Mary Shotwell | Interview
Second Chance Summer Romance.
Today I’m chatting with romance author Mary Shotwell whose newest book, Waverly Lake, releases today. This small-town contemporary romance, the first in the Waverly Lake Trilogy, is sure to tug at heartstrings.
Hello Mary, congratulations on your new release! Where did you come up with the idea for Waverly Lake and what is it all about?
I had written a romance that takes place in the Pacific Northwest, so I knew I wanted to switch to the eastern half of the country for a new series. I currently live in Tennessee, and have lived in both Carolinas, so I imagined a town in the Appalachian Mountains with a lake. I had never written a summer romance before, and wanted to incorporate my boating experience and love of the water. The characters and storyline grew from there. It’s a second chance, enemies-to-lovers, small-town romance.
Here's a brief logline: After her dad’s accident, Kara Carter must find a new partner to sail in the regatta or risk her father’s business. The only one willing to help in the small town is single dad Danny Bennett, the ex-boyfriend who trampled her heart a decade ago.
Oh, I like the sound of that. Hitting the buy button now! What inspired you to become a writer?
Writing was an escape from the rigors of graduate school. Every day I was crunching numbers or looking at statistical theory. Setting time aside to use my imagination and creativity kept balance to my day. Eventually, I took writing seriously, and set to work on transforming it from a hobby to a career.
Finding balance is so important. I love that you found it in writing. And I see from your website you’ve written quite a few other books as well. Do you consider yourself a multi-genre writer?
I think foremost I am a romance writer. Contemporary romance is what I've worked on in the past few years, starting with Christmas Catch (Carina Press, 2018). The Waverly Lake Series (City Owl Press, 2022) is contemporary romance, and I have good news to announce very soon in that department. I started out writing YA fantasy—my first book was a modern-day continuation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland called Weariland (Merge Publishing, 2016). It follows a teenage girl who not only discovers she's an ancestor of the original Alice, but that Wonderland has turned dull after the banning of imagination. The rights have reverted back to me and so far I've been sitting on it deciding what to do with it. But my love of YA fantasy hasn't gone anywhere. I've delved back into fantasy and it really is a joy to write. (Hopefully I will have more good news sometime in the near future regarding that.)
That sounds exciting! What challenges did you encounter in writing Waverly Lake?
I had to do a lot of research to get several things correct, from the weather and local dialect, to the different sailing vessels and terms. Those took time, but weren’t the biggest challenge. The hero has a young daughter with autism, and I wanted to portray both a neurodivergent child and a parent with a neurodivergent child as close to reality as I could. Although I have some experience as a summer camp counselor that included two children on the spectrum, it was years ago. I wanted to know what we’ve learned since then about Autism Spectrum Disorder, from diagnosing it, to therapies, treatments, etc. I have friends I’ve kept in touch with since high school who have been open and honest about their experiences as parents to neurodivergent children. It was very important to portray that family realistically.
Which of your characters from your newest book do you hate to love?
Carly Fletcher! She runs Dye Happy Salon, and everything about her is over-the-top. She’s the town gossip and has no shame in being so. But underneath her loud personality is a true love for the town and its people. You can’t help but love her despite how annoying she can be.
Oh my goodness, I love the name Dye Happy for a salon. That’s absolutely perfect. What are your favorite tropes and themes to play with in your work?
I am a sucker for enemies-to-lovers. Usually, it’s two people who got off on the wrong foot, under some misunderstanding. I love a slow-burn, gradual development between them that’s not just physical but emotional. The deeper that emotional attraction runs, the more satisfying the happily-ever-after for me.
Enemies-to-lovers is a personal favorite of mine as well. I’m looking forward to reading this book! Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have pre-writing routine or do you just go with the flow?
When I wrote my first book (which is shelved for good reason), I did not plot at all. I knew generally what was going to happen and just went with it. It took several years of on-again-off-again writing to finish it. For me, the experience was far from pleasant. For my next book, I swore to myself not to write the first page until I had a solid outline. What a difference! Over the course of subsequent manuscripts, I have a system that I stick to. It takes me about two weeks to outline a story, chapter by chapter. The more detailed the outline—characters, locations, etc.—the faster I write. My last manuscript, which is my longest so far, took me approximately 45 days to write after having an outline.
