Annabel Monaghan, SUMMER ROMANCE

Annabel Monaghan, SUMMER ROMANCE

Zibby's Book Club pick for July! Zibby chats with bestselling author and repeat MDHTTRB guest Annabel Monaghan about SUMMER ROMANCE, an unputdownable love story about a newly single mom and professional organizer whose life is actually a mess—and the unexpected summer fling that turns things around for her. Annabel reveals how her own messy house inspired her protagonist and then delves into the themes of motherhood, grief, and self-discovery. She also talks about her novel’s evolution (the love interest wasn't originally a skateboarder!), her disciplined writing routine, and the influence of her late mother on her work. Finally, she teases her upcoming book!


Zibby: Welcome, Annabelle, thank you so much for coming on Mom's Don't Have Time to Read Books, my Zippy's Book Club pick, but your amazing, amazing, amazing novel, Summer Romance. So good. Loved it so much. Congratulations. 

Annabel: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for reading it, and thank you for having me. 

Zibby: Oh my gosh. It's so good.

It's just so good. Okay. Tell everybody what it's about, first of all. 

Annabel: So, it's a book. It's about a professional organizer whose life is a total mess. Her house is a mess. She's grieving the loss of her mother. Her husband has recently left about a year ago. And she is completely stuck. And she gets it in her head.

That maybe having a summer romance with this guy who's just going to be in town for the summer might be just the thing to get her unstuck. That's the premise. 

Zibby: Okay, I think that's a good one. I mean, I think that's a good summary. It's a long elevator ride if that's the pitch, but yes. 

Annabel: Where did this come from?

Uh, it really came from, like, the deepest place in my heart. I thought I was going to write a book, I wanted to write a book about a professional organizer whose house was a mess. 

Zibby: Is your house a mess? 

Annabel: My house is a total disaster, yeah. And I mean, I'm working on it, but like, I just don't, I'm not a person with like baskets in my pantry.


Zibby: Have you ever had an organizer come to your house? 

Annabel: Yeah, one time, I think she died on the way out. I think she was like, I don't know how to help you. But I think it's so interesting sometimes how our external lives, uh, look a certain way and our internal lives look so different and we're just trying and we have so much stuff.

Yeah. Like I wanted, I kind of wanted to write a book about all the stuff, our emotional stuff, our clutter, all of those things. And then I was going to have her. Get a divorce and fall in love with her divorce attorney. Cause I thought that was kind of interesting. Like it was an, it's an interesting way for someone.

They find out a lot about you. Like...

Zibby: I'm imagining in my head, my divorce attorney's reaction. Should he open up a book written by you? 

Annabel: Be like, Oh, but then I got so bored by the idea of a divorce attorney. I just thought that, so anyways, it evolved into, do it. The guy she actually falls in love with is pretending to be her divorce attorney, and he is a very very loose Skateboarding guy.

Zibby: Yeah. What was with the costumes? The divorce attorney costumes in the, in the legal settings. 

Annabel: He was loose. 

Zibby: Yeah. 

Annabel: He came from a loose family and he was so angry at her husband. 

Zibby: Mm-Hmm.

Annabel: And sort of the control that he had over her that he wanted her husband to keep thinking. That he really was incompetent when he was actually rather smart.

But one way for people to think you're clueless is just to always wear a costume. You know, dress crazy and they won't take you seriously. So I had a lot of fun with him. 

Zibby: He's great. And why the skateboard storyline? I like that. Have you ever been on a skateboard? 

Annabel: No. If I was on a skateboard, I... 

Zibby: you haven't even tried?

Annabel: No, I'd be dead. I'd be da I'm not a coordinated person. I've never been on a skateboard. I'm not balanced. 

Zibby: Annabelle, I see an Instagram reel in your future on this. 

Annabel: You do? 

Zibby: Mm hmm. 

Annabel: Alright. 

Zibby: Yeah. 

Annabel: Alright, I'm just gonna check my health insurance. 

Zibby: Yeah, put a helmet and, you know at least one helmet. Full body armor.

