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books: Ask Me Anything

Marie Cover 5 EAsk “The Fruitcake Lady,” and get ready! You never know what she’ll say next.

Marie Rudisill has been called many things: irreverent, sassy, brash, even rude, and, certainly, too old to be crude. You get the idea, if you don’t know her already as “The Fruitcake Lady” from The Tonight Show. With host Jay Leno and special guests including Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson, she made fruitcakes, mixing up the batter with plenty of fast talk and worldly advice. Well into her nineties, she became a television celebrity, going mouth to mouth with anyone who asked her a question or sought help with a problem. She always had an answer on the tip of her tongue.

Ask Me Anything is the story of Marie’s amazing life as told to Susan Marg. She had seen a lot and accomplished even more when she passed away at 95 years old. She was Southern to the core, yet she took on the Big Apple. When she settled in the Carolinas, she undertook one venture after another – all before she became a pop culture phenomenon.

Family, too, was a big part of Marie’s life. She was close to her nephew Truman Capote, and their falling out over some paperweights hurt her deeply. She retired to Florida with her husband to be near their son, yet yearned to return to her sweet Alabama hometown. Marie’s triumphs and tribulations will make the heart sing and the mind dance.

Ask Me Anything, ISBN 978-0-578-14318-7, is a 195-page paperback book. It lists for $14.95. An ebook is also available on Amazon.


From the Introduction to Ask Me Anything;

Or, How I Hooked Up with The Fruitcake Lady.

 Marie always made me laugh. She was feisty and funny, and like her television character, The Fruitcake Lady from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, she gave as good as she got. For an old lady, and at ninety-five years of age she was getting up there, she never took guff from anyone, always speaking her mind, telling it like it is.

I only got to know Marie the last year of her life although my husband, Jim Simmons, had known her for over twenty-five years. He was her collaborator on the two books she had written on the background and upbringing of her nephew, Truman Capote. In late fall of 2005 she asked him if he would be interested in working with her on another book, possibly about her sister Lillie Mae, who was Truman’s mother. Jim was in the middle of a couple of projects and didn’t think he had the time to devote to something new. Besides, she had always given him a difficult time when they were working together. Who needs that? But he didn’t say “no,” it was hard to say “no” to Marie, and they stayed in touch.

In December of that same year we were watching Marie on what would be her last appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. We were laughing along with everyone else as she did her “Ask the Fruitcake Lady” shtick, bullying and berating members of the audience for their silly questions and ridiculous complaints. Suddenly it occurred to me that Marie herself would be a terrific subject for a book. Jim thought I was onto something, as long as it was my undertaking, not his, which I must confess was not my original intent. Still, I agreed. When Jim broached the subject with Marie, she didn’t think twice about it. Just like that, I had a new book in the works.


Here is a sample of some of the reviews of Ask Me Anything.

Ask Me Anything is a wonderfully delightful memoir [that] captures the heart and soul of Mrs. Rudisill. Each story flows with smart humor, revealing analogies, metaphoric phrases and sensory descriptions. The diversity of characters and family members that helped shape her life were described with sentimental detail. Marie’s life is portrayed eloquently; each chapter is full of breath, fragrance, and tasty morsels of knowledge. This book is written realistically so that at times I felt I was sitting at a table, sipping coffee and eating pound cake, and listening to her endless tales of life in the South.

– Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers’ Favorite: 5 Stars


Marie Rudisill’s memoir, Ask Me Anything, is blunt, outspoken and charming, all at once. Her stories of her childhood in the big house with the flamboyant, and rather alarming, Jenny and her other cousins are marvelous, especially the kitchen wars and the legendary bullwhip Jenny carried around. Rudisill was also Truman Capote’s aunt and she considered him her favorite nephew. Her stories of their friendship and later falling out were parts of Ask Me Anything that I particularly enjoyed. Rudisill and co-author, Marg, are a wonderful writing team. The memoir reads beautifully, with Rudisill’s voice coming forth loudly and clearly, even if she was in her mid-nineties as they worked together. While she’s no longer with us, she’s still very much here in spirit as evinced in Ask Me Anything. I very much enjoyed getting to know Marie Rudisill through her memoir and highly recommend it.

– Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite: 5 Stars


Ask Me Anything: A Memoir by Marie Rudisill and Susan Marg is an exciting memoir [in which Marie] freely gives the advice for which she is known. The book has captured her real life personality along with her television persona, which adds color. The memoir is simple and honest, and strikes a chord in the hearts of readers with its authenticity.

– Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite: 4 Stars


Even readers unfamiliar with Marie Rudisill, who had the double distinction of being the aunt of author Truman Capote and the Fruitcake Lady from her appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, might find much to enjoy in ASK ME ANYTHING.  The memoir, co-written with Susan Marg, documents a fascinating life, which began in 1911 in the Deep South and shuttled back and forth between there and the vastly different culture and sensibility of New York City.  In addition to pithy wisdom (Just remember that it is better to be laughed at for not being married than to be unable to laugh because you are.) and often hilarious observations (I went through more leading actors on The Tonight Show than Paris Hilton has had Greek shipping tycoons.), the reader is treated to insider information about Capote, as well as life among her deeply eccentric but always entertaining family and friends.  Until her death in 2006, the author herself never stopped, landing The Tonight Show gig at the ripe young age of 89. Marie Rudisill was and remains a hoot, thanks to this lively memoir.

– Judge, 2nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards


Ask Me Anything has been recognized for excellence in Autobiography/Biography by the London Book Festival, the Los Angeles Book Festival, the Southern California Book Festival, and the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards.  It is also a Shelf Unbound Notable Book in the category Memoirs.

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