I was perusing the shelves of Mitchell’s Bookstore on an August evening while vacationing on Nantucket in the late 70’s when the proprietor, Mimi Beman, pulled a copy of Stepping -- a new book by Nancy Thayer, from a display shelf and handed it to me. Mimi knew and remembered her customers’ reading taste whether you lived on-Island year ‘round or simply “washed ashore” for a few weeks every year, and my literary palate was wide ranging. “Try Stepping,” she said. “ New author.”
That year I read Stepping, and the next, I read Three Women on the Water’s Edge, then Bodies and Souls, right up to this past season’s hit, Summer Breeze—twenty two books to date. Island Girls, number twenty three, arrives in stores just in time for the Nantucket Book Festival where author Nancy Thayer will be a keynote speaker with Nantucketer Elin Hilderbrand (who coincidently is publishing her thirteenth novel, Beautiful Day, this summer) on Sunday, June 23rd at the Nantucket Atheneum. Nancy’s twenty-fourth novel, Nantucket Christmas, is scheduled for publication in November. Talk about prolific!
“I’ve been writing for most of my life and have been published for more than thirty five years,” says this New York Times Best Selling author. She writes mostly about her favorite subject: family-- in all its gloriously messy and chaotic forms, often drawing from personal experience.
“I have a son who is gay, married to the greatest guy; I have a daughter, who is also a writer; three beautiful grandchildren, and a terrific husband, Charley, who I call my “second chance romance” because we married in 1982, when I was a confused and very young, recent divorcee,” Nancy added.
“When I wrote Stepping, no-one was publically talking --no less writing about --divorce and being a step-parent. And (similarly), that was also true with my Hot Flash Club Series: women wanted to talk about menopause.” And talk they did, forming Hot Flash Clubs around the world. Additionally, Nancy’s books have been translated into 14 languages, excerpted in national and international magazines, and Stepping became a 13-part series for BBC radio.
Nancy writes not only about women’s issues, but life’s issues and its myriad of twists and turns.
“Family can include many different elements,” she says, “I don’t specifically write about one subject, just about family in general and all of the things that go on in them.”
She pens stories of love and hate, death and divorce, sickness and health, with a human element readers instantly recognize because, for better or for worse, we’ve all “been there” at one time or another. Nancy’s stories and characters become personal to the reader--we care about them because there is some of us in each one. She calls her sense of spirituality that colors much of her work “the barrier, the line, the something else that inspires us” giving us hope, and in her own words, “that tingle of being alive.”
I finally met Nancy three summers ago at a sidewalk book signing outside The Bookworks in Nantucket. Dressed in a lovely floral summer skirt and blouse, smiling from under a broad brimmed hat, she was surrounded by throngs of women waiting for an autographed copy of their favorite work. They were as thrilled as I finally to meet the person who, for many readers, voiced issues we had all felt at various ages and stages of our lives.
When my turn came for a signing, she asked for my name, then paused and looked into my eyes and said “Ryder. I am going to remember that name.” And true to her word, she did.
Nancy and I have become regular Facebook Friends. Her daily posts include beautiful photographs, quips about her own family, poems, musings and a photographs of flowers and her garden. I feel as if she has invited me into her home every day for morning coffee, and then again for afternoon tea. She is personable, warm and authentic, sassy, fun and silly and I love chatting with her on-line. She never ceases to make me feel special, and feel like family.
Be sure not to miss her appearance at this year’s Nantucket Book Festival, on Sunday afternoon when she'll read from her new book at the Atheneum at 1:30pm. The complete 2013 Nantucket Book Festival schedule is here.
Ryder S. Ziebarth, a freelance writer, was most recently published in the Metropolitan Diary section in the New York Times, Brevity, a flash- nonfiction literary journal, N magazine and NantucketChronicle.com among other publications. Here are her other interviews with Nantucket Book Festival authors Nat Philbrick, Kathryn Kay, Bob Barsanti and Ann Leary.