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May 21, 2010

Nancy Thayer and Samantha Wilde: They've Bonded Over Writing

Posted by Anonymous

Women call their mother’s for all kinds of advice --- teething, cooking, planning holidays. Nancy Thayer and Samantha Wilde’s conversations also can revolve around plot points. Imagine having your mom call to see if a character should die? Such are their lives!

Nancy Thayer and Samantha Wilde.jpgHow did you as a mom feel when you learned your child wanted to write a book?

Nancy: Sam wrote her first "book" when she was five, so I've always known she wanted to write. Over the years, she's written short stories, essays, and poetry. But she is also an interfaith minister and a Kripalu certified yoga instructor, not to mention a wife and mother, so I wasn't sure she'd end up writing. When I heard her first book, THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, was going to be published, I was over the moon with pride.

What made you want to follow in your mom’s footsteps on becoming a writer?

Samantha: It always seemed to me that my mother had the best job in the world --- for two reasons. The first, and most important, she loves her work. It always seemed to me that she felt there wasn’t a better thing to be doing than writing. I certainly wanted to find myself as in love with my occupation as she was with hers. And secondly, I have, like her, always devoured books. Reading and writing went together naturally in our house. I started writing little books as a small child because that was the way of it! I was surrounded by books, words, language, stories. I can see this in my son now; sometimes he takes a book to bed instead of a stuffed animal--not necessarily to read, but simply to have near him. In fact, the other day he asked my husband if books are alive! In my childhood home, with my mother’s passion for her work, books were alive.

thayer.JPGAre you each other’s first readers?

Nancy: It's a continual process. We're always in a dialogue about writing. I visit as often as possible so I can see my grandchildren, and as we change diapers and spoon mashed banana, we'll discuss other novels, children's books, baby toys, and plot points of the books we're writing.

We're both writing about contemporary women's lives, so we've got a flow of ideas going between us that involves real life and fiction.

Samantha: My mother is my first reader and has been for a long time. I don’t know how she can make herself impartial, but she’s an excellent editor for me. She’s got an eye for what works and what doesn’t. I don’t show anything to anyone until she’s seen it.

mommy.JPGWhat is your favorite book of those your mother wrote?

Samantha: It’s hard to pick! She’s been so prolific. I read all of her Hot Flash books. They were funny and impossible to put down. I’m not even close to having a hot flash, and I loved them.

Do you turn to each other for writing advice?

Nancy: We do. Writing a novel is a little bit like being crazy, with imaginary people talking in your head, and it's wonderful to talk with someone who understands. Especially during the urgency of writing that first draft, it's helpful to be able to phone Sam, ask "Should Penelope die?", have her say, "NO!", and hang up the phone and get back to work. Once I phoned Sam in a panic to ask her what my next book should be about, and she immediately said one word that made a light bulb go off above my head. I said, "Right!" and hung up the phone and started writing. That kind of exchange can happen because we're always talking about books, families, ideas.

Samantha: I think more than turning to one another for writing advice, now that we are both published, we can talk with one another about the world of writing in a different way. We can commiserate and we can brainstorm. Since publishing has its own language, it has been wonderful for me to have someone to talk to whenever I have a question. I don’t think I give my mother advice, but I can be a good help for ideas when it comes to plot.

Has the fact that you are both writers brought you closer together, or does it
cause conflict?

Nancy: It's brought us closer together. I think now Sam understands the exhilaration of being published, the joy of having a reader like a book, and the plunge of despair when a reader doesn't like a book, so maybe she'll forgive me for all the mood swings I had when she was a child! And in an odd way, it makes me appreciate Sam as a person entirely separate from me, because her writing is so different from mine--funnier, full of energy and optimism and lightning cracks of wit. I admire her as an independent writer.

Samantha: I think we’ve come closer together. On the other hand, having my two children has deepened our bond in a more significant way. There isn’t any place or cause for competition or envy in that realm. I can understand her better as a mother now that I am one, and she has been closer to me through loving her grandchildren. That said, I don’t know that there is competition around our writing--but one day when my book was 200,000 on the Amazon rankings and hers was 2000, I did have a pang of envy! The good news is, my mother is one of the most generous people I know. The more success she has, the more gorgeous baby clothes I get in the mail!

How did you or will you celebrate your child’s first release?

Nancy: I sent Sam flowers on her first pub date, and I'm sure I will on her next. Writing takes so long and there are so many stages. It's good to have a day to celebrate. And for me, it's a wonderful feeling to walk into a bookstore and see her book there. I've emailed her or phoned her whenever I've seen her book on a shelf.

The countdown to publication day is a time full of anxiety. What advice do you as a mom and an author give your child as that day approaches?

Nancy: I suppose my advice is similar to the advice I gave my children when they went off to school. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to be your best friend. Criticism is just part of the process. All that sounds very wise, but Sam grew up seeing my gnash my teeth and pull my hair over a bad review. She also knows that there are two joys in publishing a book: writing it, and getting a response from a reader who was moved by the book. She's seen me toss the bad review in the trash and sit down at the computer to work on a new book.

As you were growing up how did you feel about your mom being a writer?

Samantha: It was wonderful to have her as a writer. One drawback, as a small child, was how hard it was to understand that even though she was in the house, she was still working. It’s still hard sometimes not to call her in the morning--since she doesn’t have a “real” job!

What’s your favorite snack food/drink when you are writing?

Nancy: Chocolate! Always. I can't eat as much as I did when I was younger, but I always have some with me. It is a health food, you know!

Samantha: For a long time it was chocolate. Sadly, I’ve moved on. Mostly now I just drink tea --- terribly boring. I hope my indulgent chocolate days come back.

What do you think was the best present you gave your mother on Mother’s Day?

Samantha: I’m a terrible gift giver, but one year I gave her a framed picture of the two of us. I’d superimposed next to the image of us a list of things that she had taught me, including deep things and silly things. I know what she would say though. Her grandchildren!

What was the best present you received from your “writer child” on Mother’s Day?

Nancy: My grandson, Ellias, who is 3, and my granddaughter Adeline, who is 2. Sam and her husband Neil are always reading books to them. I wonder whether one of them will become a writer!

Nancy Thayer is the bestselling author of The Hot Flash Club series. Her latest novel, BEACHCOMBERS, will be available June 22nd wherever books are sold. Her daughter, Samantha Wilde, is the author of THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME.