Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet author MaryBeth Whalen

Hello, Marybeth,

As I sit here in the St. Louis area in March, watching the sun melt the frost from my lawn, I’m thinking of you on the beach, knowing you love it because I read your blog. How I’d love to be there, too. I’m wondering, since you live in North Carolina, do you have access to the beach in your backyard? If not, how often do you get to enjoy it?

Marybeth: We don’t have the beach in our backyard but are fortunate enough to live a pretty easy drive away. We can be there in 3.5 hours. My uncle (my dad’s side) and aunt (my mom’s side) both live at the beach so I visit them often. My kids have formed many happy memories at the beach thanks to my strong tie to the place. I like to think I’ve passed that on to them and that the NC coast holds a special spot in their hearts, too.

I noticed you do a lot of cooking and with a husband and six kids, I can easily understand this. In your blog of menus, you had some down-home southern dishes planned for your menus. Did you grow up in the south and is that where you learned to cook like that?

Marybeth: I am a native North Carolinian and you can definitely tell from my cooking! I learned to cook from my mom and grandmother and embrace my southern heritage that is so strongly tied to food. I still can’t make decent biscuits though, unfortunately.

Well, you can buy canned biscuits at the grocery store that taste pretty good. I remember one of the first times I made homemade yeast rolls and when I served them, my husband said, “These rolls are pretty good. What brand of canned biscuits did you use?” I didn’t do yeast rolls again for a long time.

Tell us a little about your faith, and why you write Christian novels.

Marybeth: To be honest I didn’t set out to make my first novel, The Mailbox, a Christian novel. But the idea that there is a Kindred Spirit that people want to connect with and are drawn to just demanded that I deal with the issue of faith and seeking God in the story. After that, I was under contract with a Christian publisher so I structured my stories to continue to explore issues of faith and spiritual growth. In all of my Sunset Beach novels, there is a strong symbolic faith element (the Kindred Spirit from The Mailbox, the Artist from The Guest Book, the wishing tree from my upcoming novel The Wishing Tree) that naturally ties into the story. I want the faith element to always feel organic to the story and not feel forced.

In the future I might write outside of the Christian marketplace if the story demands it. I want to be true to each story and not make them fit into a box. I have story ideas that are inherently Christian, and other stories that I know a Christian publisher would be unable to publish because of the themes or elements within them not fitting their publishing model. I hope to be able to write them all. My faith is intrinsic to my daily life, and I hope that—intentional or not, published by Christian publishers or not—that will always come through in my writing.

You direct an online book club, Tell us a little about that.

Marybeth: She Reads is a daily celebration of women’s fiction and the writers who create it for us. We select a book a month, discuss it and hear from the author all through the month. We also offer guest posts from other authors so that we can spotlight more than just one book, because the majority of fiction readers read much more than one book a month. We want to put the best books out there in front of the women who join our community of readers and so far it seems like we’re doing our job!

That’s a for sure! I read about three books a week.
I was captivated by your book, She Makes It Look Easy. I couldn’t put the book down. How did you make your characters so real? Did you draw somewhat from people you knew, or do you just have a super imagination?

Marybeth: That book is definitely my most personal story in that it came out of a situation in my own community that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I wanted to answer the questions running through my mind by exploring this story I made up. While none of those people were exact replicas of real folks, many of them were hodgepodges of people I know or knew or knew of. That’s what I love about fiction—you’re not tied to the truth but you can certainly use truth as a springboard.

Your descriptive language had me seeing the neighborhood where Erica, Ariel, and Justine lived because it was similar to one in which my daughter lived. And the book was real because of the topics you discussed: jealousy, pride, love, anxiety, even an affair. I was amazed that you could put so much of today’s world into one compelling book.

Marybeth: That neighborhood in the book is an actual neighborhood I used to visit years ago. An old friend who has now moved far away lived there and we spent many afternoons letting our kids play outside or baking in her kitchen, etc. I remember thinking back then (20 years ago!) in a very outside way that I would someday write about this place. I had no idea that it would manifest itself in this story, but it just lined up so perfectly with the atmosphere I was trying to create. I think that exploring real issues and adding real elements to a story just make it more gripping and relatable.

You have a new book, The Wishing Tree, which released in June of this year. Tell us a little about this book and what you want readers to take away from it.

Marybeth: The Wishing Tree is about two sisters—one who is planning the perfect wedding to the perfect guy, and one who is facing the fact that her perfect marriage may not be so perfect after all. When the two sisters are thrown together again as they prepare for the upcoming wedding, truths emerge and long-held beliefs are challenged. When Ivy, the main character, gets put in charge of the wishing tree for her sister Shea’s wedding, she must face her own wishes about the realities of marriage, choosing what to let go of—and what to hold onto. I just finished reading this one and it is great.

I purchased that one and just finished reading it. I'll have a review of it on Wednesday's post this week. Thank you for letting us get a brief glimpse of you and your books today, Marybeth.
Readers can find you on line at and can check for all your books. I hope many of them will be picking up one of them, and I hope they are prepared to keep reading long into the night. They will be captivated, just as I was. I can’t wait to read your other novels.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Now it’s YOUR turn. Go to the comments, and enter your name to win a copy of She Makes It Look Easy. I know you’ll love it, just as I did.

You can get extra entries in the contest by choosing to subscribe to my blog or to follow me. Be sure to tell me in the comments, so I'll put your name in more than once.

Also, don't forget to leave your email address. We need to be able to find you if you win. A few people missed out on previous books because they didn't leave an email address. :( 

MaryBeth will mail you an authographed copy of She Makes It Look Easy if your name is chosen. Winner will be announced on Monday, July 8. I promise you will love this book. I read it in two or three days. Check my book reviews if you wish, and you'll see what this book is about.


  1. This looks like a great read and I would love a chance to read it. centraleast2 at gmail dot com

    1. Thanks for your reply. Nice to see you back here on my blog. I've entered your name in the drawing. Good luck!

  2. I would love to read this book. Great interview and review.
    Diana Montgomery

    1. Hi, Diana, nice to see your name again. You're entered in the drawing. If you win the book, I know you won't be able to put it down. Have a great week!

  3. All of her books sound interesting. I always reading about people who write novels as that's not my genre. (I write mostly nonfiction, self-help, devotionals, etc.) The Wishing Tree, especially, sounds like a great book. Enjoyed this interview.

    1. Hello, Donna. Thanks for your comments on the interview. I've had fun interviewing all these authors. So glad you visited and commented.

  4. Your book sounds great and I'd love the chance to read it. Thank you for having this giveaway!!

    I am a subscriber and follower.

    Wanda Barefoot

    1. Hello, Wanda, so nice for you to come back again this week. I've entered you with three chances to win. Good luck in the drawing. I know you'll enjoy the book if you win.

  5. MaryBeth is a new author to me, but I am especially fond of trying new Southern authors. I always enjoy my trips to NC. Thank you for offering a copy of She Makes It Look Easy.
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com
    I am an email and RSS follower

  6. Hey, Kay, so nice for you to comment again. Yes, there have been several Southern authors on here since I started the blog. All of them have written wonderful books. I've entered your name with three chances to win. Good luck in the drawing!

  7. Thanks for your comments and for being interested in my writing! So fun to meet new readers-- I hope you will enjoy my stories.

  8. thanks for the chance to read this wonderful novel ;)

    I'm a follower & email subscriber too!

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

    1. Hi, Karen, I've entered your name with three chances to win. Thanks for visiting my blog again, and good luck in the drawing!

  9. I do not know what to comment here on your website. However, I am following your all works and post then wish you all good luck. You are working great.
    digital marketing services in india