About the book
What would you do if you discovered you had a half-sister you never knew existed?
In The Secret of Joy, 28-year-old New Yorker Rebecca Strand is shocked when her dying father confesses a devastating secret: he had affair when Rebecca was a toddler—and a baby he turned his back on at birth. Now, his wish is that the daughter he abandoned, Joy Joyhawk, read the unsent letters he wrote to her every year on her birthday. Determined to fulfill her father’s wish, Rebecca drives to a small town in Maine—against the advice of her lawyer boyfriend who’s sure Joy will be a “disappointing, trashy opportunist” and demand half her father’s fortune. But when hopeful Rebecca knocks on her half-sister’s door, Joy—a separated mother who conducts weekend singles tours out of her orange mini-bus—wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the letters her father wrote to her. Determined to forge some kind of relationship with Joy, Rebecca sticks around, finding unexpected support from Joy’s best clients—the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset—and a sexy carpenter named Theo . . . .
About the author
Melissa Senate lives on the coast of Maine with her son and their menagerie of pets. She’s the author of eight novels (seven women’s fiction and one young adult) with two on the way. Visit her website (http://www.melissasenate.com) for more information and she’d love if you became her friend Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MelissaSenate) and followed her on Twitter (http://twitter.com/melissasenate).
I asked, Melissa answered
A: What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you? Bonus question: have you ever used it in a book?
M: When I was nine years old, I lived in a borough of New York City on a busy street. Right across the street was a school yard with a huge handball wall that was all the rage for kids. But: I wasn’t allowed to cross the street without asking an adult to walk across with me. So, my little friend Jackie and I asked a man in a suit with a briefcase to cross us, and he said: “I’ll take you across the street if you show me where I can find a bathroom.” That was our cue to run, but instead, we took him to the basement of my apartment building. LIKE IDIOTS. (Well, nine-year-old idiots.) We watched as he opened his briefcase and took out a big needle and something that looked like rope (at the time, we didn’t realize this was about drugs). We stared at each other for a split second and bolted. From that day on, I was allowed to cross the street by myself.
For the bonus q: I write chick lit/women’s fiction, so that particular bit has not found a way into my fiction, but I’ve found that what I do work into my novels is the impact of the emotion I’ve felt. That fear—and the fear for my friend—has manifested itself in interesting ways when describing all kinds of fear in my books.
A: Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
M: I lived in New York City apartments for such a long time that I didn’t realize I would be afraid to live in a house with doors and windows that opened on the ground floor. It’s taken me five years of living in a small town in Maine to stop worrying that someone will come through the windows.
A: Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie?
MS: I love all kinds of mysteries, from cozies to hardboiled. I do have a special fondness for Janet Evanovich.
A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will happen next. What question does your book ask?
M: The Secret of Joy asks: If a half-sibling you never met, never knew about, came knocking on your door one day, how would you feel? P.S. This very question was inspired by an email I received out of the blue that said: I think you might be my half-sister . . .
A, Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure
M: Motherhood. No annotating required.