Annabel: Yes. Of some I don't know where Oh, you know where that Actually, I do know where. The whole skateboard idea is I, for some reason, was thinking of him as Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Mm. But super attractive. I was thinking of him as that kind of, like, playing that kind of a role. And so I thought, for some reason, that guy had a skateboard.

And I dug into skateboarding, and it's actually very zen. There's a lot of, like, spiritual thought behind skateboarding, and letting go, and balancing, and letting go of your fear, and doing something that absolutely looks like it's impossible, like it defies gravity. And, um, I don't know, I got into it. It was fun.

Zibby: I feel like, are there any skateboard championships or something? Have you watched that? There should be. Aren't there? John White or something. I don't know. 

Annabel: Maybe he skis. Not sure. 

Zibby: Okay, so these are just like, some of the decisions you make on characters and setting and plot and blah blah blah. As I go. As you go.

But the heart of the book is not about these things, these are just like the drapes on the house, right? Yes. The heart is the loss and the love and the finding your voice and finding your place and having the relationship that you deserve and all of that stuff. Yeah. Where, tell me more about that. 

Annabel: It's a lifetime.

That's like a, it's like 54 years of thought about things sort of went into this book. There's a lot about being a woman in this book. And the, at, at first, you know, the decisions that we make, the things we let go of for other people, to care for other people, the dreams we sort of release. There's a lot of that in this, this book.

There's a lot of motherhood and the complexity of motherhood, which I, for me, I find that the hardest thing about being a mother is letting my children fail. Letting them struggle, letting them do something that I know is going to be a disaster so that they can feel the disaster and learn and move on. I talk a big game about that.

I have a really hard time doing it. Me too. I mean, I will call and remind my children about things a hundred times when the right thing is, like, they don't file a tax return today. I know, I saw that. You know what I mean? Like, you just, like, Like, it's just gonna happen. That's very difficult. And I think that as we grow as people, and certainly after we lose our parents, we have a different perspective on our parents, where we thought maybe they were just nagging us all the time.

But then we come to understand that that was the love they were showing us. And how, how lucky were we to have people who were stepping in in our lives like that? So, it's, there's two sides of it. It's too much, but also it's so beautiful, the way we mother. 

Zibby: True. You had a line in there that I was like, yes, exactly.

When you said something like, the phone was ringing and you're like, well, I have to, I always have to pick up. I'm a mom. Like, I have to pick up. Like, of course. 

Annabel: Yeah. No, there's no like, oh, just turn my phone off for 24 hours. 

Zibby: And then you have one scene in the car, not giving anything away, but she's on her way somewhere she wants to go and is almost there and then something kid related happens and she literally has to turn around, which is such a perfect sort of metaphor, right?

For like, as we get closer, sometimes then we just go right back where we started. 

Annabel: Yeah, exactly.

Zibby: To try and try. 

Annabel: Exactly. Cause you're never going to not. Be there for your kids. Of course, yeah. And my mom was super hands off. She was very much a 1970s, like, hope this works out. You know, and I was the baby, so it was like, she was kind of done by the time I was growing up.

And that, in and of itself, was such a gift. Like, the fact that I, I kind of tread water a lot on my own. I learned so much, and I kind of worked that into the book as sort of a contrast to Allie's mother who is like always stepping in in her marriage and always trying to make things seem like they're actually better so that Allie doesn't really feel the reality of her situation.

Zibby: Yeah. And then I was surprised she gets to a point of almost like this little sliver of resentment Like, why did my mom make it okay? Like, why, was that even the right thing? Was my mom doing the right thing?

Annabel: And, and, I would argue she wasn't. Mm. You know, I, I think that once people are adults. This is a big thing to say.

I think we kind of have to leave them alone. You make your decisions. I'm going to make my decisions. If you ask me for my opinion, I'm going to give it to you. But we just have to let people's lives play out. There's a certain amount of control that goes with loving somebody. You know, you just want to keep them safe.

And I, I, I don't know how healthy that is. 

Zibby: I mean, in thinking about it, if you're a type, if you're the type of parent who thinks you have to make the best of this relationship, right, you're, you're assuming that divorce is not really an option. 

