Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I have written medical articles and book chapters but never anything personal until 2019 when I came across a box I had not opened for forty years. When I read the journals and letters within, and relived an illegal abortion in 1969, coming out as a lesbian and training to be a doctor when it was nearly an all-male profession, I realized my story had relevance beyond the personal, especially now.
What makes writing your passion?
Throughout most of history lesbians have hidden their lives, written their diaries in code, burned their letters and diaries. Yet we have overcome multiple systems of oppression to lead amazing lives and managed to thrive despite little support from mainstream society. I feel it is necessary to tell our stories and document our lives so that we become part of a more complete history of our shared humanity. Or as Brene Brown has said: "One day you will tell the story of how you overcame what you did and it will be someone else's survival guide. "
How long have you been writing?
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
My book is a memoir. I write about life events that affected me deeply, some associated with shame. But this process of revealing our true humanity and struggle, rather than the polished version of ourselves we often present on social media, allows us to really connect with readers.
I’ve written about an era of personal growth that does not show me in the best light. I was a flawed and complicated young woman, shaped by my family and the culture of the times. Who I was then will be fixed in a reader’s mind though now, decades later, I am a very different person.
It is my hope that readers will learn from my mistakes, my poor choices, but also my resilience and strength.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
As my book is a memoir, the main protagonist is my younger self. I chose to focus on my friendships and romantic relationships as the book was as much about personal transformation as it was my struggles training to be a doctor.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
How do you get over the “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?
While writing my memoir, I felt once again the passion and pain of my late teens and twenties. Sometimes it was all too much, and I had to put it aside and take a walk. However, it was necessary to feel those feelings again to write a narrative that could connect with and evoke similar feelings in you, the reader. Feelings that then can be tempered with understanding and meaning.
I would advise new memoir authors to write their truth as if no one will ever see it. It is the revision, that you can decide what to share, what serves the story, and apply reflection and takeaway.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Life in my teens and 20s appeared as a series of random and chaotic events when i was living it. It is difficult to see patterns and how the culture was affecting my personal choices. Only in writing did I appreciate how the messages the culture sent me then about women’s role in society, the objectification of women, homosexuality defined as a mental illness--how that affected my attitudes and behavior. I would tell my younger self to do exactly as I did (minus some mistakes along the way) to live my life as my authentic self despite the obstacles.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I do read my book reviews. Given that my book is LGBTQ memoir, it is not surprising in our culture that I have been given a couple of hate ratings by people who just read the description of the book on Amazon. Mostly, I have gotten 5-star reviews and was pleased to get a starred review by Kirkus Reviews and other awards.
Once this book is out there, it no longer belongs to me and I have to disassociate my present self from it. Readers bring their past experiences, biases, and emotional triggers to a book and it becomes their own.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I’d like to inspire those who have ever been told told their passions amount to “wrong feelings.” As well as marginalized people—queer, female, disabled, of color—who are struggling to fulfill dreams that others take for granted. For younger women, the strength and stories of us elders can let them know what is possible. For older women, I hope my story validates some of their experiences and reaffirms their lives have meaning. For men, I hope they understand that most lesbians are not women who hate men and that they might learn something about love from my book.
So I am happy when I get a note on my website or a review that lets me know I have inspired people in some way. As Thomas Dougherty once said: "There is someone out there right now with a wound in the exact shape of your words."
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
I do think the cover can set the tone of the book and convey much information. My cover includes a picture of myself in my twenties looking pensive and thoughtful, a young woman searching for identity and purpose.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
When readers sign up for my newsletter on my website, I usually ask them to tell me a little about themselves. I love reading their stories. Some of them are very touching and we have had conversations back and forth. I enjoy talking with readers at my book events and on some of the online forums.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Who is your favorite author? Why?
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?