I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Mary Flinn to A Bookaholic Swede to talk with me about her story, A Girl Like That.
A native of North Carolina, award-winning author Mary Flinn long ago fell in love with her state’s mountains and its coast, creating the backdrops for her series of novels, The One, Second Time’s a Charm, Three Gifts, and A Forever Man. With degrees from both the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and East Carolina University, Flinn retired in 2013 from her first career as a speech pathologist in the N.C. public schools. Writing novels was always a dream for Flinn, who began crafting the pages of The One when her younger daughter left for college at Appalachian State University in 2009. The characters in this book have continued to call to her, wanting more of their stories told, which bred the next three books in the series. A follow-up story to one of the series’ characters everyone loves to hate, was released in May, 2015 and is titleInterview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Mary Flinnd, A Girl Like That.
Flinn is the recipient of the Reader Views Literary Awards 2012 Reviewers’ Choice honorable mention in the romance category for A Forever Man. The First Place Award for Romance Novel in the Reader Views 2011 contest went to Three Gifts, which also won the Pacific Book Review Best Romance Novel. Second Time’s a Charm, also released in 2011, won an Honorable Mention in the Reader Views Reviewers’ Choice Awards. In addition to romance, Flinn writes contemporary women’s fiction, including B.R.A.G. Medallion winner The Nest, and Breaking Out, which is set in a fictional town in South Carolina. Her 2015 release, A Girl Like That has won an honorable mention in the 2015-16 Reader Views Literary Book Award contest in the general fiction category, as well as a B.R.A.G. Medallion honor. Mary Flinn lives in Summerfield, North Carolina with her husband. They have two adult daughters. For more information, please visit www.TheOneNovel.com.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
I have won another B.R.A.G. Medallion for my 2013 release,The Nest. I heard about indieBRAG from a fellow author, Laura Wharton, who is also a multiple BRAG honoree.
Would you please tell me about your book A Girl Like That, what's it about?
Elle McLarin was a character who made her dirty debut in my first novel, The One, but it doesn’t matter; her story is so different that A Girl Like That is a stand-alone. Elle committed a crime in high school—slipping hunk Kyle Davis a roofie at a party with the intent of getting lucky— and spent a year in the NC Women’s prison for it when all her high school acquaintances were off to their freshman years in college. Nineteen years later, she’s starting over, moving to coastal Wilmington where she opens a bakery called Bake My Day, and telling her side of the story. The whole story is driven by her comical inner dialogue between Good Elle and Bad Elle. She finally starts to do what Good Elle should do and magic things begin to happen—until someone discovers who she is…. I think Elle McLarin sounds like a fabulous character. Can you tell me more her?
Elle was the mean girl in high school, known as Badass Barbie to her detractors. She did awful things like stalking football hunk Kyle on Facebook and bullying his girlfriend Chelsea, while mesmerizing all the boys with her wiles and ways. She snaked a boy, Aiden, away from one of her best friends and got pregnant with his baby. It must have been tough for her growing up, her mother leaving her with her grandparents. What about her father?
Elle’s mother was a teenager herself, and named her daughter after the fashion magazine called Elle. Elle never knew her father; he died in a methamphetamine lab explosion before or around the time she was born. She was never quite sure. Her grandparents took her in when Elle was five, when she lived in a trailer park, while being abandoned when her mother went on a shopping trip and never came back.
If I understand it correctly did she raise her son alone? What happened with his father?
Joey was born when Elle was in prison. Aiden, Joey’s father, along with her grandmother, convinced Elle to keep the baby and they raised Joey between all of them. Elle and Aide never married or lived together; it was mostly Elle and her grandparents who cared for Joey, but Aiden was always in the picture, especially when Joey became an angry teenager and had little patience for Elle and her string of male “friends."
I just love reading books with stories set in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Is there a reason you picked Wilmington and Valle Cruices for the setting for of the book?
Valle Crucis, where Elle was raised, is one of my favorite places in the world. She had to leave the mountains where no one liked her anyway, and Marcus, a friend of hers readers meet in A Forever Man, is able to connect her with a situation in which she can start over fresh, with a friend of his in Wilmington. Elle has never been anywhere outside of her community so leaving the only home she knows to start over is a real stretch for her, but she feels she has to make a break for her freedom. I love Wilmington too, and it seemed to be the right place for Elle to start over. I would go there too, if I needed a new start.
This is a stand-alone book and Elle McLarin has made appearances in your first novel The One and the next two books in the series. Did you always plan to write about Elle McLarin or did it just happen?
My editor, Tyler Tichelaar, loved Elle’s character from the other books. She plays an important role in The One, and makes surprise villainous cameo appearances in Three Gifts and A Forever Man. My editor was always so thrilled whenever she reappeared, that he encouraged me to write her story—in the first person. So I did. Writing in the first person point of view gives such immediacy of thought to a character and reveals so much of his/her personality—as he or she feels like revealing at the time, and in Elle’s case, the inner dialogue idea worked its magic throughout the story. She hates the color orange, which reminds her of her prison jumpsuit, and it seems to permeate every aspect of her life as she moves through the story. I was reluctant to try writing Elle’s character, because I thought I wasn’t a mean girl like Elle, but I discovered my mean side, too. I just choose to tamp it down—successfully for the most part—so it was easy and a whole lot of fun to let it rip with Elle. Her character has a lot of depth and it was challenging to dig deep to get at what drove her and to find a way for her to claw her way out of her past.
Will there be more books about Elle McLarin, or is this the only book you're going to write about her?
Maybe. That’s all I can say for now. Another book set in Wilmington may be on the horizon.
Did it take a long time for you to write the book?
After the research began, it took about a year to complete the project, but I’d been planning it in my head for much longer than that. How did you come up with the title for your book?
Elle was just one of those mean girls we all know, just a girl like that. It came about naturally in the dialogue in the book. I went through about 25 titles before I stumbled onto it in the course of writing her story.
Who designed your book cover?
I dreamed up the idea of the photo and took it of my daughter at Wrightsville Beach, NC, just outside of Wilmington. My graphic designer, Shiloh Schroeder, of Fusion Creative Works, did her magic with the cover.
We are delighted that Magdalena has chosen to interview Mary Flinn who is the author of, A Girl Like That, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Girl Like That, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.