Annabel: Right. 

Zibby: You go, you come at relationship problems with a different point of view.

Annabel: Yeah. 

Zibby: Than if you think it's sort of on the table. 

Annabel: Yeah. That's true. 

Zibby: Right? And I feel like her mom was more of the like, well, this is, this is what, this is your lot in life and here's how we're going to make it better. 

Annabel: No, you made a decision and we're going to, we're going to make it the right decision.

Zibby: Yeah. 

Annabel: But I think sometimes you need to let people like step back and let people actually feel the situation that they're in. And find their voice. I mean, if, if I write another book about a woman finding her voice, it's like I'm beating a dead horse. You're not. But I am. It's like, it's this, this idea that we really, we say so many things that are not the things we mean, and we don't say so many things that we need to say, uh, so.

Zibby: I think there are never enough, and I say this because I feel like this is what I tried to write about. There are never enough books about trying to find your voice because so many people don't. Know who they are, they feel like they can't speak up, and then they're not happy. And life just passes them by.

Yeah. And like, that's sad. 

Annabel: And all you have is your voice. Yeah. You know, all you have, I mean, I'm thinking about Blank also, it's like, all you have is, is this ability to tell your story. Mm hmm. And if nobody's gonna hear it, It's the point of what we're doing. 

Zibby: I agree. I agree. And we are literally writing.

Yes. You are writing, it is. Go back to your mom for two seconds. 

Annabel: Yeah. 

Zibby: So you said she's just okay to sort of let you hang out there, but you're obviously have, you have so much love for her as evidenced by this book. It's just, you could feel it. Like you could, you could. I could read it and be like, okay, she misses her mom.

Like, what is going on? This is like, this is the front. Yeah. And this, where is the real story? So just tell me about her as a person and your relationship together. 

Annabel: Oh my gosh. This Barbara Walters. Hello. Um, no, I, my, so my mom's been gone for 15 years. My mom was, It's this just unbelievably vibrant, beautiful, funny, smart person.

She had tons of fun. She was like the most fun person in the world. And she, she had a bit of a faith in me as the much younger, youngest of her children. And how many kids? We're, we were three. We're all five years apart. Okay. Although my sister says we're four years apart. We're five years apart. Okay. I think you can look that up somewhere.

Zibby: I, I, I bet you, I bet you can figure it out. 

Annabel: I've got documents. Anyway, so, you know, I was the baby. She was doing other things. She had a faith in me. She was not hands on in a practical way, but she was very hands on emotionally. Like she always knew what was going on. She always, you know, was tuned in and available.

She was an amazing person. And as you'll see in the book, Allie talks to her mom in the car. I talk to my mom in the car all the time. Out loud. Out loud. And there's, there's an author's note in the back of this book just to explain to the reader that I'm not completely insane. I, I'm not hearing voices of my mother, but I do think that if somebody's loved you for a really long time, you sort of internalize that love.

And you know what they would have said, you know, you think, I mean, when we're 100 years old, we're going to know like, oh, you know what my mom would have said in this situation because they've said it enough times and that is still sort of alive. And so I feel my mom around me all the time. 

Zibby: That's such a gift.

Oh, it's just wonderful with our kids. You know, when we're not here, if, when, you know, that they would know what we would say and it could comfort them, even if we're not there. Like, wouldn't we want that? 

Annabel: Yes. 

Zibby: Like, I'm sure that would make your mom happy. 

Annabel: Oh, I, I'm sure. I'm, yes. I think the whole thing would make her happy.

I think everything that's going on right now, including me sitting here with you, would make her

Zibby: Talking about her? 

Annabel: Oh, she would just, she would just be so happy. And, you know, the flip side of that, not to turn it dark, but there are things that your parents say all the time that they probably shouldn't have said. 

Zibby: Mm hmm.

Annabel: That you will hear in your head forever. So, which just also adds to the responsibility of family. being a parent. 

Zibby: Yes. 

Annabel: Don't say the wrong thing. 

Zibby: Yes. Everything your parents say, there should be like an asterisk saying, but I am from a different generation. 

