Q&A: Debby Mayne (Pretty Is As Pretty Does)
Debby Mayne’s newest book is a classic ugly-duckling-turned-swan story. Priscilla, the daughter of two academics, follows her dream of becoming a savvy businesswoman and salon owner after dropping out of college to attend beauty school.In this kick-starter novel for Debby’s Class Reunion Series, Priscilla must confront her classmates after ten years as well as her parents’ expectations in Pretty Is As Pretty Does (Abingdon Press).
Q: Can you tell us about your main character, Priscilla, and her transformation?
Priscilla is the only child of college professors who have always emphasized academic excellence and downplayed external beauty, to her dismay. She has always loved playing with her hair and trying on outfits, wishing she could be more stylish like the other girls. To please her mother, she worked hard in school and became class valedictorian, so everyone assumed she’d go to college and follow in her parents’ footsteps.
She’s always been a hard worker and very ambitious, even though she has no desire for academia. Halfway through the first semester at Ole Miss she dropped out to go to beauty school and then went on to purchase the salon where she worked in Piney Point. Even though she becomes a savvy businesswoman, her parents never see the value of what she does, even though she spends quite a bit of time trying to prove herself to them.
Q: Class reunions seem to provide endless inspiration for story lines. What is it about that scenario in particular that made you want to write an entire series about it?
I’ve noticed that when people go back to visit their classmates, they immediately become that person they were back in high school. The class nerd might be a corporate tycoon as an adult, but he’ll always be remembered as the class nerd. The beauty queen never seems to lose her lustrous smile.
Q: Any good stories from past reunions that you would like to share?
My mother-in-law’s story is the one that had the most impact on me and really had me thinking about what happens to people when they get ready to see their former classmates. I watched her get ready for her 50th reunion. She went on a diet and lost weight, had a beauty makeover, purchased a drop-dead gorgeous outfit, and bought a Cadillac to show that she’d “made it.” When I asked her why it was so important to do all this, she said she didn’t want to disappoint people since they’d elected her “Most Beautiful” when she was a senior. After the reunion, she sold the car, gained back the weight, and relaxed on the hair color and makeup. I thought she was just as beautiful then, but she needed some of the external stuff to boost her confidence to face everyone.
Q: How would you describe your writing style?
Until the Class Reunion series, I wrote mostly sweet Christian romances and one mystery for Avalon under my maiden name (Deborah Tisdale). These stories are different – women’s fiction – and they’re all written in multiple first person points of view. As I wrote these books, I felt more like an actor than a writer as I went through each scene with the characters. It was freeing to let loose with more sass, and my southern accent really came out.
Q: What do you think readers will enjoy about this book?
This book is character driven. Even though Priscilla is the main character, others in the story have issues that readers will be able to relate to. Tim is a beauty supply salesman who has a mad-crazy crush on Priscilla, and he’s willing to take a backseat to her career ambitions – at least for a while. He’s the only point-of-view character who didn’t grow up in Piney Point, but he offers to escort Priscilla so she doesn’t have to go alone. Once there, he gets so involved, everyone forgets he’s an outsider. Trudy is the former beauty queen and “Miss Everything” in Piney Point, and now she’s divorced and feeling like a cow. Celeste was the class wallflower, and now that Priscilla has made her over, she’s not sure how to handle her newfound beauty. Laura is the girl who takes on more than she can handle and then complains about it later.
Most readers should be able to relate to at least one character on some level. I dealt with quite a few issues and added moments of comedic relief to the drama, but I wouldn’t call this a comedy series. Priscilla can’t please her mother, no matter what she does, and when her parents start to go their separate ways, she feels as though her safety net has a huge hole. Knowing that they were always there for her is what gave her the confidence to be so bold. Now there are some unknowns that rattle her world to the core. Even though Tim graduated from college, he’s still a country boy deep down. His dad abandoned him when he was a small child, so the people who had the most impact in his formative years were strong women – his mama and granny. Trudy’s life hasn’t turned out like she expected, so she’s forced to make her own way without the constant approval of a man. Celeste has a chip on her shoulder that started in childhood, and as her story develops, she realizes she’s part of the problem. Laura wants to be accepted and will do whatever it takes to stay in the thick of things, even when she’s in over her head. And she loves her husband in spite of the fact that he has a serious alcohol problem.
Q: What can we expect for future additions to your Class Reunion Series?
In Bless Her Heart, Priscilla is faced with the opportunity of being able to bump her career up to the next level, leaving Tim thinking he might be wasting his time. However, he still likes feeling needed, so he goes back to help Priscilla and her former classmates with the 15-year reunion. Trudy and Celeste have their own life-changing realizations and events. Laura and her husband Pete have discovered that being parents of teens and preteens presents a whole new set of challenges.
In Tickled Pink, the classmates are in their late 30s, and they’ve mellowed out a tad. Tim has accepted his position in Priscilla’s life, but he wants to help out with the reunion one last time before moving on. Priscilla has a life-altering revelation that creates a completely different fear from what she faced with her parents. Trudy’s career has become something she never expected. Celeste is slammed with a huge surprise after her mother passed away. Laura and Pete continue to plow through life the best way they can, with one bombshell after another from their young’uns who are near ‘bout all grown up.
A portion of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of FamilyFiction digital magazine. Subscribe for free today!