Up Close & Personal with
Mary Kay Andrews
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
Way back in April, with our upcoming book launch plans torpedoed by the global pandemic, we five (myself, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Patti Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Monroe) launched a venture called FRIENDS & FICTION. We did it on a Zoom call wing and a prayer—fueled by desperation, rose, and the desire to connect our brand new books with readers—while supporting indie booksellers whose businesses were threatened by the Covid-19 lockdowns.
In essence, as Kristin Harmel points out, we basically backed into a business without having a real business plan. Well, we actually had a plan. We wanted to talk about books, not just our own, but books by all kinds of authors, many of whom we’ve gotten to know through our combined years in the publishing business, but also books by total strangers whose work we admired.
That first Zoom to Facebook Live was terrifying. We didn’t know if we’d actually all be able to connect. We didn’t know if anyone would watch. (True story: I was so sure nobody would watch that I appeared on camera wearing my pajamas!) But we managed. And people DID watch. And they told their friends, and their friends told their friends . . . and now we’re knocking on the door of 23,000 members! And now we all wear makeup, and cute tops over our pajama pants!
As we’ve grown, we’ve gotten serious about our mission of connecting readers with stories. We’ve hired a professional audio production company to produce our Wednesday night shows, and a “managing director” who helps with marketing and strategic planning.
Fast forward seven months, and the five of us realized we needed to get together IRL (in real life) to hammer out a plan for the coming months. So last week, we convened our first ever Friends & Fiction Summit at Ebbtide, my family’s beach house on Tybee Island, Georgia. Managing Director Meg Walker won the prize for traveling the farthest—all the way from New Jersey, while Patti drove over from Birmingham, Kristy came down from North Carolina, Mary Alice from South Carolina, and Kristin drove up from Florida.
Over jambalaya, leftover Halloween candy—and a LOT of wine supplied by Kristy Harvey—we spent four days mapping our plan for the future. We crammed in hours of planning and scheming, and even managed a couple of beach walks and sessions of midnight star-gazing. Oh, and did I mention wine drinking?!
And what a future it is. We’ve got a fabulous line-up of author guests scheduled all the way through June. All five of us have new books we’ll be launching on Friends & Fiction, starting off with Patti’s SURVIVING SAVANNAH in March, followed, in rapid succession with Kristy’s UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY in April, my own novel, THE NEWCOMER, in May, followed a week later by Mary Alice’s SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND, and bringing up the rear, Kristin’s THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS in July.
What else? We have Sue Monk Kidd coming up on the 25th, James Beard award-winning cookbook author Nathalie Dupree for a Thanksgiving weekend bonus episode, followed by what promises to be the best-ever Facebook Live Office Christmas Party in December, complete with an Ugly Sweater contest. In January, we’re hosting New York Times bestselling authors Diane Chamberlain and William Kent Krueger, followed by so many more amazing authors joining us to talk about their books and the writing life. Some of your favorite authors (paging Kristin Hannah!) will be making encore appearances, while others, by popular demand, including Pam Jenoff, Joshilyn Jackson, Paula McLain, and Lisa Unger, will be making their “debut” with F&F.
We also interviewed and hired two talented college students to become our first interns, and schemed up some more top-secret innovations in our ever-expanding quest for awesomeness.
Hint: Look for Friends & Fiction coming soon to Instagram!
In the meantime, we’re working on bringing new, exclusive content to our FRIENDS & FICTION PODCAST, which is available on all major listening platforms.
And because you’ve asked, we’re busy curating a line of FRIENDS & FICTION merchandise. T-shirts? Tote bags? Coffee mugs? The thing I’m most excited about? Our own line of F&F pajamas. Who’s with me?