I am excited to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Susan Mallery’s new book, The Friendship List. I want to thank Justine Sha for my invitation to participate and share my thoughts with you. Scroll down for an interesting Q&A with the author.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live life to the fullest…only to discover that possibilities are everywhere–especially in the most unexpected of places.
Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.
But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…
This is an amazing book about friendship, second chances, new beginnings, finding yourself, taking risks and love. I so enjoyed the characters in this story, every single one of them. Unity and Ellen both had issues and baggage that caused them to shut off their emotions when it came to love and dating. They were both stuck and to encourage each other, they came up with their lists. It was a contest of sorts to see who could complete their list first. I loved the things they put on their lists. It was almost like a bucket list, including having sex with a handsome man. Keith and Thaddeus were both men who had played the field but were ready to settle down and they had their hearts set on Unity and Ellen. How they get there is a wonderful ride. I loved all the things that happened to them and the things they tried and enjoyed. I enjoyed the banter, the caring and the support they gave each other. The kids, Lissa and Cooper played a huge part in the growth their parents experienced and it was great that they were also friends.
The story is narrated by both Unity and Ellen. They shared everything with each other and there were a lot of laughs in this story along with some sad and heartfelt moments. Unity had to get over the death of her husband three years earlier, and Ellen was dealing with being a single mom for the last 17 years and the guilt her parents made her feel. There were times that I got frustrated with Unity. I understand how she feels, but she is still so young and has so much life to live. The characters were well-developed, the story well-written and I loved how it all turns out. I read this book on one rainy day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a few steamy, descriptive scenes, but they really are a necessary part of the story. Overall, a story that has a Happily Ever After, but there is a lot of growth and issues to overcome along the way. I definitely recommend this one to lovers of Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction and Susan Mallery. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
About the Author: SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.
Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.
Q&A with Susan Mallery
Q: Where did the inspiration for The Friendship List’s plot come from?
A: The inspiration for The Friendship List came from a reader—but I don’t think it’s exactly the story the reader was asking for. A couple years ago, a reader suggested I write a story about empty nesters, a couple whose children had grown up and were moving out. I considered the idea, but it didn’t immediately sing for me.
Then, while washing dishes—which is when I often get ideas—I thought to myself, “What if it isn’t a couple, but a single mom? And what if she had her baby really young, like in high school? She would be in her mid-thirties when her kid went to college. What would that be like?” That’s the spark that led to Ellen, a single mom who had her son when she was a senior in high school. Since then, she has put his needs first, always, to the point where she hasn’t dated really at all in her adult life.
Q: Who is your favorite character in this novel and why?
A: I love both of the friends, but Ellen probably squeaks out a narrow win over Unity simply because her journey was so much fun. Think about it—she had her kid when she was seventeen years old, and from that moment on, her life revolved around him so she missed out on the things most people experience in their twenties. Dating, parties, bar-hopping. She was home studying and taking care of her kid. And in fact, he’s the impetus for her to change, as well, because she sees that what’s best for him now is for her to let go, to get a life of her own. When she realizes all that she’s been missing, she dives in with her whole heart and body, with such enthusiasm that she had me laughing every day. Suddenly she wants to try everything all at once. Love, love, love, love her.
Q: What is your idea of a good personal challenge for yourself?
A: The challenges in The Friendship List are meant to push the women out of their comfort zone and be a little intimidating for them, so my personal challenge will have to do the same. Hmm… Oh! How about a plunging V neckline? Cleavage makes me really self-conscious, but I admire women who can proudly show off their curves. I’m nervous just thinking about it!
Q: Do your characters tell you their stories a bit at a time or all at once? Do they ever pull you in unexpected directions changing up the plot you originally planned?
A: Yes, yes, and yes. It depends on the story. Very rarely, a story will come to me fully formed. Daughters of the Bride was like that. A gift book. That almost never happens. Usually, I get a spark of an idea. I write up some notes, then set it aside. If I’m still thinking about it, I know it has potential. I get a lot of ideas that never go anywhere. They might make fine stories for someone else, but if they’re not tugging at me, I let them go.
I’m on the extreme-plotter end of the plotter/pantser spectrum. (For those who don’t know, a plotter is a writer who plots the story in advance. A pantser is a writer who flies by the seat of her pants, without knowing where the story is going.) I generally work out story problems during my plotting process, which makes me feel free to relax and sink into the story while I’m writing.
When I get into the flow of a book, the characters do take over and sometimes they do surprise me. When they take me in a direction I didn’t expect, I have to step back to look at the big picture to adjust. I never try to force a character to do something that doesn’t feel right for him or her. Every decision must be motivated.
In The Friendship List, Unity threw me for a loop early on. I knew she was still in love with her late husband, but until I wrote a particular scene, I didn’t realize just how broken she still was. I did have to make some very serious adjustments to her road to a happy ending. And in the end, as I brought her out of that darkness, I cried. So satisfying!
Q: What do you love to do when not writing?
A: I love hanging out with my friends—and I miss that right now because of the coronavirus. Friendship is one of the most fundamental relationships in a woman’s life. You might argue “in a man’s life, too,” but from what I’ve observed, most men don’t have the same visceral need for community that women do. My husband once told me, “You’re all I need.” Which is sweet and romantic and probably true. I love him dearly, more than any other human being on the planet, but I need friends, too. My friends are the family I chose, and I nurture those relationships in every way I can.