Up Close & Personal with Mary Kay Andrews
I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY (GIRL) FRIENDS
Talking with the delightful Dolan sisters (Lian, Liz and and Julie) of Satellite Sisters fame last week, we touched on the unique gift of sisterhood—and women’s friendships.
In my own life, I’ve been blessed with several different tribes of devoted girlfriends. Yes, I call them my girlfriends—because in some cases, our mutual bonds can be carbon-dated all the way back to prehistoric days—otherwise known as puberty.
Women’s friendships, I’ve argued, are markedly different from men’s. We collaborate, commiserate, celebrate and communicate with our girlfriends, thru hours-long phone calls, text strings and long walks around the park. And oh, gurllll—get us sitting next to each other in a chair at the nail salon? We will solve all the world’s problems.
Men, in my experience, can sit side-by-side for three hours at a baseball and football game and never grunt anything more substantial than “way to hit,” or “manager needs his ass fired.”
In my own life I’ve seen the awesome power of women’s friendships over and over again, and it’s a recurring theme in many of my books. My Savannah-set novels, SAVANNAH BLUES, SAVANNAH BREEZE, BLUE CHRISTMAS and CHRISTMAS BLISS follow the friendship of besties Weezie Foley and Bebe Loudermilk as they navigate everything from murder charges and bankruptcy, to secret marriages and childbirth. In SUMMER RENTAL, three life-long best friends, all at a crossroads in their lives, rent a beach house for the month of August, and LADIES’ NIGHT examines the unlikely friendships forged in a divorce recovery group.
I’ve got a tribe of journalist friends from college, and another from long-ago newspaper days. Then there’s my posse of neighbor ladies whose friendships formed at the community pool when our kids were toddlers, survived our children’s harrowing teen and college years, and has mellowed and deepened now that we’re marrying them off and enjoying our empty nests.
My junior high besties date all the way back to our days at Bay Point Junior High in my hometown of St. Pete. Over the decades, we’ve seen each other through some epic bad hair days, divorce, remarriage, mid-life dating (!!!) the deaths of parents and siblings, unfortunate fashion choices, and most sobering, the loss of one of our own.
We’ve laughed and cried and fussed and fumed at each other. For the past 25 years, we’ve celebrated milestone birthdays with memorable trips—to Mexico for our 40th, a Caribbean cruise for our 50th, and wisely, because we decided not to wait for our 60th, we took a California wine-tasting trip for what we called our “double nickel.”
Five years later, our destination would be closer to home, the beaches of our youth, because one of the group, our dear Margaret, was facing a terminal cancer diagnosis. That weekend, we danced in the sand and drank fine wine and Swiss chocolate provided by our friend Debra, who was living in France. Harking back to the slumber parties of our youth, we shared hotel beds and rollaways and laughed and talked into the night.
Six months later, we booked another hotel room in St. Pete, as we gathered for Margaret’s funeral. On our last night in town, three of us drank too much wine—or vodka? The memory is hazy, but I do know that in honor of Margaret’s Greek heritage, we played the Zorba the Greek song and danced in our pajamas around our hotel room until we collapsed. (My friend Sue is saving the video as blackmail.)
What a gift our girlfriends are to us! As you may know, Friends & Fiction got started early last winter, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when my old friends Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe and I were dealing with trying to launch our upcoming books—without a book tour.
Patti and Mary Alice had two other author pals, Kristin Harmel and Kristy Woodson Harvey, who were facing the same dilemma. I suggested a Friday night happy hour Zoom meet-up, where we could exchange ideas on how to navigate the world of virtual book tours.
That Friday night we met up on Zoom, cocktails in hand. I expected we would mostly bemoan our mutual fates, but instead, the five of us put our heads together and squeezed lemons into lemonade.
Before we knew it, we had created a weekly live web show and a Facebook group with more than 20,000 members. Since April, we’ve hosted famous best-selling authors and boosted the work of newbie debut novelists and supported and spotlighted indie bookstores—most of them owned by women who’ve become our friends over the years.
Back in June, we agreed to meet up for daily 7 a.m. writing stints to hold each other accountable. At last count, all five of us have completed at least one book project in that time, and one over-achiever (her initials are Patti Henry) has completed two.
Love that crazy girlfriend energy!