My bio could be summed up in three words: I’m a writer. What I write runs the gamut from fiction (novels and short stories) to nonfiction (essays, articles, and books for writers). As for how long I’ve been writing, nearly my whole life. I wrote my first short story in second grade and have continued the process for decades, since being a fiction writer is my default identity. However, it was decades before any of my fiction was published—partly because it never occurred to me to submit anything anywhere!
My first short story was published in 1994 when I was 40, and it took 20 years before my first short fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, was published in 2014, followed six years later by my second short story collection, Peripheral Visions and Other Stories. And it wasn’t until 2023 that I released my first novel: Reinventing Rita, along with my third collection, Mistletoe Magic and Other Holiday Tales.
During those years I also published three nonfiction books: The Gifts of Change, Rut-Busting Book for Writers, and Rut-Busting Book for Authors. But my heart is really in fiction and that’s the writing lane where I intend to remain, because there’s nothing better than playing “Let’s pretend” and “What if” with my characters!
You can buy Reinventing Rita here.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
Nothing made me write. It’s just what I did from the very beginning. When I was a child, kids were expected to use their imagination when they played. The toys we had relied on us to move them or build with them or create with them. Also, I was a voracious reader and went to the library as often as I could. I loved fiction, loved reading books set in places and countries other than northeast Ohio, and when I ran out of novels to read, I would make up my own stories.
Oddly, I never thought about being an author and never had a particular interest in learning more about the person who wrote those stories I loved as a child. (Enid Blyton is one author who comes to mind.) The authors weren’t real to me in the way that their characters were real to me.
In retrospect, I suppose that means they did a wonderful job in bringing those imaginary people to life. I hope I can be as good at it as they were!
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
At various times in my life, I have worked as a cashier in a department store (I was terrible at making change and my drawer never balanced!) and in the candy department of a different store (contrary to what people believe, it is possible to sell candy all day long and not get sick of the smell of chocolate!).
I was also a partner in a sales and service communications company (which gave me a lot of experience in running a business that I used when I started my copywriting company), and a copygirl and later, a newspaper reporter at a weekly paper, which is where I learned to love the smell of ink and the sound of the presses.
However, even after all these years at the keyboard, I am not a good typist, having foolishly neglected to take the class in high school!
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
I love alliteration. And when I started working on my novel series, I knew I wanted the titles to be alliterative as well as evoke the overall theme of the series, which is about adapting to life changes without losing your goals or dreams.
The first novel I wrote, Finding Fran (which will be released in 2024) set the pattern, which meant I had to find women’s names and verbs that fit the theme and also started with the same letter. Hence, Reinventing Rita, and the next two in the series after Finding Fran: Moving Maggie and Transforming Tessa.
Right now, I have several more titles on my list—alas, without plotlines to go with them!
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
Given that Reinventing Rita is my sixth book, you would think I would be a bit jaded. But not at all. When the BookBaby designer sent me the cover image, I loved it so much I immediately ordered a mug that had the cover on it. And a keychain tag with the cover. And a small poster of the cover to put on my nightstand. And a bigger poster with the cover for book events. Um, yes, I was a little excited.
And when my case of books arrived and I held Reinventing Rita in my hands, I was not only thrilled but terrified. It was, after all, my first published novel. What if readers or reviewers didn’t love it as much as I did? Should I have stayed in my safe, comfortable short-story-writer lane where I had a proven track record?
But when I started getting positive feedback and it won several awards, I was more confident of my ability to write novels, which is a good thing since I plan to continue the series as long as I can come up with more ideas!
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
What do I want readers to take away from Reinventing Rita and, by extension, the other books in my Midlife Moxie Novel Series?
That it’s never too late to try something new.
That who you were isn’t who you have to remain.
That if you have a dream—even one that is so old that it has dust on it!—you should take it out of the metaphorical box where you stored it and see if it’s something you still want to pursue.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
The feedback I get from readers. One woman wrote that Reinventing Rita inspired her to reinvent her own life. And when I do in-person events and talk with women, I hear over and over again how they are trying to figure out who they are now that their children have left home or their spouses have left the marriage or their career is over.
Some of the women are excited about exploring new options but others are scared of what the future might hold or are worried that they are too old to try something else or be somewhere else. That tells me that my series is coming to the market at the exact right time, and that maybe my characters can inspire other women in the midlife stage.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I’m always writing! Right now, I am getting ready for the 2024 release of Finding Fran while writing Moving Maggie (scheduled release date: 2025). I’m also continuing my podcast series, Living the Writing Life, on which I interview those in the writing profession. The podcast is a labor of love. It cost me time and money, but I so enjoy the guests who have been on that I plan to continue it for the foreseeable future. They are an endless source of inspiration to me as I live my writing life!
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.