill-fated business practices. After of his sister’s death, Kyle’s parents send him away to prep school, where he establishes himself as a football star. He resurfaces in Snowy Ridge after his father’s suicide, when his mother’s finances force him to return to public school. Sparks fly when he and Chelsea reconnect. She realizes he is not the same arrogant Kyle she remembered, but a young man adrift in a sea of anger and depression. Wanting to help, she is able to offer him the comfort of her own family and the stability of her own values, which are challenged by other high school personalities along the way. She hopes she can help Kyle without selling herself short and ends up falling in love with him in the process. The story ends six years later as the characters meet again in Snowy Ridge. The One was written as young adult fiction and is appropriate for readers sixteen and up, but I have found that many women of my generation and older are liking it as well. I am in the process of marketing it to high school libraries as well as other venues.
Hugh: I hear you’re putting the finishing touches on the sequel. Can you tell us a little bit about Second Time’s a Charm?
Mary Flinn: Second Time’s a Charm is more of a spin-off than an actual sequel. It is an adult romance, which may dismay the younger readers (or not!) and relieve the older ones! Second Time’s a Charm is about Kyle’s aunt, Stacie Edmonds, who lives at the Outer Banks and runs a restaurant where Kyle worked the summer before he met Chelsea. The plan was to keep him out of his mother’s hair while she dealt with the mess her husband left. The new book is Stacie’s story. She is just turning forty and is too much fun for her own good. Her exciting life has left her with the remnants of some of her own bad choices, but like all of us, she is looking for happiness. Her chef, Tyson Garrett, is ten years her junior but even more mature than Stacie. While she’s been focusing on running her restaurant and helping Kyle, Tyson’s been focusing on her! One problem looms large; Tyson wants children, and Stacie is not sure she can bear the child they’d both like to have. Second Time’s a Charm is a book about starting over, finding forgiveness, and learning to trust again. It should be read on a hot beach with a cool beverage, if at all possible! Look for it in April of 2011.
Hugh: I don’t know of any other books that cover the two (quite different) sides of North Carolina like this (Mountains and Outer Banks). How have your travels around our state influenced setting and character in your stories?
Mary Flinn: I have always loved the mountains and the coast, spending vacations visiting both. Some very dear friends built a cabin in Valle Crucis with a dastardly builder, probably the likes of Kyle’s father, and they’ve invited me there many times. The cabin had to become part of the story as I chose the mountains for the primary setting of The One. As you can see, I have spent much time at the Outer Banks as well, and wanted to include it in The One for a chapter, in which a turning point in that story occurs. After finishing The One, Stacie and Tyson were still talking to me so I felt the need to return to Duck, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head to write their story.
Hugh: What is your greatest challenge in writing?
Mary Flinn: Finding the time to write is the greatest challenge for me. I finally had the opportunity when my younger daughter went to college, my husband was traveling, and I needed a cheap habit to keep me out of trouble. What other past-time can you do in your pajamas at 3 a.m.? And it’s legal! Seriously, time is still an issue and there are days when I walk into my job, wishing I could turn on my heel and head straight back to my computer. I have learned to compartmentalize my days.
Hugh: Was there anything especially difficult in penning a sequel, or did it help to know so much about your characters from the first page?
Mary Flinn: It was somewhat of a challenge to include enough information to keep the reader up on the characters and past events, assuming that not everyone will have read The One. I missed it a few times but thankfully my editor was sharper and caught places where I hadn’t explained situations well enough. Many readers commented that they were sad about the six year gap before the last chapter of The One, wanting to know a little more about what happened with our two lovebirds, so Second Time’s a Charm purposefully takes place during the middle of the gap to fill them in further. Hopefully it will be an effective hook!
Hugh: What do you have planned once Second Time’s a Charm comes out? Will you keep with the numbering scheme in the titles?
Mary Flinn: We already have a marketing trip planned to the Outer Banks for the first week of August, doing some author visits at some independent book stores, and possibly another trip before then. The third book in the sequence is currently in the works. It picks up at the end of The One and takes up with Kyle and Chelsea again. It is entitled Three Gifts, continuing the numbering scheme.
Hugh: Is there anything High Country Writers could do to better facilitate distant members such as yourself? What keeps you engaged with us from afar? (We’re snowed in up here in the NC mountains; that’s our excuse for putting up with each other!)
Mary Flinn: HCW is a Godsend to people like me who have self-published and are looking for ideas, venues and other ways to promote our books. I regret that I am down here taking advantage of all the good stuff that comes my way and am not able to participate more fully. I found HCW by stopping in at Art Walk in Boone, after learning that they hosted author signings. That was a serendipitous day!
Hugh: Give us a non-writing factoid about yourself. Is there anything else we should know about you or your future plans?
Mary Flinn: I plan on retiring in June of 2012! Becoming a writer has always been a dream, but with retirement so close at hand, I hope to transition to writing as a full-time job very soon! My husband and I also enjoy cycling and riding in charitable events such as the Tour to Tanglewood, benefitting the MS Society, so we’ll do more of that, along with going to ASU football games and cheering for the Mountaineers!