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Interview: February 27, 2015

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery --- whose work has been called "luscious and provocative" --- is back with a brand new series. THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY is the first book, and introduces us to three women at different stages in life who come together in the beautiful seaside town of Mischief Bay, California, to provide solace and support for one another. In this interview with’s Bronwyn Miller, Mallery talks about creating Mischief Bay (which is so well-conceived that it seems like a real place!) and why she chose to feature three distinctly different women. She also shares how she manages to be so prolific and where you can find more of her delicious recipes. THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY is the first in a new series for you. What made you decide to set a new story in this idyllic seaside town?

Susan Mallery: I grew up in LA, so writing the Mischief Bay books feels a lot like coming home. If Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach had a baby, it would be Mischief Bay. I love writing small-town stories with a strong sense of community, but this time around, I wanted my small-towners to have access to big-city amenities --- the best of both worlds.

BRC: Like the town of Blackberry Island, Mischief Bay is an actual community on the outskirts of Los Angeles. When did you first learn about this community and its colorful history?

SM: Blackberry Island and Mischief Bay are only real in our hearts, but I take it as a compliment that you thought they were actual communities. I try to create settings that feel as genuine to readers as their own hometowns. To give Mischief Bay a true sense of place, I created a history going back to 1875. Although the stories are contemporary, a town’s history has a big impact on what it’s like today. In essence, the town becomes a character, and like any well-drawn character, it must feel as though it lives beyond the page.

At, you can learn about the fascinating history of the quirky town, get recipes from several local restaurants, even see a map of characters’ homes. (The original 15 streets in town are named after the town’s 15 founding citizens…and those citizens are named after a terrific group of enthusiastic readers who mean the world to me.)

BRC: The story follows the lives of Pam, who recently turned 50; Shannon, who just turned 40; and Nicole, who’s in her early 30s. Why did you choose to have each woman be in a different decade of her life?

SM: I wanted to explore the different stages of motherhood, and I felt the best way to do that was with characters at different points on the timeline. Nicole is the young mom of an almost five-year-old boy. Tyler is adorable and sweet, but even sweet, adorable kids are a lot of work --- especially when your husband doesn’t help. At all.

Shannon put off having kids so she could focus on her career, but now, at 40, the time has come to make a decision. Does she want kids enough to have them on her own? Or is it possible that love will come along at just the right time?

Pam loved being a stay-at-home mom, but now that her kids are grown, she has to find a new identity. Is she more than a mom, more than a wife? Her husband is still the best man she knows, but over the years, their marriage has become…dusty. In the book, she’ll find some pretty amusing ways to reignite the spark. I fully expect to hear from readers who want to try it at home.

BRC: Is it challenging or rewarding to write from different female perspectives?

SM: It’s both challenging and rewarding. In general, my books don’t have bad guys. They don’t have one character you can point to who needs to be defeated. Instead, I like to explore the intricacies of relationships between two or more well-meaning people on opposing sides of an issue. I heard recently that kids who read are more likely to learn empathy because, through books, they’re given the opportunity to see both sides. That’s the kind of book I like to write.

BRC: Pam always dispenses practical but profound advice. She tells Nicole, “Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t…Everything happens when we’re not paying attention.” Did you always intend for her to be the sage of the group?

SM: Yes, I always saw Pam as being wise. Not only is she the eldest of the three women, but she’s gone through a lot, helping her husband to start his business, raising three kids…She’s smart and thoughtful and a lot of fun. I want to be her friend!

BRC: Was there one storyline or character that proved easier or more challenging to write? Which one do you relate to the most?

SM: Shannon’s story flowed the best, probably because it’s a true romantic storyline, and I have a lot of practice with those. I also think that Shannon is perhaps the woman I would be if I hadn’t started writing. She’s in finance; I majored in accounting. She’s smart and ambitious, but she’ll drop everything if a friend needs her.

BRC: Each character is struggling with serious life issues --- juggling work and family; deciding on whether or not to have a family; realizing you might have outgrown your partner; and dealing with an irrevocable loss --- all of which are discussed and shared with one another. Do you think women rely more on the good counsel of friends more than men? If so, why do you think that is?

