Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
In a sense, I have never not written. There was a time in my life when I was a practicing attorney, which required an incredible amount of writing. I worked for a time for a nonprofit doing technical writing, and later, I owned a small business and was responsible for all of the written policies, procedures and other such communications required either by law or simply to make things run smoothly. With these types of writing, I developed excellent language skills, but it was not until I was in my sixties that I began seriously to explore “creative writing.”
What makes writing your passion?
The pure joy of self-expression.
How long have you been writing?
I began to write memoir, personal essays and fiction in about 2010, but not consistently.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Pure, unadulterated fear mostly, but also some pride and gratitude at having accomplished the task of writing a novel and learning so much in the process.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
As far as the characters in my novel go, I don’t feel like I chose them. It would be more accurate to say they chose me.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Because I am in my eighties and career pursuits are behind me now, I don’t view writing as a career. But what annoys me can be summed up in one word: marketing.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
Writer’s block in my experience is trying to write something I don’t really want to be writing. Sometimes I get into writing a piece and then realize there is no substance to it, or I dislike it for other reasons. If I force myself to continue instead of moving on to another project, well, that’s going to produce writer’s block.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Keep going under all circumstances, as Natalie Goldberg says. And another word of sage advice from Goldberg: Be willing to write the worst sh*t ever. In other words, moderate your expectations and don’t stop. Do I always live up to these principles? Not a chance.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
I would have talked myself out of become a registered nurse when I went to college. I would have studied the literary arts instead and not succumbed to the idea that one must be “practical.” “Go on,” I would have said. “Do it. See what you’ve got.” (My parents would have had a fit; they weren't that excited about me going to college in the first place.)
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes, I read all of the book reviews. I have been fortunate in that regard, and I so appreciate folks who take the time to post reviews. Early on, I got one editorial review that seemed to be a bit over the top on the “snark” scale, so I didn’t use it. If I ever were to get a review in the NYT, though, maybe I would not have the courage to read it!
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I like it, of course. Usually, I feel pleased that the reviewer has gotten the message I was trying to convey. I particularly like reviews that comment on the strength of my character development.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes, and I will leave it at that.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
In my book, Somewhere Different Now, 14-year-old Annie is loosely based on me, and she’s the character with whom I most identify.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Yes and no. The conventional wisdom in the publishing world is that since the cover presents readers with their first impression of the book, it is rightfully very important. This seems right to me, just from my own experience as a reader. On the other hand, no cover can compensate for a poorly executed product inside.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I have not been very successful connecting with a young adult audience. This is something I am struggling with.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I am not a public figure by any means and glad of it. Praise tends to overwhelm me. Oddly enough, I tend to take criticism much better.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I do not have only one favorite author. I just read the most wonderful book by Tony Morrison called Home, published in 2012. She is definitely at the top of my list, but so are others: Elizabeth Stout, Anne Lamott, several mystery writers, including Craig Johnson, who wrote the Longmire series. Nonfiction authors, too, such as Elizabeth Williamson and her absolutely wonderful book about Sandy Hook. I think my tastes are more genre-driven than author-driven.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Get a solid foothold into readership for my current book, and write one more book before I check out. In that book, the main character will be an older woman.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I would rewrite the memoir I wrote and published for friends and family in 2015.