I hope that all of you are enjoying June! The weather's been balmy here at the Palatial Horvath Estate, a state of affairs that always makes me think I can actually have a flower garden. Until I start to weed. Then I just go back in the house and sit down again. Good thing I'm a writer, not a gardener!
Speaking of writing, there's not a lot of news to report this month - just things in progress.
The first draft for Welcome to Hardy Falls, Book 2 (title TBD) is moving right along and getting very interesting (hubba hubba). More on that to come.
The print version of Believing It and the updated print copy of Handling It (with an updated cover and interior design) are in the proofing stage, which means they should be available everywhere soon. I'll post info here, and on the blog, when they're available.
And....that's about it on the news front for today, so let's get on with the show!
This month, I thought I'd do something a little different and share an interview I conducted with one of my favorite people in the town of Hardy Falls - Mary Alice Norton. If you’ve read the Hardy Falls books, you know that Mary Alice is one of the super special servers at the Country Time Bar and Grill. But, although she’s certainly been involved in the excitement, she hasn’t been a main character and remains something of a mystery. Who is Mary Alice Norton? How did she come to be at the Country Time? And what is she scribbling in her notebook when she should be taking orders from customers?
I found out the answers to those questions--and a whole lot more--in our interview. I hope you enjoy it!
Please don't forget to join me on my blog--www.betsyhorvath.com--where I talk to the voices in my head on a somewhat weekly basis and struggle down the road to successful independent publishing.
If you want to find out more about Hardy Falls, check out the books in my "Welcome To Hardy Falls" series, available everywhere. If you want to contact me, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Interview with Mary Alice Norton
I’m sitting in the Country Time taproom at a little wooden table I found near a wall, to be away from most of the crowd, when Mary Alice finally gets her break and joins me.
I smile at her when she pulls out a chair and sits down. She looks a little rumpled, but as cheerful as always.
“Hi, Mary Alice! Thanks so much for talking to me.”
“Oh, it’s so good to see you again, Betsy!” Mary Alice beams her slightly insane smile. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t meet you somewhere, but Grace has been sick, so I’ve been working a lot.”
“Is Grace okay?” Grace is another of the servers at the Country Time. She’s just the sweetest girl in the world, and we got along really well because she’s an English major, too. Of course, Grace will get her degree a lot quicker than I got mine. But Hannah is hoping she’ll go on for her graduate degree, because that might mean she’ll work at the Country Time for a few more years.
“Oh, yes.” Mary Alice blinks her big, blue eyes. “She has a stomach bug, but her mom and dad are taking good care of her. I took her flowers this morning, and she seems to be feeling a lot better.”
“Deacon has it, too, but Hannah’s taking good care of him. He should be back soon.”
I make a face. “And I’ll bet he didn’t go to the doctor, did he?”
Mary Alice laughs. “Not until Hannah made him. He’s just like my Johnny.”
I want to ask her about her boyfriend, Johnny, so I make a note to remind me.
“I was wondering why Mat was working behind the bar tonight.” I look over to the bartender, Mateo Guerrero. Normally Mat is back in the kitchen, but he helps out at the bar when Deacon has a night off or if there’s another problem. I wonder where Hannah finds such good-looking bartenders in this small town.
“Mat’s always pitching in,” Mary Alice says. “He’s great.”
“He is.” People don’t know what’s going on with him yet, but they will. Realizing Mary Alice’s break is getting away from us, I look at my notes because I don’t want to forget anything. “So, there has sure been a lot of things going on around here, hasn’t there?”
Mary Alice clasps her large hands in front of her bosom. “Oh, yes. It’s so wonderful! June and Calvin are in love, and so are Hannah and Deacon, and now we’re hoping—”
“That’s not what I meant.” I interrupt her because Mary Alice can talk forever. And I don’t want her to give away future plot points. “I meant with Hannah’s uncle, George, stealing all of her money.”
“Oh, yes.” Mary Alice’s slightly protuberant blue eyes look troubled. “It’s really sad. I mean, how can an uncle do that to his niece? My uncles would never do that to me. Of course, I know more about money than they do, but they know stuff like how to build houses and all.”
I blink at her. “Your uncles build…wait, never mind.” I wave that away as I try to concentrate on my notes. “So, these last couple of months have been really be hard for Hannah, haven’t they?”
“Oh, yes.” Mary Alice beams at me. “But it’s okay. We’re working it out.”
“That’s what Deacon always says. “We.” Because we’re like a family here. That’s why I love working here, and I love the customers, too, even when Old Albert yells at me.”
“But what if Hannah has to close?”
Mary Alice’s eyes fill with tears. “Don’t even joke about that, Betsy. We won’t let Hannah close the Country Time. We’re going to figure it out. I told her that she should get individual investors, but she still hasn’t done it. I’d love to invest. I’d even run the fund, if she’d let me, but I don’t think she will.” Mary Alice leans forward. “Hannah’s kind of a control freak,” she whispers conspiratorially.
"Um, yes. I know that you offered to help her set up an investment fund."