SM: I do. In general, I think woman are more willing to admit to vulnerability than men. Men see asking for help --- or directions! --- as a sign of weakness. Women thrive on a sense of community, and the bonds are strengthened when we share our troubles and ask for guidance.

BRC: I love this passage: “Just when you least expected it, you had to start over. There was pain in that, but also satisfaction. With or without wanting it to, life moved on.” Arguably, starting over and moving on is one of the greatest themes of the novel. I heard you had originally titled the book “The Beginners Class.” What made you pick that title? Why did you change it?

SM: I used “The Beginners Class” as my working title because a theme of the book is new beginnings. No matter how far we’ve come, no matter how much think we know, we will find ourselves in the beginners class again and again, each time we enter a new stage in our lives. The uncertainty is disconcerting, but it’s also comforting to know that we’re not alone. Everyone else is a beginner, too, in one way or another. We shouldn’t fear asking for help from those who have traveled the road before us.

My working titles are almost never chosen as the final title. The last one was, I think, FALLING FOR GRACIE in 2005. (Ten years! Should I be embarrassed about that?) I bow to the wisdom of the experts in the marketing department. They understand the titles that readers gravitate toward far better than I do. THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY has a great ring to it, don’t you think? It perfectly captures the sense that this is an uplifting story about friendship.

BRC: You have a legion of loyal fans, and this time out, you involved them in a most creative way. Can you tell us who the “Mischief Makers” are and how they contributed to the novel?

SM: It takes a village to make a village… When I started writing THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY, I invited my readers at to suggest names for local businesses. I would tell them, for example, “I need the name of a kite store.” Thousands of wildly creative suggestions poured in, and I selected those that resonated with me and that fit the feeling I wanted to capture in this town I was creating. The readers who made the suggestions I chose are acknowledged in the book as “Mischief Makers.” Many of the businesses made it into THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY, while others will appear in future books. All of them can be seen on the map at

The kite shop is called Strung Out, in case you were wondering.

BRC: Are the mouthwatering recipes featured in the book and on your website,, all from your kitchen?

SM: My assistant and I both come up with recipes, and we each test the other’s to make sure they work before they’re posted to the website. I’m also very proud of the FOOL’S GOLD COOKBOOK, which is available in print or in eBook.

BRC: You’ve said when writing a novel, you average about 15 pages a day. That’s incredibly prolific! Has it always been that way, or has that skill been honed after writing many series titles?

SM: When I first started writing, I wrote at a pace of about 10 pages per day. It felt natural to me, probably because I have the attention span of a gnat. I have to get the story down before I get bored. Early on, I took a writing class and all of the “serious” writers talked about painstakingly writing one to two pages per day, so I thought maybe that was what good writers did. I tried, I swear. I finished my two pages in about 15 minutes and thought, “Now what?” It’s just not in me.

Then I took a screenwriting class, where I got excellent advice on how to increase your daily output. The teacher suggested writing one page more than was currently comfortable for you. That one additional page took nearly as much time as the first 10 pages did, but I kept at it and eventually was writing 11 pages a day in the time it used to take me to write 10. I kept slowly adding a page at a time until I felt I had hit my maximum.

BRC: What can readers expect next from Susan Mallery? On a related note, how do you decide what book to write next? Do you have a rotation for a Fool’s Gold novel, followed by a Blackberry Island, then another Mischief Bay book, or do you write whichever storyline speaks to you at the time?

SM: In addition to THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY, I’ll release four brand-new full-length Fool’s Gold romances this year --- HOLD ME, KISS ME, THRILL ME and MARRY ME AT CHRISTMAS. The Blackberry Island trilogy is complete. To maintain that rate, I have a very strict writing schedule that I must follow. At this stage in my career, each book is under contract before it’s written, which means I don’t have the luxury of writing whichever storyline speaks to me at the moment. No one at my publishing house can do their job until I’ve done mine, and I take that obligation seriously. Right now, I’m working on the second Mischief Bay novel, which will be out next year. (Nicole’s story continues. Just wait until you see what I have in store for her!)