March 2015

Susan Mallery

Charting a new course in Mischief Bay
Susan Mallery is a sparkling conversationalist: She’s funny, smart and easy to talk to about all manner of topics, from her writing career to dog breeds to her favorite eyeshadow brand (it’s Laura Geller).
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Susan Mallery is a sparkling conversationalist: She’s funny, smart and easy to talk to about all manner of topics, from her writing career to dog breeds to her favorite eyeshadow brand (it’s Laura Geller).

That accessible quality is reflected in her books: Mallery has a talent for building vivid fictional worlds, creating characters we can relate to and skillfully depicting the highs, lows and occasional weirdness of relationships—whether between friends, lovers, co-workers, family members or even owners and pets.

Her ability to connect with readers has won Mallery legions of fans around the world. She has sold more than 23 million books, with more than 50 of her novels landing a place on bestseller lists for a combined 500 weeks.

Now in the third decade of her career, she has written more than 100 novels, ranging from spicy romances featuring sheiks and cowboys to more recent women’s fiction set in beach communities with dazzling scenery and small-town intrigue.

Fans of Mallery’s best-selling Blackberry Island books will be excited about her new series, which debuts with The Girls of Mischief Bay, set in a coastal community in Los Angeles County. Three friends—30ish Nicole, 40ish Shannon and 50ish Pam—find themselves at turning points in their lives, whether they want to be there or not.

Nicole was happy with her husband Eric, young son Tyler and her Pilates business, until Eric quit his job to work on a screenplay without discussing it with her first. She struggles with resentment and uncertainty, and tries to maintain hope for the future of her marriage.

Meanwhile, Shannon is proud of her successful career in finance, but wishes she could meet a man who’d appreciate, rather than be threatened by, her work. Adam is an excellent prospect: He’s smart, determined to learn from mistakes he made in his first marriage and has two cute kids. But will conflicts about stepparenting derail them?

And then there’s Pam, who wants to shake things up a bit. She’s happily married to John, has a good relationship with her adult children, and her dog Lulu is an adorable sidekick. But she wants more . . . or different . . . or something. Just when she starts to feel re-energized, something terrible happens—and she has to figure things out all over again.

What these women are dealing with is the stuff of life, and that’s what Mallery likes about writing both women’s fiction and romance
—the kinds of relationships she can create, the topics she can tackle and the chance to do new kinds of stories.

“I’m really lucky because I get to do both. It keeps writing fresh for me, and it’s fun. I’m actually plotting the next book right now,” she says during a call to her Seattle home, where she lives with her husband and their three pets (a toy poodle and two ragdoll cats). “I’ve written three pages, am working on characters—only 547 pages to go! By the time I hit 500 I’ll be desperate to return to Fool’s Gold,” one of her wildly popular romance series, “and so ready for boy meets girl.”

Romantics need not fret; when Mallery writes a women’s fiction book, “one storyline is always straight romance. In The Girls of Mischief Bay, it was Shannon.” And while there’s certainly sex happening in the lives of the Mischief Bay characters, more is left to the imagination in this and Mallery’s other women’s fiction. Overall, though, she says with a laugh, “It’s the real miracle of my career that, even after I’ve done so many books, I still want to write about sex.”

She’s been writing about sex and love in its various guises since 1992, when her first book, Frontier Flame, was published—right after she graduated from college with an accounting degree. She’d been an avid romance reader since her teen years, and when she saw a notice for an adult education course on romance writing a few months before graduation, it called to her. “I was used to doing assignments for college, so I figured I should write a book . . . and then I realized that’s what I wanted to do.”

And do it she has: She publishes four or five books a year, does readings and blog-tour interviews and interacts with fans on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, Mallery says, social media has become integral to the detailed worldbuilding she does for each series.

Visitors to the author’s website,, will find recipes from the restaurants of Mischief Bay, along with a map of the town and a list of clever business names, like Chinese restaurant Wok’s Up and the Strung Out Kite Shop.

“All the businesses in Mischief Bay have been named by Facebook fans, and some are hysterically funny,” Mallery says. “I hope it’s a fun little diversion for [readers].

“Facebook, for me, is extraordinarily fun,” she says. “We do surveys or ask questions and get a lot of feedback. . . . Even if it’s not what I want to hear, it’s really nice to know what people are thinking.”

That’s a lot of information to manage and cross-check, whether ensuring consistency in Mischief Bay’s locations and storylines, or in the other books and series Mallery has in play at any given time.

Might her accounting background help with that? “Managing that much work does require a skill set,” she says. “Being organized and breaking a project down really does make a huge difference. I simply couldn’t do the volume I do if I wasn’t able to, in essence, be a project manager.”

And of course, she says, “I enjoy creating relationships and exploring friendship and throwing in an element of life that sends characters down a path they didn’t anticipate.

“It’s interesting to me, and I do get to giggle through my day. I’m very, very lucky. I love what I do.”

This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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