Annabel: For sure. 

Zibby: You know, like for sure. This is the best advice.

You know, I remember my, my parents give me advice. I shouldn't even talk, but you know, like, actually I'm not going to say it, but it was just like very antiquated. Yeah, of course. You wouldn't say to a friend today. No, of course. But that's what, that's what they knew. That's how they grew up. So. 

Annabel: Yeah. And then there's some advice that's timeless.

Zibby: That's true. Yes. And you don't have to say, but how did your mom pass away? 

Annabel: Breast cancer. 

Zibby: Oh, sorry. Well, the love of, the mother's love, it's like a 360 mother's love in the book. But then there's so much, like, sexy fun as well, right? It's like the two things. Best of all worlds. The best of all worlds. Um, I'm also wondering, I haven't met your husband, but how is he feeling about all of this romance and longing and lust and everything going on in your books?

Is he like into it? 

Annabel: That's a great question. My husband is probably the most private person you'll meet. So, my doing what I'm doing right now is literally his worst nightmare. So, if I get up in front of a crowd of people to speak, he's sweating in the back. Like, oh God, please don't let her have to do this.

Like, it's, it's, it's It's horrible. On the other hand, I think he thinks this is really fun. And he knows that this is the dream that I've had my whole life. This book and Nora Goes Off Script, he read them both and he said, Oh, I'm feeling really emotional. Like they, there, there are a lot of inside jokes about our marriage in this book.

So I think he thinks it's fun. I think he connects to it. 

Zibby: What's an inside joke about your marriage that we didn't know was an inside joke? 

Annabel: Uh, the pantry. Okay. I mean, I honestly have like six boxes of cornstarch in my pantry. I just keep buying it because I need a tablespoon every year. I just, I'm not organized about a lot of things.

He's also messy, so it doesn't bother him. But, yes, no, there's, there's tons of them. 

Zibby: Also, maybe cornstarch goes bad. Maybe you're being too hard on yourself. 

Annabel: First of all, maybe it's not good for us at all. 

Maybe we should just get rid of it. 

Zibby: Yeah. 

Annabel: Get rid of it all. 

Zibby: Yeah, and then, but then it wouldn't be funny in the book.

Annabel: No, I know. I know the pantry. 

Zibby: When you're writing because it makes me laugh when I'm reading your books Like it is always like I know I will get I like I feel like you have a recipe going and I reliably know I am going to feel moved. I'm going to chuckle. There's going to be some sort of relationship thing.

That's very exciting and There's like a bigger meaning to it too and that I will leave your books feeling oh so satisfied in every single way So tell me about The laughter factor and the jokes because you have this kind of dry sense of humor, but it's so funny and all your characters have it because it's, you know, that's your funny voice and even your Instagram comments, like, they're funny.

You're, you're, it's, and it's such a you thing, like nobody else is. jokes in the same way. It's so distinctive. So tell me about that. 

Annabel: Wow. Well, that's a really nice compliment. Thank you.

Zibby: I mean, I really, really mean it. 

Annabel: I really wish there was a recipe. I think that when humor lands in my books or something that I write.

It's because I haven't thought it through if I stop to think about if I'm typing really fast The humor is better. Huh? If I try to be smart Everything kind of falls apart. Interesting. So maybe some of that just I don't know. Maybe it comes from my my subconscious Or, or something, um, I really wish there was a recipe, though.

Um, I'm writing a book right now, and I'm trying to get the recipe right. And I'm, I find that sometimes I'm laughing, and then I'll start writing a chapter, and I'll get really bored. Okay. Which I know for sure means that the chapter I'm writing is really boring. So then I have to go back and delete that entire chapter.

Zibby: Oh, no. 

Annabel: And start writing something that I start getting that good feeling again. 

Zibby: Okay, tell me about the next book. 

Annabel: Uh, so, she's a child star. Okay. And she's trying to make it in Hollywood as an adult. Huh. Yeah, huh. I like that. Huh. I like a lot of things about it. A couple things I don't like. But I don't have to be finished till August, so.

We'll get there. That's not so far. No, it's not so far. And I have a few things to do between now and then. 

Zibby: Like launch this entire book. 

Annabel: Like launch this book, yes. 

Zibby: Yeah, so when are you going to do that? Are you stressed? 

Annabel: No. Not stressed. 

Zibby: You know it'll get done. 

Annabel: It'll get done. 

Zibby: Yeah. It'll get done. 

Annabel: It's actually something, I really like writing.

Zibby: Mm hmm. Convenient. Convenient. 

Annabel: Which is great. Yeah. Yes. I mean, it's such a blessing because if there's something you have to do a ton of, um, it's nice if you like it. So, I will, you know, and the, it'll, it'll start taking on a life of its own. It's just started to take on a life of its own and then it gets fun.

Zibby: Mm hmm. 

Annabel: And it'll get done. 

Zibby: Okay. 

Annabel: This is my mantra. 

Zibby: I know, I just, I'm trying to write another book, and at the top I had to put something like this is all blank, but it will be filled with words, it will be a novel, and I can do this. Because every time I open it, I'm like, I don't think I can do this. 

Annabel: Yeah.

Zibby: You know? Like, somehow, where are the words gonna come from? But they're all gonna land there. They're gonna, like, fish in a net, like, in the brain. They're gonna come. Just, like, swirling up. 

Annabel: Where are they? Yeah. I really, what did Carly Fortune, what was the word she put on her computer? It was, like, joy or fun or something for her last book.

And every time she sat down to write, she just focused on that word. Huh. Like, this isn't gonna be work. This is gonna be fun today. Great. And then she wrote a really great book. I hate her. No, she's the worst. 

Zibby: Oh my gosh. You've said in the past you have like a whole routine of what you do for your writing day.

Are you still upholding the routine and can you share it again? 

Annabel: Here's my ideal routine. It's like when people talk about their exercise routine, you know. My ideal routine is I get up really early. And I get up. before my brain kicks in and starts thinking about sprinklers or whatever my brain thinks about, and I write until my household wakes up.

And then I engage with my household, I walk my dog, I walk my body, and then I sit back down to write. I find that if I can have a huge chunk of time to write, I'm a lot better off. This weekend, my family was gone, and I wrote for three days straight. Wow. And I Crack the code. I was like, oh, I think I understand what this story is I have a really hard time getting there in an hour or in 90 minutes And I have friends who write in coffee shops or you know in the car between things I just I can't I can't focus the way I like to focus in that short of an amount of time 

Zibby: But I wonder how good it is in the coffee shop.

Do you think they keep those words? 

Annabel: I don't know. 

Zibby: I don't know. 

Annabel: I don't know. 

Zibby: I mean, if I can't do that either. That's why. 

Annabel: There's nothing more personal than writing. I really think, people do it in such a 

Zibby: No, I'm kidding. 

Annabel: Totally different way. And you know, I have, I have friends who write a chapter and then they perfect the chapter before they get to the next chapter.

I write garbage to get to the next chapter just to get 

Zibby: Words. 

Annabel: I write all the garbage. And then I go back and I'm like, woo, let's clean up the garbage. It's just a different process. 

Zibby: When did you know that you were finally going to achieve this lifelong dream of doing what you're doing right now? When were you like, okay, like actually this is happening, and I might be able to keep doing this, and this is really cool?

Annabel: I think when I sold Nora Goes Off Script, and it was enthusiastic, like it was a, we want this book! And then I talked to my editor for the first time, and she was just like, a genius. And I thought, huh, is this the person I've been waiting for my entire life? You know, it's like you meet the man at the bar.

I was like, she's the one. And I just couldn't believe it because I, I wrote that book during COVID. I've told you this a hundred times. I never thought that was going to get published. I thought, you know, I'd probably be dead by the end of the summer. I might as well write this book. And, um, So I, I, I just didn't have this, like, that wasn't part of my career plan.

Zibby: Mm hmm. 

Annabel: I was just writing a book because I liked to write. 

Zibby: Well, that's it, right? Isn't that the secret? Like, if you don't like doing it, I don't know. 

