Interview with Melanie Summers, Author of The After Wife
14 Jan 2020
What can you tell us about your new release, The After Wife?
The After Wife is a novel that took nearly four years to finish. It’s truly one of those ‘books of the heart’ that I’ve heard other writers talk about in the past. While I was writing the first draft back in 2016, I cried for six weeks straight. I wasn’t ready as a writer to tell this story yet, so it had to sit for a long time while I wrote several romantic comedies. Every year or so, I’d come back to it and rewrite the entire thing. This past fall, however, when I rewrote it, I knew I was ready because I finally understood what the book was about.
It’s a story of a young widow who’s been isolating herself in the year since her husband died. She thinks she’s grieving him—and she is—but underneath that, she’s grieving who she was when she met him. It’s a story about the importance of human connection, but it’s also about knowing yourself and believing you are worthy of love exactly the way you are.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’m someone who loves a challenge. I’m also a little bit crazy. One evening, almost seven years ago, a seemingly random thought popped into my mind: ‘I wonder if I could write an entire novel. Like start to finish. Is that something I’m capable of?’ Once I’d asked myself the question, I had to know the answer. And so, I started to write. Weird, right?
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – This book wrecked me, like it did millions of other people. For me, it wasn’t the ending, although that certainly packed a wallop. It was the chapter written from the perspective of Will Traynor’s mother that has stayed with me for years.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – There’s a reason this book sells over 200 000 copies even two-hundred years after it was first published. Ms. Austen’s tongue-in-cheek commentary of the times, families, and love cannot be outdone.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving — This is one of those ‘stay up all night no matter what you have to do tomorrow’ books. When you finish it, you cry for the characters, but also for the brilliance of how Mr. Irving weaved this tale. I didn’t see it coming, but when I got to the end, I sat up in bed for hours in absolute awe.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – Ms. Moriarty does an incredible job of starting the readers off on a journey that must be read at top speed. The set up, the dialogue, the humour of it–wow. Just wow.
Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler – Mr. Richler creates a rich world with so much history you believe it all happened. He manages to make you love this unlikable character who keeps screwing up, and you feel Barney’s regret in your bones. Not to mention a hell of a twist!
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
Oh, you’re making me use my brain today. I’d love to sit down with John Irving and ask him to walk me through his entire process of writing Owen Meany.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Writing provides a unique opportunity to live another life and to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Each character I create teaches me about myself and about humans on a deeper level. We all have a story to tell, we all act in ways that make perfect sense in our own minds, and we all succumb to our personal flaws. Writing allows an exploration of the imperfections that make us human. (It’s also a job I can do in my flannel pajamas which is a pretty sweet perk.)
What is a typical day like for you?
I get our three kiddos off to school, then go down to my office (in our basement) with our two dogs in tow. Mornings are spent plotting like a villain, writing, revising, and/or editing while the puppies nap. My husband (who has the office next to mine) and I eat lunch together, then it’s back to work. In the afternoons, I often continue with the creative side of the job, or I switch gear to all the emails and marketing stuff that I’ve been ignoring while I play with my imaginary friends. I often dictate chapters while I walk the dogs (which really makes me look insane, but I couldn’t care less). When the kids get home, I hang out with them, cook, help with homework, and do all the other parenting-related things until they’re off to bed. Then my husband and I hang out and watch some shows/a movie together.
What scene in The After Wife was your favorite to write?
There’s a scene in the book when a key character, Olive, an eight-year-old girl, is sent home from school for punching another child. It’s completely out-of-character for her to be violent, and she’s absolutely devastated by her own behaviour. She’s so dramatic about the whole thing, you can’t help but pity her while you’re laughing. It’s a short scene, but it’s layered and so much is going on that I couldn’t help but find the entire thing deliciously fun to write.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Yes, I have a motto I got from my dad, who passed away recently. “Work hard. Dream Big.” I do both as fiercely as possible.
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