Q&A with Mary Sheriff, Author of Boop and Eve’s Road Trip

by Heather Caliendo
mary sheriff interview - book club chat
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Mary Sheriff is the author of Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, which will publish on October 6th.

Mary Helen Sheriff spent fourteen years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals. During that time, she also had the pleasure of dabbling in writing for children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of forms including fiction, poetry, blogs, and nonfiction. She spent several summers immersed in an MFA program in children’s literature at Hollins University. Currently, she lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia, with her two kids, two cats, and husband.

Here’s the synopsis for Boop and Eve’s Road Trip:

Eve Prince is done—with college, with her mom, with guys, and with her dream of fashion design. But when her best friend goes MIA, Eve must gather together the broken threads of her life in order to search for her.

When Eve’s grandmother, Boop, a retiree dripping with Southern charm, finds out about the trip, she—desperate to see her sister, and also hoping to alleviate Eve’s growing depression—hijacks her granddaughter’s road trip. Boop knows from experience that healing Eve will require more than flirting lessons and a Garlic Festival makeover. Nevertheless, Boop is frustrated when her feeble efforts yield the same failure that her sulfur-laced sip from the Fountain of Youth wrought on her age. She knows that sharing the secret that’s haunted her for sixty years might be the one thing that will lessen Eve’s growing depression—but she also fears that if she reveals it, she’ll lose her family and her own hard-won happiness.

Boop and Eve’s journey through the heart of Dixie is an unforgettable love story between a grandmother and her granddaughter.

Get to know Mary as she talks favorite novels, what she likes best about writing fiction, what’s on her TBR list and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?  

My upbringing in Virginia paved the way for a love of Southern literature. My absolute favorite book in that category is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd which is a beautiful historical fiction that focuses on race, friendship, and family in 1964 South Carolina.

Another book that I love is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Once upon a time, I actually got an MFA in writing for children and young adults. This coming-of-age tale set in the 1990s gets some credit for inspiring that interest by showing me how YA fiction can also resonate with adult readers.

Mornings with Rosemary by Libby Page is a new favorite. Through spectacular writing, Page is able to transform a public pool into an enchanting community. The friendship that develops between the main characters charmed me to the last page.

When did you know you wanted to become an author? 

Even as a kid I played with creative writing. Serious aspirations came along 21 years ago when I was in graduate school for teaching. In my Teaching Middle School Social Studies class, the professor suggested a geography project for our students and asked us to complete the project, so we’d have a sample to show our students when we assigned it. Somehow my sample became a novella. The professor loved it and suggested I get it published and a dream was born. Twenty-one years…it’s been a long road.

What inspired you to write Boop and Eve’s Road Trip?

My grandma Hootie passed away when I was pregnant with my first child. She lived a difficult life and made some significant mistakes, but the lady I knew was this amazing, loving grandma. I couldn’t help wishing she were still around when I was sitting in a dark place, and then I thought maybe she can be there for Eve.  Enter the character of Boop.

After having babies, I struggled with postpartum depression. Part of my healing process was writing this book and attempting to capture what it feels like to sit in a dark place and to feel like you hadn’t earned the right to sit there. I think as a society we are empathetic when depression meets grief but bewildered by depression that we can’t explain. Eve was born from my journey from depression to recovery.

Like Eve and Boop in the novel, Hootie and I shared a daydream about renting an RV when I turned sixteen years old and taking a road trip together across the country. For many reasons this road trip never happened in real life—in large part because neither of us was capable of safely driving an RV across the country. Writing Boop and Eve’s Road Trip was a way for me to imagine the road trip that never was.

Is the story based on any real people and/or events?

The events in Boop and Eve’s Road Trip are fictional, but Boop is loosely based on my grandmother. Like Boop, Hootie grew up in a small Virginia town, collected birdhouses, loved to garden, called her car The Gray Ghost, clipped recipes from Southern Living that she never cooked, and many other small idiosyncrasies. More importantly, without giving too much away, Boop and my grandmother made a decision that was culturally encouraged at the time but resulted in a lifetime of regret.

What do you like the best about writing fiction about families?

For good or bad, the family you are born into is the hand you’re dealt for life. Learning to play this hand successfully is the story of childhood survival. All other significant relationships are chosen, but this one is granted. This, along with the utter dependency from which it begins and that life events have consequences that resonate for generations can make for some pretty complicated storylines. The family unit is such a common human experience that explorations of it can resonate with all readers.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list? 

I’m currently listening to Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee which follows the story Chinese American sisters and the difficulties they face as one of them struggles with mental illness.

As for my TBR list, one book on it is My Dear Hamiliton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. In watching the performance of Hamilton, it was Eliza’s story that resonated with me. I’m excited for the opportunity to dig deeper into the life of such an intriguing woman. My former history teacher self also enjoys a trip down historical fiction lane every now and again.

Another book I’d like to read soon is, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. After enjoying another Wolitzer novel, The Female Persuasion, I’m eager to read The Interestings. This novel follows friendships that form at summer camp and continue into adulthood. As a huge fan of summer camp, I anticipate savoring a taste of nostalgia alongside this great read.

Click here to order Boop and Eve’s Road Trip on Amazon.

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