Meet Maddie Dawson, Washington Post’s bestselling author of eight novels – The Magic of Found Objects, A Happy Catastrophe, Matchmaking for Beginners (one of my favorites), The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.
Her humorous literary fiction books about people stumbling toward love, family, connection, and hope have been translated into fifteen languages and now her latest book SNAP OUT OF IT (Lake Union, January 2023) is quickly becoming a number #1 bestseller too!
“Snap Out of It is a laugh-out-loud delight from start to finish with characters that are drawn with a unique wisdom and insight into human nature. My heart is full, and I am still smiling. I absolutely loved this book.” —Annabel Monaghan, author of Nora Goes Off Script
If you’re looking for a funny, warmhearted novel about falling in love, falling apart, and pulling it all together again, then order your copy today!
I’m such a big fan of your books, Maddie and absolutely delighted to be learning more about you and what it means for you when it comes to being free and having fun!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book(s).
Hi. Thank you for inviting me to HenLit Central. (I love the concept of “hen lit,” by the way!) I’m the author of ten novels. My newest book is Snap Out of It, which is the story of a 60-year-old woman who has been married three times and now is fed up with romance and romcoms and the whole idea that falling in love will save people. She and a friend get a little drunk one night and invent a business they call Snap Out of It, which requires Billie to dress up in a bunny costume (yep, as I mentioned, they were drunk when they thought this up!). Calling herself the Heartbreak Bunny, she hops into clients’ homes and removes the relationship memorabilia that is holding them in misery. It’s all meant to be just a lark, performance art really…until the idea goes viral, and Billie becomes a bit of a celebrity giving talks on the perils of depending on romantic love. Meanwhile, her very perfect Instagram influencer daughter is having marital troubles, and Billie’s ex-husband shows up after thirty-five years wanting a second chance and writing bad poetry to prove it…and Billie finds herself in the uncomfortable position of perhaps growing fond of the broken-hearted television producer who is promoting her career. It’s a mother-daughter story, a non-romance story, and a look at one woman’s coming of age, now that she’s REALLY come of age.
I love writing about women’s lives—and all my books contain humor and often a little touch of magic. I come from a family of storytellers, as well as a long line of Southern women who were and are a little bit witchy, with strong intuition and very dry senses of humor. The family motto just might have been, “Why ruin a good story with the truth?” So naturally I grew up wanting to be a writer. It’s the only way I know to get away with telling lies, making life just a bit more enhanced and…well, interesting.
Fans of yours love your funny warm-hearted novels. Are any of your books based on your family members or friends?
I think most writers would say the same thing: we aren’t writing about specific people we know, but instead a composite of traits and personalities all smushed in together, people we’ve imagined as well as people we’ve known, mixed in with conversations we’ve overheard in line at the grocery store, and the third-grade teacher who helped us put on a Band-Aid one time. It’s such a mystical process, and we never know quite where all the influences came from.
I don’t set out to write about family members or friends, but their personalities creep into my work, always much to my surprise. My grandmother and mother were both dynamic, hilarious, wild, non-maternal type of women who provide me with a lot of material. They are both gone now, but they live in my heart and often show up on the page, waving and saying hi.
What feelings does writing about people stumbling toward love, family, connection, and hope evoke for you?
I think we all crave connection, whatever form it comes in. We carry around in us a hope that we can be truly SEEN by other people. So many of us feel as though we perhaps missed the instruction manual that would have made our life as easy as the lives we imagine others are having around us. (Don’t we always think other people have the secret?) And yet, I firmly believe that we’re all just muddling through on this planet, trying, failing, trying again, achieving connection, losing it, creating makeshift families and cobbling together relationships that sustain us…relationships that then perhaps end, requiring us to scrape together the courage to try again. I love to write realistic stories about messy, rich, imperfect lives. And because I think life is a wonderful combination of the hilarious and the tragic, my stories have happy endings. I love putting out there the hope that we can all find our own happily ever after, however unexpected that may look. Love isn’t always where we look for it.
It may be too difficult to chose, but do you have a favorite novel, out of all the books you have written under Maddie Dawson? (Find Maddie’s books here!) Or perhaps a novel that you are most proud of? And what are the reasons for your selection?
Ha! This is like being asked to pick a favorite child. My first novel will always hold a deep place for me because it was my “learning” novel, the one that took me seventeen years and about 1,678,934 drafts. (That one was written under the name Sandi Kahn Shelton, and is called WHAT COMES AFTER CRAZY.) Since then, I think my favorite novel is always the one I’m working on—I get so engrossed in the story I’m being told by my characters that I am excited every day to return to hear more of that story. I love SNAP OUT OF IT because of Billie’s bohemian lifestyle and her unapologetic courage in marching forward and creating a household and a business that truly reflects her personality, and the crazy, ridiculous idea that you can simply swear off love…and not have it come back to call you to it once again.
