Catching up with Wendy Wax
Local author pens tales of female friendship
By KATIE VANBRACKLE
Wendy Wax sat down to write her first book while staying at home with a toddler and a newborn baby. The former broadcaster felt she needed to do something to prevent her brain from getting “mushy.” Looking back, she laughs at her own naivety.
“I was crazy!” Wax said. “It must have been a combination of pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep. I had no idea how long it would take to write a novel and how difficult it would be to break into the publishing industry.”
Nevertheless, she stuck with it, finding bits of time to write while the children napped and later, when the kids entered elementary school, working until the very moment the bus arrived in the afternoon.
“Female writers face a difficult challenge,” said Wax. “We don’t have wives who manage our lives and feed us so we can focus on our work. And writing novels requires long periods of focus. It can be done, but you have to decide how important this writing thing is to you. Are you building a career or just dabbling?”
Wax is definitely not a dabbler. Her eight published novels all feature strong female characters who discover who they are and what they are made of when everything seems to be falling apart.
Her first books were breezy romantic comedies including “7 Days and 7 Nights,” which featured a young female talk radio show host.
This was familiar territory for Wax, who once hosted a Friday night radio show in Florida called “Desperate and Dateless.” Wax played the role of matchmaker for single men and women who called in to the show.
“I was also desperate and dateless at the time, so I could totally relate to the callers,” she said. “It was a little ribald and meant to be fun and every once in a while I would hear from a couple who actually made it to the altar after the show.”
After making it to the altar herself and moving to East Cobb to raise two children, Wax found plenty of novel material in her daily life as a suburban mom. She tries to include at least one suburban mom in each of her books.
“We moms deserve a little exposure,” she said. “We are the strong backbones of our families.”
“Magnolia Wednesdays,” published in 2011, focuses on Vivien Armstrong Gray, an investigative journalist whose career takes a dive after an unexpected pregnancy. She moves to metro Atlanta to write a snarky column about suburbia from an outsider’s perspective, including poking fun at the car magnet fad.
“I have been observing the denizens of this pocket of suburbia in which I find myself and have already learned one important thing,” writes Gray. “Here, people don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves; they put them on the backs of their minivans.”
Taking another page from her own life, Wax gives readers a peek behind the curtain of the publishing industry in “The Accidental Bestseller.” The book tells the tale of four aspiring authors, Mallory, Tanya, Faye and Kendall, who struggle together to survive the ultra-competitive New York publishing world. When a crisis threatens to prevent Kendall from making a crucial deadline, the others collaborate on her novel using their own lives as fodder, assuming no one will ever discover the truth behind their words. When the book surprisingly becomes a bestseller, scrutiny and scandal quickly follow.
Wax knows the value of close friendships with fellow authors. She and Milton author Karen White have been part of a writer’s critique group for many years.
“Our group has been together longer than many marriages and we have established complete mutual trust and respect,” said Wax. “We brainstorm together, exchange chapters and are there for each other throughout the entire writing process.”
Wax says she doesn’t know any writers whose trajectory has been straight up.
“The publishing business can be difficult,” she admits. “It’s important to have a support group who is walking the same path.”
A self-described “HGTV addict,” Wax’s latest two novels focus on a group of women who restore two derelict historic homes in Florida. (View video above to hear Wax explain how she became an HGTV addict while researching her latest novels)
“Ten Beach Road” introduces Madelyn, Avery and Nicole, who lost their life savings in a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme. All that’s left for the women is co-ownership of a run-down beachfront mansion in St. Pete Beach, which they restore themselves, bit by back-breaking bit. The humorous, heartfelt novel was named one of “six books that belong in your beach bag” by USA Today.
“Ocean Beach,” released in June, continues the tale as the three friends once again strap on their tool belts in a desperate attempt to make their new home renovation television show, “Do Over,” a success, unaware of the network’s plans to turn it into a scandalous reality show. As the hurricane season looms over South Beach, the women wonder how they’ll weather life’s storms.
Unlike her “Ocean Beach” heroines, Wax may not face many hurricanes, but she well understands the pressure of a looming deadline while facing the demands of mothering two young men, both of whom played travel baseball throughout high school. Her youngest son will head to college in the fall.
“Writing a book is like a pregnancy,” said Wax. “You reach a point where you can’t bear to write anymore and you swear you’ll never do it again, but then you hold your new book in your hands and all of the struggles and pain are somehow forgotten. “The truth is, when one book is finished, the next one is already in my mind.”
More about Wendy Wax
► Aug. 7, 6:30 p.m. “Ocean Beach” book signing, Book Exchange, 2956 Canton Road, Marietta.
► Aug. 16, 1:30 p.m. Book club event with fellow author Karen White, Hall Book Exchange, 1854 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville.