“The Key to Happily Ever After” by Tif Marcelo is a light-hearted look at sisterhood. Three sisters are given the family business by their parents, each with an equal share. Anyone with a sister will relate to the trials and tribulations of these siblings as they struggle to understand how to run the family business and get along without their parents to mediate.
While the focus is on the sisters and their new responsibilities, they also search to find their own happy endings. Weaved throughout the story is family life and the Filipino culture. Besides the sister dynamics, readers will enjoy the scenes with the brides and the wedding scenarios.
People will sympathize, laugh and take a journey with the three sisters: Mari, Jane and Pearl. Each personality fits their birth order. Mari, the oldest sister, is used to calling all the shots, a type-A personality. She’s very organized and a rule follower. Jane, is very even-keeled as most middle sisters are, and becomes the mediator between Mari and Pearl, the youngest sister who is always doted upon. Each sister brings something vital to the business and of course the story.
The “Key to Happily Ever After” is an appealing and charming tale with strong family ties. This is a lively and touching story examining the importance of family, friends, trust and the formidable and beneficial bonds of sisterhood.
Elise Cooper: You were in a nurse in the Army, but now an author?
Tif Marcelo: I really wanted to become an author as a little girl. My parents did not encourage this because they wanted me to be able to support myself and survive in the world. It was practical advice. In the fifth grade, I decided I wanted to be a nurse. My specialty was in labor/delivery.
EC: Why the Army?
TM: After I got my bachelor’s degree in nursing I enlisted in the army at the age of 17 because of pure patriotism. My grandfather fought in WWII with the first Filipino-American regiment. My husband got his commission from ROTC and is still in the army. I got out of the army shortly after 9/11 because we had children. After my fourth child was born, I started to write seriously for publication. The first three books were part of a romance series, “Journey To The Heart,” but this, my fourth book, is a stand-alone.
EC: Why the wedding angle?
TM: A lot of folks in the military have had more than one wedding. Sometimes there is a situation that requires people to get married right away. I, myself, had two weddings. My first one was when I was in college and it had to be thrown together in a month. My future husband was a year ahead of me and we wanted to get stationed together. My mom still talks about the wild ride. Later we did the church wedding. Everyone was in their military uniform and came over during lunchtime. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with weddings and why people choose what they want.
EC: Please explain this quote: “Weddings were about two people coming together in a lifetime of compromise.”
TM: I have been married for 21 years. The first five years was the toughest. Then 9/11 came and we had a child. We questioned, “Where does duty lie and who has the priority for that duty?” “Whose dreams come first?” We realized life will throw you all the curve balls.
The only way my husband of 21 years and I survived with the multiple deployments and constant moves with four young children is that someone has to give every day. Communication between us is needed. We have both bent quite a bit and we do it with empathy and understanding, not to keep score. We always ask, what is our mission as a family? Then it is easier to make decisions, even if some are painful.
EC: Do you have sisters?
TM: I do not have sisters, but do have two brothers. My “sisters” are my cousins and military sisters. This is a homage to them. My “sisters in arms” are those who I served with and those who are military spouses. While an army nurse, most of the other nurses were female. They were the bedrock of my life. They are still so special to me, even today. After getting out, I found the same kind of friendships with the military spouses as we endured the struggles together. The place we stayed in while my husband was stationed at Fort Drum in New York had four apartments. In the other three were women who are so sparklingly different than me; yet, we are so close. We would give each other the shirt off our back.
EC: I laughed because I used to do it also. You had the three adult sisters refer to their parents as “mommy?”
TM: It is a family thing. I have friends that call their moms mommy and I call mine mama. I think it is neat. I call my dad, daddy. Also, a part of the Filipino culture is to call the older sister, as they did in the book, “Ate.” Even though Pearl is 26 she still calls her older sister “Ate Mari.” “Ate” refers to older sister. Many times, if it is not used the older sister will not respond. My brothers still call me “Ate Tif.” If they say just Tif, I ask who is that?
EC: How can you describe the three sisters?
TM: All three came from a place of goodness and love. They had communication issues. I based it on my “sister military spouses” who all have a certain way of communicating, which can be different than where other people are coming from. Both the fictional and actual sisters rely on one another for their particular strengths. Because their parents are not around, the sisters must sit down and talk it through.
MARI: Is straight-forward with a brash exterior. She is stubborn, bossy, overbearing, and protective.
JANE: She is the middle child, a neutralizer. She is the logical person with a lot of common sense.
PEARL: She has pure emotion and instinct. She can be tough and is a lot like Mari with strong opinions.
EC: Why the rose analogy?
TM: My dad’s favorite flower is a rose. It has a beautiful bloom, but also has thorns. We have to be aware of life’s thorns, as we snip around them and work around them. Not everything is as perfect as that bloom.
EC: What about your next book?
TM: It will be out in 2020 and is titled, “Once Upon A Sunset.” It is about a mother and daughter who have found out that they have more family than they think. It has snippets of WWII.