We’re thrilled to announce that WU’s own Marsha Moyer has a new book on the shelves! Heartbreak Town was released yesterday, June 26th, and is the third installment in her well-received Lucy Hatch series, following The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch and The Last of the Honky-tonk Angels. It doesn’t take reading Marsha’s work for more than a page or two to understand you’re in the hands of an adept storyteller–someone you can trust to take you on a journey, to choose the right words and catch you up in a net of perfect phrasing. Here’s what one author had to say about this new novel:
In Heartbreak Town, Marsha Moyer has drawn the world of East Texas so endearingly—it’s as though Lee Smith donned a pair of cowboy boots, put a trailer hitch on her pick up truck and started listening to Hank Williams.
–Amy Wallen, author of MoonPies and Movie Stars
Already Marsha has been racking up good reviews for her book, from Publishers Weekly and Booklist to Texas Monthly. (As a fan anxious to read Heartbreak Town myself, I’m not surprised that so many love Lucy.)
Though I conducted an in-depth interview with Marsha last year, I thought we’d all enjoy hearing about this work in particular. I’m happy that she agreed to a Quick Five interview. Enjoy!
Q: What’s the premise of Heartbreak Town?
A: It’s the continuing story of Lucy Hatch, the character introduced in my first two books The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch and The Last of the Honky-tonk Angels. Rather than follow the predictable story arc most people expected (at the end of the second book Lucy was pregnant, she and Ash Farrell were contemplating marriage, and he was about to launch a music career in Nashville), I fast-forwarded seven years. Things didn’t go the way Ash expected career-wise due to a combination of bad behavior and bad luck, and he and Lucy have grown apart. As the book opens, Lucy’s come home to Mooney, her tiny northeast Texas hometown, with their six-year-old son, Jude, to try to regain her footing. Then Ash shows up and she’s forced to deal head-on with the things she ran from.
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
A: I skipped ahead seven years with the story for a reason. Even though I had lots of email and people at book signings saying, “We can’t wait to read about the wedding and the baby,” I always maintained two things: that, barring something unusual, like the groom abandoning the bride at the altar, weddings are all pretty much the same; and a baby is not a character. Let’s face it, no matter how cute he is, he’s pretty much limited to eating, sleeping, crying, and eliminating. At the time I was writing the book my nephew was six years old, and I was fascinated by how he was becoming his own person, especially the parts of him that seemed preordained, having little to do with how he was being raised. And so many of the things that came out of his mouth were either heartbreaking or hilarious, I just turned around and put them in Jude’s.
I’d also like to say that a reader doesn’t have to have read my first two books to enjoy or understand the third one.
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
A: Ash has a drinking problem, which he strenuously denies, and Lucy has to make a decision about whether she’s going to stay put and try to work things out or to keep running. In the first two books, she was always taking off the minute things got rough. But there’s more at stake now: they have a son, and a history. If those things are to count for anything, everybody has to grow up a little.
Q: What unique challenges did writing this story pose for you?
A: I was having a huge crisis of faith when I started to write the book. Even though they were well-received critically, my first two books didn’t live up to expectations (to put it politely), and I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be able to publish anything again. Then my father died. I was working on another, very different type of book at the time, but the subject matter—a woman coming home to care for her dying mother—was just too painful. My agent thought it was important that I keep writing anyway and reminded me, “You always said you could write another Lucy book with both hands tied behind your back.” (Note to self: Be careful what you say to your agent.)
It took two years and probably a dozen false starts before I ended up with something resembling the finished book. My first attempts were all over the place. I was literally haunted by something a pub person said to me about one of the early drafts of my second book: “This isn’t what your readers expect.” But who were these readers? What did they expect? I tried a wacky chick-lit version of the story, where Lucy and Ash were divorced and Lucy was running a sandwich shop and having a fling with a younger man. Ludicrous as that now sounds, I stuck with it and stuck with it. It was a long, excruciating process of writing some appalling stuff and suffering terribly before I realized that I could have Lucy change and grow and still be basically the same person she was in the first book. Slowly I got control over it and it started to find its own, organic shape. I also had help from my friend Ben Rehder, who writes a series of comic mystery novels for St. Martin’s. His offer to read my bloated manuscript and help me pare it down to manageable length is one of the most generous things anybody’s ever done for me.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
A: The fact that everybody, with the sole exception of my agent, said it couldn’t be done (changing publishers in the middle of a series). If I’d been in my right mind and realized how badly the odds were stacked against me, I would never have attempted it. Then Allison McCabe at Crown appeared like an angel and said, “We’ve been looking for a writer just like Marsha.” According to the “rules” of publishing, I shouldn’t still be here, but I am.
We’re all glad you kept on keeping on, Marsha. Congrats!
You can read an excerpt of Heartbreak Town on Marsha’s website HERE.