Author Interview, My Reading Addiction blog (01/23/2019)
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
When I first developed the concept for STILL BREATHING I intended to demonstrate that you’re never too old to do something significant. In other words, if you’re still breathing, there’s still good for you to do. Lizzie, my main character, is sixty-nine years old when the story opens and a recent widow. Everyone expects her to sit back, enjoy herself and fade pleasantly away. Lizzie does just the opposite when she heads to Africa with plans to work at a school. Her solo journey radically changes her life and the lives of others on the far side of the globe. The message is as much for myself as for my readers—it’s never too late to try something new.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most difficult sections for me to handle are the ones that contain a lot of exposition. As a former screenwriter, I love dialogue and enjoy action, but give me scenes with a lot of information to impart and watch me sweat. In STILL BREATHING, the meeting with the travel clinic consultant was one of my most difficult assignments. Yes, the information was important, and it even set up some major plot points, but it ran the risk of growing dreary. I’m probably overly sensitive, but I revised that scene more times than any other part of the book.
How many books have you written and which one is your favorite?
I’ve written and published two novels, NOW & AGAIN, a science fiction novel about parallel worlds, and this current women’s fiction novel, STILL BREATHING. The most recent one, released in November, is my favorite. I believe the story has a wider appeal and, frankly, my writing has improved. This novel was a risk for me. I wanted to see if I could write women’s fiction. I created a female main character significantly older than typical books: a woman with wide hips and grey hair, someone sensitive but not sappy, big-hearted but seasoned. Since I’m the wrong gender, I wondered if Lizzie would ring true enough for women to identify with her.
If you had the chance to cast your character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
Believe it or not, I have actually thought a little bit about who could play Lizzie. My background is screenwriting so I have no delusions about having any say in the casting, but a person can still dream. I know the role would be a plum for some aging actress to sink her teeth into. Diane Keaton, who is 72 now, might be a possible consideration. She has the talent to carry it off but the role might demand too much of her now. Jane Seymour, 68 this year, comes to mind. However, she may have too elegant a look. I’m not sure she’d be willing to wear the padding required to make her famously slender form round enough. Sissy Spacek, who just turned 69, is a tempting choice. In fact, the more I think about it, the better I like it. She would be my first choice, if I had any say whatsoever.
The next challenge would be casting the critical Ugandan roles. Viola Davis?
When did you begin writing?
Initially, I saw myself as a poet. Through college I wrote poems until I was swept into the visual poetry offered by motion pictures. I pursued movies for many years, both in college and in Hollywood. It turned out, I had a knack for script writing.
Only recently did I try my hand at books. I belatedly realized that writing novels gave me the ultimate freedom. I was no longer hemmed in by restrictive screenplay formats or producers with short attention spans. I could take my time with characters. I could fully develop plots, fill in the backgrounds and even add scenes. My imagination wasn’t limited by budget or time, and the only people who mattered were my readers. I wonder now what took me so long to do it.
How long did it take you to complete your first book?
My science fiction book NOW & AGAIN took me two-and-a-half years to finish. The book is the result of a nightmare. Really. You know how they say you can’t die in your dreams? How you’ll always wake up just before the end? Not this dream. One of my sons and myself were caught in a horrifying, chain-reaction traffic accident. We were both killed but the dream kept going. The accident restarted except this time we tried to avoid dying—to no avail. The accident repeated again. Each time we stayed alive longer but kept dying in the end. Finally, we succeeded in altering enough parts of the dream accident to survive. That’s when I woke up. The novel is my attempt to explain the nightmare.
Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
Many authors have inspired me to write books of my own. I’ve always been a voracious reader. Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, James Clavell, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Clifford Simak, Stephen Ambrose, John Grisham, Daniel Silva all have their places in my heart. Still, at a certain point in my life, I became enamored with the writing style of William R. Forstchen. His choice of words, his sentences, his rhythms resonated with me. I loved reading and rereading his Lost Regiment series of eight books. I still dip into them again for motivation when I’m temporarily stuck with my current work in progress.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
There’s something to enjoy and dislike about each part of the writing process but the one that is most enjoyable for me is the rewriting. It is such a relief to have something to work with instead of dreaming things up from scratch. My mind enjoys enhancing and cutting, making dialogue crisper, imagery sharper and ideas clearer. It’s gratifying to see the powerful difference that editing and revising and rewriting can make in a scene. For me, the hardest task in writing is to work from a blank page.
Describe your latest book in 4 words
You still have time.
Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?
WHITE EYES is my current work in progress. The setting is a struggling cattle ranch in South Dakota during the 1950’s. The story focuses on an emotionally broken family and what it will take to heal them. Separated from his wife and son for 12 years, a rancher receives a lawyer’s letter informing him that his wife has unexpectedly died in Chicago. With no other options, his city-raised, 14-year-old son is being sent to live with him. The father and son haven’t seen each other in more than a decade and all the boy knows is that his dead Mom hated everything about the ranch and the people who live there.