Whoa! That’s fast! Very Impressive! What’s a writer quirk you have that will make people raise their eyebrows?
I have to have my space heater on by my desk when I’m writing. It drives my husband nuts, but I tend to run cold, especially when seated for a long time. I also think it’s something about the white noise that helps me drown out what else is going on in the house and focus on my words.
Ha! I hate cold feet, so I completely understand. If you were bitten by a radioactive spider today, what existing secret skill do you possess that would be amplified as a newborn super hero?
Does baking count?
My kids would answer baking. They think I should go on a baking show, but they don’t realize that Mommy is just really good at following recipes. I don’t think I could have a theme given to me and come up with my own recipe. Perhaps if I were bitten by a radio-active spider, it would enhance my skills to do just that!
Nice! Then I’ll come to your house for some taste tests!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up and how is that working out for you so far?
Like many kids in my generation, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I actually did go to college and graduate school for it. I was able to study dolphin behavior, be a part of the South Carolina Marine Mammal Stranding Network, study spiny dogfish in Seattle for a brief time, and great whites in South Africa. It was a great time in my life, but it’s a very tough career to hold while raising kids. It can be a physically rigorous field, especially when out on the boat in the winter, and can have you on call 24/7. When my husband and I graduated, it wasn’t hard to leave it behind to move to Tennessee. I miss some aspects of it (I will never grow tired of seeing marine animals in the wild), but love what I’m doing now.
That’s so cool you were able to do that. I definitely had a phase where I wanted to be a marine biologist LOL. So, what are you reading right now?
My reading interests move in waves, so right now I’m getting back into YA. I just finished Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights, a retelling of Romeo + Juliet that takes place in Shanghai in the 1920s. It actually spurred me to research more about the real history in its background, and is very timely with the current politics behind China and Taiwan.
I’ve been eyeing that one up! And what are you working on right now? Does it connect to your new release?
More romance! I’m working on a second book in another series that takes place on the coast in Washington. I’m also working on edits for Truelove Trail, book two in the Waverly Lake series.
Awesome! Can you tell me more about Truelove Trail? Does it revolve around the same characters as Waverly Lake or does it center a whole new couple?
Definitely! Truelove Trail, as with all three books in the Waverly Lake series, takes place in Waverly Lake in a particular season. Waverly Lake, book one, covers summer, so Truelove Trail is during the peak of fall. This time we follow Danny Bennett's sister, Tracy. She's a firecracker, and it was so fun to write her love story. While working at Aunt Dee's lodge for the season, she meets Ben, a mysterious hiker off the trail passing through—except he isn't a stranger at all. Ben has returned to Waverly Lake in the hopes of facing his past. When he meets Tracy, his best friend from childhood, it's hard not to tell her the truth, especially when Aunt Dee assigns them to plan Lovetoberfest.
I absolutely loved writing Truelove Trail, since fall is my favorite season. Expect all the autumnal trimmings—colorful leaves, pumpkins, cider, and even a haunted house.
Yay for pumpkin spice! Where can readers interact with you or find out more?
Visit my website and leave a comment, or find me on social media. I love hearing from readers!
Thank you for being here! I loved learning more about you and your writing. Let’s leave some buy links for Waverly Lake.
Kara Carter has her future set—the right photography job, the perfect reliable boyfriend, and her own apartment in New York, until one morning changes it all. She has no choice but to move back home to Waverly Lake, North Carolina, a town she had sworn off for ten years.
It's one thing to return as a failure, it's another to find her neighbor is the one and only Danny Bennett, the boy who broke her heart senior year of high school.
As Kara helps with the family's furniture business—and steers clear of Danny—she is pressured into teaming up with her dad for the Annual Waverly Lake Regatta. But when her dad's accident results in forfeiting his sailing team slot, no one in Waverly Lake can forgive her past—except Danny.
Danny Bennett, now a single father of seven-year-old daughter Hannah, can't help but be drawn to Kara. When he offers to help Kara race in the regatta, little does he know how the woman who stole his heart long ago will change the way he sees family, love, and parenting a child with autism.
Can these high school sweethearts sail through the pain of the past?