"I did." Mary Alice looks sad. "But she said she doesn't want the responsibility of worrying about losing other people's money. I told her lots of small businesses do it, especially in today's lending climate. And I'm sure a lot of the people in town would help out, considering the history of the Country Time, and the place Hannah and her family have had in the community. I know Johnny and I would invest." She smiles again. “I actually met Johnny when I was working at a bank as a lending officer, gosh, eight years ago now. He came in for a loan, and that was that.”
I blink rapidly. I realize I've had certain preconceptions about Mary Alice, just based on how she looks and talks and her generally sunny disposition. But maybe there's more going on inside her head than I've realized.
"Wow. That’s great,” I say weakly. “Too bad Hannah doesn’t want to take you up on your offer." I've spoken with Hannah and I know how she feels. I don't even blame her for feeling that way. She doesn't want to put anyone else at risk and it’s hard enough to keep a small business going without the other problems she has.
"So far." Mary Alice shrugs philosophically. "But Adam, the nice private investigator who works with Sam, still hasn't found Uncle George, and even if he does, she's probably not going to get any money back at this point. So she might change her mind."
"But I know that she has lots of other ideas to raise money."
Mary Alice brightens. "Yes. Her friend Josie Kline is back in town, and she said--"
"How is your writing going?" I ask, just trying to keep her from giving anything away.
Her smile is a sunbeam. "Oh, it's so wonderful, thank you for asking. I'm trying to finish some new songs so I can send them out and have demos cut."
I am silent for a long moment.
"Huh?" I say.
Mary Alice blinks at me. “What?”
“You, um, write songs?”
“Oh, yes.” She straightens in her chair. “I thought you knew? I’m always coming up with lyrics or music working around here, and of course the music we play in the bar is a big inspiration.”
I think about that for a moment. “You write country songs?” I ask at last.
“Most of the time.” She shrugs. “Sometimes it’s folk or rock, but mostly country. Besides, I can play the piano pretty well, but I’m really good on the guitar. When Johnny and I were touring—”
“Wait.” I hold up a hand to stop her. “You and Johnny were touring in a band?”
“Yes.” She smiles. “That’s what he needed the loan for, to set up his band and get it out on the road. I declined him, of course, but when he found out I’d written bunches of songs and could sing and all, he asked me to go with him and I did. He was the lead singer, because he’s so pretty. And his brother, Roy, played the guitar. But I backed him up and we had a lot of other people with us. That’s when I met Candy. You remember Candy?”
I put a hand to my forehead, because I’m suddenly dizzy. “I think so. She was your friend who moved out of town right before June and Calvin started dating again.”
“Yes. She was a backup singer and we got to be really good friends.” She looks sad. ”I wish she didn’t have to move away.”
“Okay.” This conversation has gotten totally off the rails, but I’m so fascinated I have to keep going. “Were you, um, successful with the band?”
Mary Alice looks wistful. “Pretty much. We’d only been touring a couple of years and we were already getting some pretty big venues and gigs opening for other bands. Country music is popular in Pennsylvania, so we were mostly touring the state between Pittsburgh and Philly, and heading down into West Virginia or Maryland.”
“Wow.” I really can’t wrap my head around this version of Mary Alice. “Why did you stop?”
“Oh, Roy decided he wanted to start his own band because he thought Johnny was too strict and he didn’t like country music much. Besides, we were tired of traveling all the time and there was some other stuff going on, so Johnny wanted to stop. I wanted to stop, too,” she adds hastily.
I smile to show her I understand. I desperately want to ask her what the “other stuff” was, but I don’t want to pry. “And you settled in Hardy Falls.”
“Oh, yes.” She beams at me and clasps her hands to her breast again. “And it’s the best thing ever. Johnny’s family lives right nearby, and he works in the marketing department for one of the casinos in Mount Pocono. And I got this job.”
I smile at her because she’s so obviously happy. “And you like it.”
“I love it here. It’s so much better than working at a bank. I mean, it’s sad for Hannah that one of her waitresses got caught having sex with Deacon’s brother, Sam, in a car in the parking lot, but it was good for me.” She frowns. “That didn’t come out right. I don’t want it to sound like I’m happy about that, because Hannah was hurt. She was dating Sam, so he cheated on her. And the waitress, Louise, was her friend.”
“Yes.” I think about this for a moment. “I wonder if Sam’s sorry for what he did?”
“I don’t know.” Mary Alice’s wide eyes grow even wider. “Do you think he is?”
“Maybe.” I shake my head, because that’s a question for another day. “I’m glad you’re happy here, Mary Alice. I hope you’re here for a long time.”
“Me, too.” She looks over her shoulder when June calls for her. “Oh, golly, is my break done already? That was quick.” She smiles at me. “I hope we can talk again, Betsy.”
“I hope so, too. And I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”
“Hooray!” Mary Alice gets to her feet and grabs her order pad. “Gosh, I have a great idea.” She starts scribbling.
June rolls her eyes and comes up to the table, taking Mary Alice’s shoulder and leading her away.
“Thanks a lot,” she says to me.
I settle back in my chair and sip from my glass of water. A strange conversation, but talking to Mary Alice is usually strange.
I straighten. I realize I have a great idea, too.
Taking out my notepad, I start scribbling.