An Interview with Amy Mason Doan, author of THE SUMMER LIST


THE SUMMER LIST is about Laura and Casey, two women who were inseparable in high school but haven’t spoken in 17 years. Laura reluctantly accepts an invitation to reunite for the weekend in their lakeside hometown, where she joins Casey in a scavenger hunt like the ones they did as girls. The clues lead them to their favorite summer haunts, revealing why their friendship fell apart one summer night—and unearthing a stunning family secret.


A trip down memory lane becomes a hunt for long-buried secrets in Amy Mason Doan’s gripping and poignant debut about the bond between two compelling outsiders. The Summer List is an evocative tale of family, first love, and the unique and lasting gift of a friendship formed in girlhood.”
-Meg Donohue, USA Today bestselling author

“There is not a word or a plot line out of place in The Summer List, Amy Mason Doan’s fabulous debut. These characters and their stories are going to stick with you for a long, long time.”
-Meg Mitchell Moore, author of The Admissions and The Captain’s Daughter


An Interview with Amy Mason Doan

Amy Mason Doan’s debut general fiction/women’s fiction novel, THE SUMMER LIST, will be published on June 26, 2018 by Graydon House/HarperCollins. Prior to the publication, I was able to interview Amy about her novel and her writing process.

Question: Share a teaser from your book.

Amy Mason Doan:

Two friends.

Ten clues.

One breathtaking secret.

Q: Where did you get the idea?

AMD: I was camping by the Oregon coast one summer and a bunch of kids ran up asking for a graham cracker for a scavenger hunt. I’d been half-heartedly plotting a story about two former girlhood friends reuniting after a mysterious rift, and suddenly I saw them going on an adult scavenger hunt together, following a list written by someone who wanted them to reunite. It would be initially awkward and sometimes loopy, but would help them heal old wounds.

Q: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

AMD: Five of the scavenger hunt clues are physical items and five are Polaroids that Laura and Casey have to take in favorite places from their high school summers.

Q: Tell us about your favorite character.

AMD: Casey! She lives across the lake from my other main character, Laura. They’re close enough to see each other’s houses and swim back and forth, but they’re complete opposites. Casey is impulsive, fearless, completely secure in her skin. She’s a loyal friend, intensely protective of Laura. She practically lives in the water, and she has a weakness for old paperbacks like Queenie and Princess Daisy.

Q: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

AMD: I’d spend the day roller-skating with J.B., Laura’s long-lost love. When they’re in high school he works at the old roller rink. He has to wear a silver shirt and run the games—Shoot The Duck, The Dice Game, The Hokey-Pokey. I spent half of my childhood making up skating routines to the Grease and Xanadu soundtracks in my garage in California, so I’m still a pretty mean roller skater.

Q: How long did you take to write this book?

AMD: I wrote for eight months, revised for four, and revised with my editor for six, including copy-editing.

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

AMD: I need to know the main characters, the central conflict, the ending and the main emotional beats when I get started. Then I “pants” for a few months to nail the voice, setting, minor characters and scene-blocking. After that I wrestle everything back into story-board form, either using Scrivener or index cards laid out on my living room rap. Then I cut, cut, cut until it’s tight.

Q: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

AMD: The days when seven hours of writing fly by like one because I’m in a trance-like state, completely taken over by my characters and their world. That feeling is intoxicating. I try to hold onto it to push through the “miserable slog” part of drafting, when I’m not sure what should happen in the next sentence.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

AMD: Sharing the work for the first time.

 Q: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

AMD: Yes! I run, read a favorite book, or write longhand.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

AMD: I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband, Mike, my 11-year-old daughter, Miranda, and our rescue tabby cat, Leah Lilikoi McConagall Mason. I went to Journalism school and I’ve worked at a variety of newspapers and magazines up and down the West Coast.

Q: How did you get into writing?

AMD: I started writing fiction a few years ago, after I turned 40. I’d always wanted to do it but never pushed through my fears. Then I won this contest and got to fly to the movie premiere of TIGER EYES and meet Judy Blume, whose books I’ve adored for years. It was the strangest, loveliest turn of events. She was so down-to-earth. It felt like the universe was telling me to stop messing around and write a novel.

 Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

AMD: Make slime or bath bombs with my daughter, read, travel with my family, run, hike, watch old movies on TCM.

Q: Which book influenced you the most?

AMD: JANE EYRE. I love a good orphan’s tale.

Q: What are you working on right now?

AMD: I’m revising my second novel, the second book in my contract with Graydon House. I can’t say too much yet except that it’s set along the California coast and I’m really excited about it. I love the characters.

Q: What’s your favourite writing advice?

AMD: Richard Bausch’s from his “letter to a young writer” – “Ask yourself…did I work today? If the answer to that question is Yes, then no other question is allowed.”

 Amy Mason Doan’s Biography

Amy Mason Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon.

She’s written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, The Orange County Register and other publications. Amy has an M.A. in journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Links to Amy Mason Doan