Do you feel commercial fiction authors are facing particular challenges these days whether it be tied to politics, world issues, technology, or the environment?
I think that anything can be a challenge if we let it. Actually, I think it’s a very good time to be a fiction writer because I feel that readers are hungry for connection through books right now, that they feel less alone by reading novels, which offer their own kind of emotional reality. I love that Barack Obama said all the important stuff he learned about life he learned from reading novels. I think fiction can be a great teacher as well as a great comforter. We all need consoling now and then.
I’ve got to ask, have you always been so funny in life as you are in your writing?
Thank you! What a nice compliment! I come from a very funny family—my mother and father had very dry senses of humor. And my husband and kids are truly hilarious. I think most of my family members would consider me the least funny of the bunch!
I know being labeled as a writer of “Chick Lit” doesn’t sit well with many light-hearted women’s fiction novelists. But as an aging lover of this lighthearted romcom ‘happily ever after’ genre, could you be a little open with the label “HenLit”? After all, we are older. Smarter. And still fun.
We ARE older, and perhaps even MORE fun than we were when we were tasked with setting up our adult lives: work and marriage(s)and child-raising. Whew! Those were whirlwind days, and I loved them dearly, and even miss them at times. But I also love my life now, and it’s fun writing and reading about women in the “less young” time of life, when they’re free to be their real selves, flashing their independence and wisdom and taking themselves more lightly. I think all stages of life have something glorious to offer, and reading about people who are appreciating that is fun!
What line or passage in Snap Out of It, stood out for you the most? Do you have any other passages in your books that really stand out for you?
I love the passages where Billie tries to explain to people that they don’t need to wallow. She’s not against love, she says, she’s against wallowing when love is over. An important distinction!
But, judging by reader comments, the passage in one of my books that has stood out the most is from MATCHMAKING FOR BEGINNERS, which features an 88-year-old woman named Blix who is a matchmaker and a wise woman who lives her best life…and she has a saying that resonates with me. In fact, it came to me in a dream, if you can believe it. And it is: “Whatever happens, love that.” I’ve puzzled over the meaning of that statement in the five years since I wrote that book (it became a bestselller and has been translated into 15 languages and optioned for TV), and I think what it means is to stop and take in what a privilege it is to be alive just now, to live on this planet…and how we must slip into awe every chance we can. We can learn to love even the hard things that come our way, because they are all part of what it means to be alive. Some days, obviously, are better than others at living this out.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
Would it be presumptuous to claim I wanted to write while I was being wheeled into the hospital nursery, soon after my birth? Yes? Well, then, maybe the best answer is that I was always telling stories and being read to, and when I was six years old, my mother wouldn’t give me money for the ice cream man, and so I went into my room, wrote a story, glued the pages together into a book-like thing, and took it around the neighborhood until I found somebody who wanted to buy it. I made twenty-five cents, enough to buy two banana popsicles—one for me and one for my sister. I think right then it dawned on me that I had found a way to keep myself frozen desserts for the rest of my life. I never looked back. I was always that kid, the one scribbling in the corner. I wrote a novel when I was eleven, and I wish I still had it so I could see what in the world I was thinking back then.
Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers today?
Oooh, I do have advice! As someone who took an unearthly long time to write the first book, my advice is: DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t let yourself get discouraged if writing is what you really want to be doing. Write the book you want to read, write the book that lives inside of you and wants to come out—that is reason enough to call yourself a writer and commit to the practice of it. (Don’t be shocked by how many drafts it takes. Every writer rewrites again and again.) Anything can happen! Miracles show up every single day, and why not for you?
The other piece of advice is very, very important. Save your work. Print it out. Email it to yourself. Save it to a hard drive. Do one or all of those things without fail. Every day. This is a lesson I cannot seem to learn on my own, and I have lost more drafts than I can count. So I say it to you, in all sincerity: SAVE. YOUR. WORK.
For your loyal fans, is there anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I’m at work on a new novel which will be published next year. It’s called MY WEDDING JUST MIGHT BREAK YOUR HEART, and it’s the story of unexpected love—the love that comes when you’ve given up (my favorite kind). The main character thinks she’s met the love of her life, but it turns out when tragedy strikes that things start unraveling. But then…..well, we’ll all have to wait and see what happens. The characters are still holding their meetings in secret to decide what’s going to take place. They say they’ll get back to me as soon as they know more.
Thank you so much, Maddie. I really like the advice of not being shocked by how many drafts it takes. Looking forward to your next novel MY Wedding Just Might Break Your Heart – I’m laughing already!
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