Annabel: Yeah. Don't tell my kids. You know, they're all, like, in calculus. You can't tell kids, like, just follow your bliss because there's so many things you have to do that you're not going to enjoy.

But hopefully you're going to end up coming back to the thing that you loved, whatever that is. 

Zibby: And your kids are still in the house? I thought they were older. 

Annabel: No, they are. So, two live in the city. 

Zibby: Okay. 

Annabel: They're out of college. And then one is a senior in high school. So, I almost have everybody out of the house, which is another thing to do this summer.

Zibby: Ha ha ha. But then you can go back to the organizer. 

Annabel: Yes. Yes. 

Zibby: I think you are going to have organizers, like, throwing themselves on you volunteering to clean out your pantry. 

Annabel: Okay. Okay, well just Mark my word. I will pray for all of those people. And for their sanity. 

Zibby: I mean, one last thing with all of the stuff and it's on more of like a, you know, a bittersweet note is this notion that all of our stuff is going to have to be cleaned out, right?

Whether it's the couple that's moving down to Florida. For a while and you have to dismantle their whole house and sell it and like piece by piece or if it's just the belongings of somebody you love or the Phyllis next door and all of her stuff and the books like that is the condition of all of us that we choose to not think about every single day.

But if you've ever packed anyone up after they've gone, you know that the stuff becomes a big deal. And it will happen. And I, I think about that whenever I, something comes in, I'm like, this is just one more thing. Like, what are people going to do with this? Yeah. You know? No, that's right. How do we live accumulating stuff and keeping that all the meaningful stuff with the time we have to like go through the memory boxes and all of that.

So I don't know. I feel like there's a little of all of that. 

Annabel: And I think that you also hit on, The basic question of this book is you buy something and eventually it's going to go into a landfill, right? You get a dog. That dog's gonna die someday. You have a summer romance, it's gonna be Labor Day, you're gonna have to say goodbye.

So our life is so much about the gathering of things and the letting go of things. And, you know, maybe the secret is the joy that we hang on to in, you know, in the interim. But it, yeah, it's a lot of stuff that we accumulate. 

Zibby: Well, it's better to have loved and lost, we say, as I'm staring at my dog, so... 

Annabel: yes, no, God, the dog thing, I mean, I really, like, it's 

Zibby: The dogs, but the dogs played a big role.

And the whole thing of, are you willing to give your love for something that you know won't last forever? 

Annabel: That's right. 

Zibby: And we have to. That's right. We just have to. 

Annabel: I have a friend who adopts dying dogs. 

Zibby: Oh. 

Annabel: She falls in love with them and she ushers them, you know, for the last couple of years of their lives.

And it's joy. It's really beautiful. 

Zibby: It's really beautiful. Any last advice for authors who are trying to do what you do? I, 

Annabel: yes, you know, I've been thinking so much about this and I've probably been saying this forever but I'm really thinking about it now. Don't write the book that everybody wants to read.

Don't try to write the next Taylor Jenkins read. Don't, don't write that book. Write the book that you're supposed to write. Write the book that, uh, that you're dying to read or that feels, that gets you up early in the morning to start writing. Because that's the book that's going to connect to you and it's going to ring true to people.

We can't just have one voice out there. We can't all be mimicking each other's voices. So, you gotta write your own story. 

Zibby: This is going back to what we were just saying. Yes. Stories about women finding their voices. 

Annabel: That's right. 

Zibby: Full circle. 

Annabel: That's right. Boy, I'm a one trick pony. 

Zibby: God, Debbie. Well, congratulations.

I am just This book is so good. 

Annabel: Thank you. 

Zibby: Oh my gosh. Thank you. I don't even know what to recommend more. I love Nora so much. 

Annabel: Thank you. 

Zibby: And obviously your other book too. Anyway. 

Annabel: Thank you. 

Zibby: All right. Congratulations. 

Annabel: Thank you, Zippy.

Annabel Monaghan, SUMMER ROMANCE

Purchase your copy on Bookshop!

Share, rate, & review the podcast, and follow Zibby on Instagram @zibbyowens