A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction, DeMaio enjoys writing about family, friendship, love and choices and sets her stories in New England or seaside towns. Her debut novel, Whole Latte Life, won First Place in the 2012 Discovery Awards and was named a Kirkus Reviews Critics’ Pick; the follow-up, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans, reached both aforementioned bestseller lists. In addition, her music essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals. DeMaio resides with her family in Connecticut and is currently at work on her next book.
Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans (CreateSpace, $14.95) was published in March, and has been received warmly by critics and casual readers alike. USA Today praised, “Settling into this story is like wading into a cool ocean on a sunny day—you just can’t resist the invitation.” Further, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer Mary J. Gramlich noted, “Joanne DeMaio has written a book that is more than friends recapturing the joys of their youth; it is about the essence of their choices as adults. Ms. DeMaio has developed a story line with well-scripted character depth and emotion.”
From the publisher:
Escape to Stony Point, cuff your jeans and walk along the water's edge in this nostalgic story bringing old friends, and their lives, back to the sea ...
After years of pursuing a denim design career, Maris Carrington never imagined trading her Chicago studio for a New England shingled cottage. But a forgotten home movie tucked inside a dusty attic box leads to an unexpected summer ... One of uncovering family secrets while settling her father's estate, one of inheriting a forlorn German Shepherd, one of reconnecting with old friends on a weathered boardwalk, beneath starlit skies on a beach nestled in a crook of the Connecticut coast.
Her design career had become a shell, curving around her like the intricate whorls of a conch, shielding her until now. Until fried clam dinners and carousel rides beckon a lost love. But can Maris ever really go back? Can these beach friends ever be who they were to each other all those summers ago? Now one of her circle is dead; another unemployed and struggling in a tenuous marriage; another regretting a fateful decision; while one is missing a mother, ever seeking a connection she longs for.
To the backdrop of seaside cottages and a boarded up beach hangout, to the soundtrack of whispering lagoon grasses and a vintage jukebox, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans asks if we can really design our own lives, or if our fate lies somewhere in the stars.
Now, Joanne DeMaio invites readers to grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a chat …
What inspired the idea for BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS?
Walking the high tide line at my favorite Connecticut beach, Point O’ Woods. As I did so, I saw the shells, sea glass, driftwood and sea life all connected within it. I got to thinking how lives, loves and choices can be just as tangled and connected as the treasures that wash ashore on the beach. It’s this parallel upon which I built the story and my characters’ entwined journeys.
How do you feel that the experience of writing your first novel influenced the creative process this time around?
Writing my first novel WHOLE LATTE LIFE involved a process of immersion. Not only did I heavily compile research for the story, I took it one step further. I spent time in Manhattan to visit the places that appear in the book, photograph them, and experience them. This influenced the creative process in that with all my books, there’s an essential part of the prewriting stage where I visit the locales and immerse myself in them. Writing my first novel validated the effectiveness of doing so.
Tell us about the importance of setting … What is it about the New England seaside that lends itself to this particular story?
To me, Long Island Sound is the quieter part of the sea. It ebbs and flows more gently than the Atlantic, feeling a little like a safe haven. Those comforting easy rhythms and waves, like the pull of the tides, draw my characters back to the sea, and to each other.
Your books tend to elicit an emotional response in readers. Bearing that in mind, what do you find are the essential ingredients that help to get the plot percolating?
Let me put it this way: If plot is like a big cup of coffee, I pour in relatable and layered characters (friends, family, loves); mix in a what-if question or dilemma; add a spoonful of setting and a dash of romance; then heat things up with conflict, secrets, and revelations. It’s my personal literary brew.
What words of advice would you share with other writers as to how they might generate awareness of/interest in their books?
There is no one answer. I never follow a trend; instead, like my characters do, I follow my heart. That’s where it all begins. Discoverability then comes down to a perfect storm of a resonant story, online presence, timeliness, readers’ word-of-mouth, and the list goes on. Readers moved my novel BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS onto the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists this summer through a combination of all this. I’m honored and grateful to have reached this milestone, but it started with following my heart. So ultimately, my advice is to commit to your own vision and pour your heart into it.
You also have a passion for song. How does music influence your writing, if at all?
Music is a time machine. We hear a song and are instantly transported to a memory, a time gone by, a moment. I’m constantly amazed by music’s power to do this. And so I thread music through my fiction in subtle ways. In BLUE JEANS AND COFFEE BEANS there’s a pivotal scene that illuminates much of one character’s past and regrets through songs played on an old jukebox in a dusty beach hangout. It was one of my favorite scenes to write, mostly because it’s completely sensory. Through the strains of music, individual stories are told.
On a personal level, my passion for song grew out of a love for music that I've nurtured through a lifetime of concerts. So many singers and musicians have spoken to my life through song in such a way that music sometimes feels celestial, shining its light. An old envelope filled with twenty years of concert stubs holds a lifetime of my stories. But that’s for another book …
Leave us with a little teaser: what comes next?
A new novel set in WHOLE LATTE LIFE’s fictional town of Addison, Connecticut. This one takes a gripping what-if scenario and plays out the aftereffects on two of the closest people involved. It’s an unexpected love story that walks the fine line between truth and lies, secrets and obligation.
I can’t say too much, as it’s brewing in production mode as we speak. I loved writing this story of choices, forthcoming in Spring 2014.
With thanks to Joanne DeMaio for her generosity of time and thought and to Mary DeMaio of Mary’s Media, PR, for facilitating this interview.