Trisha R. Thomas, ‘Secret Keeper of Main Street,’ on the books she loves

Trisha R. Thomas’s debut novel, “Nappily Ever After,” was an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work finalist and an Oprah Magazine Book That Made A Difference – and it was also adapted into a Netflix film starring Sanaa Lathan. Her latest novel, “The Secret Keeper of Main Street,” is out this week. Ms. Thomas shares more about the book and her reading life in the Book Pages Q&A.

Q: Would you tell readers a little about your book, please?

When the son of a prominent family turns up dead, and the bride-to-be is arrested for murder, a dressmaker with second sight is at the center of the ensuing firestorm that threatens to overtake her and everyone she loves. As a dressmaker, Bailey hears things while she’s pinning a bride. Secrets, hopes, dreams and sometimes regrets. She also has an uncanny ability to see beyond what she’s told just by a graze of the bride’s skin. She knows whether or not the bride is marrying her true love or if there’s someone else out there who is her true soulmate. She knows more than she should and it eventually puts her in and her family in danger.

Q: Your main character, like you, has experience making wedding gowns. What skills are required for someone to be successful doing this?

Patience and lots of practice. Even when someone is very skilled, patience is required. There’s no rushing in dressmaking. One little slip-up could cost the entire gown.

Q: Is there a book or books you always recommend to other readers?

I am a big reader. I probably read more books than I should because I could be writing. But I love to read. I’ve recommended “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert more than any other book because most of the time, aspiring writers are asking me for advice on how to get started. I like this book because it’s offering advice on how to be creative and not to give up on that creativity just because you’re not feeling it or have gotten some negative feedback along the way. It’s helped me so much over the last few years.

Q: Do you remember the first book that made an impact on you?

The first book that had an impact on me was when I was about six years old. My mother used to drop me off at the library for free babysitting (Sorry, mom!). I loved that library. It’s still there, remodeled, in San Diego. I did a signing there for my very first published book, “Nappily Ever After.” I couldn’t wait to tell the librarians how much time I spent there as a little girl. I just loved “Little Witch” by Anna Bennett. It was a big book for me at that age. Because I didn’t have a library card, I had to keep reading it there. I’d hide it so only I could find it.

Q: Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any titles or narrators you’d recommend?

I love audiobooks. I used to not. I was very particular about the voice in my ear. At first, I only liked British readers. Their lilt always sounded upbeat even when they were talking about murder and mayhem. I’m open to other voices now.

Q: What do you find the most appealing in a book: the plot, the language, the cover, a recommendation? Do you have any examples?

I’m usually attracted by the plot first and foremost. I’m obsessed with taglines, always trying to make them for my own novels, so I look for that 30-second elevator pitch that intrigues you immediately. When you’re trying to find an agent or pitch your book, the first sentence has to grab instantly. It’s a skill to make one of those sentences and most people have no idea it took a whole year to write. An example: After 30 years of marriage, a woman takes a leap of faith and trades in her secure life for yearlong backpacking journey in the dangerous Appalachians. I haven’t written that one yet, but I plan to.

Q: What’s something about your book that no one knows?

I based a lot of the story on my own life as a bridal designer/dressmaker. I was a good listener and took so much of the energy home with me at night. I would lose a lot of sleep worried about some of my brides and their situations. For some reason, even to this day, people find it easy to tell me their stories.

Q: If you could say something to your readers, what would it be?


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