I'll Take What She Has. Sam is such a sweetheart, and isn't that the most adorable baby on the cover?? I'd buy it based on the cover alone (but the story inside is wonderful, too!)
Tell us about your new novel. What inspired you to write it?
Here’s a brief synopsis: Best friends since kindergarten, Nora, a reserved English teacher, and Annie, an out-spoken stay-at-home mother, wrestle with the green-eyed monster when the new history department hire at the suburban Boston prep school where they teacher, Cynthia Cypress, arrives on campus. A missing grandmother, a depressed sex therapist, and a financial crisis add to the comedy in a novel about imperfect friendships, mixed up families, the messiness of motherhood, and the quest for the greenest grass.
My running joke about this book is that I wrote a novel about envy and had to do extensive research! I really didn’t need to look much farther than my own grassy yard to come up with the felt experience of the novel. I started with three women, Annie, Nora and Cynthia. The novel, which underwent years of extensive revisions under three separate editors, has morphed almost completely since I first plotted the story. The heart of it, the meat of it, concerns friendship and motherhood and how envy changes both of these things—and changes the women, too. The book explores the idea that envy can eventually change someone into something better.
Book readings, signings, and events: tell us one wonderful memory and one awkward one.
When my first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, released, I had a book launch at the amazing independent store, Odyssey Books. Because I’ve lived in this area for so long and have taught yoga to so many people, serving as a minister to others, a large crowd gathered. At the end of the night, the owner had to turn a friend away without a book. She had sold out all the copies of my novel and told me that in all her years that had never happened before! (I didn’t sell out, by the way, for my book launch of I’ll Take What She Has on Wednesday night and I tried not to be disappointed!)
Around the same time, I went with my mother, novelist Nancy Thayer, to do a book signing in Connecticut. When we arrived, the most amazing, enormous arrangement of flowers greeted us. My wonderful Aunt had sent them and they were clearly meant for two important, famous, awesome novelists. Then, we had about three people attend the talk! It was a beautiful, sunny July day after three weeks of rain…still, it can be hard. We had a lovely time with our three audience members and our flowers. I wanted to have an event equal to the flowers. Only in hindsight could I see what really mattered: spending that time with my mother.
How do you unwind after a horribly stressful day?
A good book. A good book can fix everything. I find reading so relaxing and healing and restorative. On a really bad day, after the children go to sleep, I might put on my pajamas early and dive into my bed. I really love my bed. My husband makes fun of me, but I get a lot of pleasure from hanging out in bed (reading, people, that’s all I meant!). Talking to friends also, the kind of long, meandering conversations I can’t have when children are awake. I often end my day on my bedroom floor with some gentle yoga poses, sometimes listening to an uplifting podcast. Also: curling up beside my husband, knowing I have chocolate in my cupboards, watching my children sleep.
What advice do you have for your fifteen-year-old self?
I love that question. I’ve been thinking about it lately because a friend who started babysitting for us at twelve has just turned eighteen! I thought about what I would like to tell her if I could speak candidly. I would say the same to her as to my younger self: You are precious. You may not feel it, but you are. Live with a sense of your own value. Know, regardless of how others may treat you, that you are deeply loved. At fifteen, I struggled so much with wanting beauty and thin thighs and the adoration of boys. I wish I could pull that girl into my arms and give her a piece of the satisfaction I have now—much of which came through motherhood—from simply being myself.
What’s next from you?
The laundry. Then sweeping up underneath the kitchen table. I have to unpack the duffle bag from our trip last week and try to locate the playroom floor underneath the toys. But that’s probably not what you had in mind! Right now, I’ve got my whole focus on getting I’ll Take What She Has into the world. I call it the “little book that could” because of all the editorial changes it survived. I’ve put my third novel on the back burner; it’s there though, patiently waiting. I have two memoir books I’d love to finish. I wouldn’t mind another child either…. Probably what I should do is finish my cup of tea, floss my teeth, and go to sleep. Sometimes, what’s next is so ordinary!
Thanks, Sam! For more on Sam and her books, visit her Facebook page, her website, and check out the terrific book trailer for I'll Take What She Has.