Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I don’t think I actively made a choice – my stories just naturally fell into the realm of women’s fiction, often with an emphasis on romance (because love does in fact make the world go ‘round!).
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I’ve always had a very active imagination!
When I was seven, I contracted whooping cough and was very sick for thirteen weeks – the entire summer! Every other day, my mother would send my older brother to our little town library where the kind librarian would load him up with a selection of books for me to read. By the end of the summer, I’d gone through the books for my reading level several times. My mom bought me a black and white composition book, and told me to write my own stories (anything to keep me busy and not thinking about the fact that every other kid in our neighborhood was having a great summer playing outside while I was confined to the house). My paternal grandmother’s stories about growing up in a tiny village outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, did a lot to feed my imagination.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was seven! See above! But my first published books came out in 1995 from Pocket Books.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I write mostly women’s fiction, sometimes with an emphasis on romantic relationships. I’ve also written suspense and romantic suspense.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
I like to think my stories are about people who act morally and who try to honor their relationships and contribute to the world I create for them. Over the years I’ve had hundreds of emails from people who tell me they wished they lived next door to one of my characters, or wish a specific character was real so they could be friends. Even some of the villains in my romantic suspense novels had a redeeming quality or two!
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Definitely character-driven novels with strong women protagonists that focus on the importance of relationships – family, friends, significant others. My books are all set within the framework and patterns of life in a small town, and explore the importance of friendship and how all our relationships impact our lives, how the past affects the present and the future, how our lives are often the product of our decisions.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The first fifty pages! Always the hardest for me!
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
This book is the eleventh in the Chesapeake Diaries series. I love going back to my fictional town, St. Dennis, and the characters who inhabit that world. The last few books in the series have seen the setting move to Cannonball Island, which is across a narrow river from St. Dennis, so I could explore another families and a different culture than the one in St. Dennis. One of the things I love the most is making up the histories of places and families – so much fun!
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I think the author who had the most influence on my writing was Lucy Maud Montgomery. Reading about Anne of Green Gables fed my imagination, and in some ways, Anne and I are soul sisters. She was the first character I read about who I felt expressed herself in ways that I totally related to!
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
For me, most useful – reading. Reading. Reading. Reading. The best way to stretch your mind!
Least useful? Self-doubt.
What do you like to read in your free time?
Free time? What is free time? Right now, I’m planning my daughter’s wedding and trying to keep the garden from getting out of control!
I do read every chance I get.
What book do you wish you could have written?
Absolutely anything by James Lee Burke – I think he’s brilliant.
Oh, and George R.R. Martin’s world building defies the abilities of mere mortals. I’d love to have written the entire Song of Ice and Fire series – because I’d know how it ends! Who will survive? Who will sit on the Iron Throne?
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Again, Lucy Maud Montgomery.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Odd though this might sound, 99% of the time, when my characters show up, they tell me who they are. But I always have characters show up I hadn’t planned for – they just walk into a scene and there they are. When I was writing Mercy Street, a woman showed up and just started talking. I knew she was an older woman, with some authority over the male protagonist who was a dot com billionaire, but she was bossing him around and he was fine with that. Not his grandmother, I knew, but someone close. And I couldn’t find a name for her. Tried out dozens, but none were right. So I had to leave a blank space for her name, like, “—- said.”
One day I got an email from a woman named Trula Comfort (is that the best name EVER?) and I knew right away it was The Name. I wrote back and asked if I could borrow her name, and she kindly agreed.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Since I hate – HATE – airplanes (total claustrophobic!) – I’d want to be able to fly. Without going through airports.
When my kids were little, I convinced them I had Mommy Magic. I guess that’s sort of a superpower!
What literary character is most like you?
Definitely Anne Shirley – still!
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
If I were an animal in a zoo, I’d be looking for a way to get out!
Book 1 in The Hudson Sisters series
The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books
Look for Book 2 in 2018 and Book 3 in 2019!
Praise for The Last Chance Matinee:
“The popcorn, the red velvet seats, the glittering Hollywood stars on-screen…I’ve enjoyed all aspects of going to the movies since I was a kid,” reminisces Lauren Gatcombe, FIRST assistant editor. “So when I saw a vintage theater on the cover of this book, I quickly swiped it up.” When famed L.A. agent Fritz Hudson passes away, his daughter, Cara, discovers she has two half sisters whose existence were kept secret from her. The other shock: In order for the three sisters to receive their inheritances, they must restore an old movie theater in Fritz’s Pennsylvania hometown. There are trials and tribulations along the way, but the sisters decide to work together to turn their father’s dream into a reality. “I identified a lot with Cara as I read,” says Lauren. “And the tale was a sweet reminder of the importance of family. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!” —First For Women magazine
“The combination of a quirky small-town setting, a family mystery, a gentle romance, and three estranged sisters is catnip for women’s-fiction fans, and the backdrop of the faded movie palace adds a fascinating element to the story. Stewart’s lively, warmhearted series starter [The Last Chance Matinee] will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment.” — Booklist
“A good read, with a nice blend of mystery, family drama, and romance. Readers will look forward to the next installment.”— Library Journal
About The Last Chance Matinee:
From the New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes the first novel in her all-new series, which follows a trio of reluctant sisters who set out to fulfill their father’s dying wish and, in the process, discover the truth not only about their pasts but about each other—and themselves—in a way that will forever alter their futures.
When celebrated and respected Fritz Hudson passes away suddenly, he leaves a trail of Hollywood glory in his wake—and two separate families who never knew the other existed. Allie and Des Hudson are products of Fritz’s first marriage to Honora, a beautiful but troubled starlet whose life ended tragically. As his relationship with Honora was unraveling, Fritz was simultaneously falling in love on the Delaware Bay with New Age hippie Susa—but while Fritz adored Susa and fathered daughter Cara with her, he never quite managed to come clean about his West Coast Family.
Now Fritz is gone, and the three sisters are brought together under strange circumstances: there’s a large inheritance to be had, specifically one that could save Allie from her ever-deepening debt following a disastrous divorce; allow Des to open a rescue shelter for abused and wounded animals; and give Cara a fresh start after her husband left her for her best friend; but only if the sisters upend their lives and work together to restore an old theater that was Fritz’s obsession growing up in his small hometown in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Will the sisters come together to turn their father’s dream into a reality – and will they come away with far more than they bargained for?
About Mariah Stewart:
Mariah Stewart is an award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels as well as several novellas and short stories. She lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors county life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her at mariahstewart.com and follow her on Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart and on Instagram @mariah_stewart_books.
About the series:
The Last Chance Matinee, Book 1 (March 21, 2017)
The Sugarhouse Blues, Book 2 (March 20, 2018)
UNTITLED Book 3 (coming in 2019)
Note: Mariah Stewart’s separate series, the bestselling Chesapeake Diaries, has been a favorite with readers since 2010. The eleventh installment, The Chesapeake Bride, will publish August 29, 2017.
Upcoming store events with Mariah:
Wednesday, August 30th, 6:00 pm: Barnes & Noble, Concord Mall – 4801 Concord Pike; Wilmington, DE 19803