By Leslie Lindsay
~WRITER’S INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~
April Spotlight: Siblings
A missing child, a mother-son new to a neighborhood, multiple suspects, an entangled family, and more in NOT MY BOY.
I loved Kelly Simmons’s ONE MORE DAY and when I learned she had a new one out, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. NOT MY BOY (Sourcebooks Landmark, January 2021) is a bit of family drama meets domestic suspense with touches of Lisa Unger’s IN THE BLOOD meets Gilly Macmillian’s TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH.
Hannah Sawyer is a writer–she’s working on various things, but mostly ghost-writing a woman’s memoir–but she’s also a divorced mother of a young boy, Miles. They have recently moved into a cozy carriage house on the property of a larger, more established home in a neighborhood where Hannah’s sister, Hillary, and her husband and daughter live. It’s within just days (maybe even hours) that a little girl goes missing. Suddenly, everyone in the neighborhood is captivated by this case.
Secrets abound in NOT MY BOY, in which everyone becomes a suspect, sisters turn on one another, and a grandmother’s dark presence looms. The story feels very claustrophobic, and always a little ‘off.’ The writing it good, crisp and yet descriptive. Being a house/neighborhood person, I completely geeked-out over the architecture and real estate references, the dense woods around the houses. This is a very atmospheric read about parent protection, envy, and more.
“A missing child, a family with multiple secrets, and a cast of characters that are complicated and fully realized…NOT MY BOY lands the reader in the middle of a mystery that is propulsive and impossible to put down.”
—Julie Clark, NYTimes bestselling author of The Last Flight
Although NOT MY BOY is domestic thriller, it encompasses many elements of a darker family drama; the sentences are more descriptive, lending a more literary voice.
Overall, NOT MY BOY is part police-procedural, crime, parenting, sibling clashes, mother-daughter dynamics, and more.
Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Kelly Simmons back to the author interview series:
Kelly! Welcome back. I am delighted to chat again. I have been thinking about this idea of friends (or sisters) living near one another to raise their children. Near us, there are three old homes I call ‘the sister houses.’ I always imagine adult sisters living in two of those homes, the grandparents in the middle house. Growing up, there was a classmate whose family did just that. Was this maybe your inspiration for NOT MY BOY, or was it something else?
It’s just a personal childhood dream — I have a younger sister, and I always envisioned us living near each other, raising kids together, cousins running around. That didn’t happen– she married later in life, didn’t have kids – but I still love the concept. And I love, as a novelist, making sure the best laid plans go wildly awry! So I put those sisters together and then pulled the rug out from under them.
I like how Hannah is a writer, too. Especially lately, this has played a big part in my life—and maybe other’s too—many of us are working from home. It makes us a little cooky. We’re not getting the stimulation—mentally, physically, emotionally—than we used to. But writers, always work from home. Can you talk about how this may have influenced Hannah’s character, and how is it [the pandemic] affecting you?
Many people who work from home are more attuned to the neighborhood – the rhythms, the comings and goings, what seems normal and what seems off. And I think single female parents are also wired to worry about security and safety. Add them together, and Hannah’s antennae are picking up signals others don’t always see.
As for me? Well, recently I found a small wrapper from a package of crackers beneath one of my windows. Another person would have thrown it away. I put it in a ziplock with a note of the date and time. Evidence!
Lately, I’ve been procrastinating with my own writing. I have ideas, but feel a little burned out. What do you think about when you’re staring at a blank page—and how do you reignite the flame?
I’m pretty disciplined – I have the journalist-on-deadline mentality ingrained in me. So when I’m dragging my feet I know it means there’s something wrong and I haven’t figured out the right approach to something bigger — a plot problem or character or POV. It means I need to put in more work off the page. So I get off the page for awhile and don’t stress about word count. Word count goals can be a blessing and a curse; they’re not good for everyone and they’re not good at promoting big picture thinking.
Several of your books have to do with parenting a son—this book, NOT MY BOY, and also ONE MORE DAY. Yet you have three daughters. Is there a difference, in your opinion, raising boys versus girls, or is it all the same, because we’re mothers and mothers do what mothers do?
From what I’ve observed and experienced, there is often a difference. There tends to be more talking in all girl households. There is lots of emotion. Lots of information. And more concerns over safety. Many of my boy-mom friends would call me to find out what was actually happening in the grade—they never knew the gossip or the drama. When talking about how to handle problems between boys and girls – the boy moms were a bit more sanguine over things that upset the girl moms – like sexting. And the boy moms were horrified by things the girl moms took in stride – the way the girls dressed and experimented with makeup, for instance.
I really appreciated the chance to dive into parenting a troubled young boy on the verge of being a teenager – I enjoyed understanding the perspectives of Miles and Hannah, and putting myself in their shoes. I’ve gotten a few letters from moms of sons thanking me – and that meant a lot.
What three books are you recommending to everyone and why?
Oh, boy . . . well I’m still raving about DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano. I admire that book so much. WRITERS & LOVERS by Lily King felt like it was written for me. And THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE by Abi Dare was so charming.
Kelly this has all been so great. Thank you! Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Or maybe something you’d like to ask me?
Thank you, Leslie. I think this covers it!
For more information, to connect with Kelly Simmons, or to purchase copy of NOT MY BOY, please visit:
- Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
- This title may also be available through other online sellers.
See all books in the April 2021 author interview series on siblings HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kelly Simmons is a former journalist, advertising creative director and the author of six novels sold in a dozen countries: STANDING STILL and THE BIRD HOUSE (Simon & Schuster) ONE MORE DAY, THE FIFTH OF JULY, WHERE SHE WENT, and NOT MY BOY (Sourcebooks.)
She teaches in the Drexel University MFA program, and is a member of Women Fiction Writers of America, Tall Poppy Writers and The Liars Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping fledgling novelists. Additionally, she co-helms the weekly writers podcast “Liars Club Oddcast. She was born the same day as Dorothy Parker. Coincidence? She thinks not.
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warms, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in literary journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, soon to be released as an audio book by Penguin Random House. She is represented by Catalyst Literary Management & Writer’s House.
Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory is currently on-submission.
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Cover and author image courtesy of author and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #amreading