Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a poet and published author?
I’ve always loved writing. Always. In the mid-nineties, I developed an interest in poetry. I attended every conference and workshop possible, and then began submitting my poems to literary journals. I was giddy when my work started getting published. I began playing around with short stories around 2003. I shared a published piece with my poetry editor and he suggested I write a novel. I thought he was crazy; I didn’t know how to write a book. But it was like being bit by a bug. Why not try? And so I did. In 2007, I entered a Masters of Fine Art (MFA) writing program just to immerse myself in writing, and I finished a draft of In the Context of Love. A few excerpts were published as short pieces and won awards, so that gave me confidence to keep working on the manuscript, and then to send it to agents and publishers.
Do you feel your work as a poet is reflected in your fiction writing? How?
Yes. As a poet, you want to avoid sentimentality and cliché, and I apply that ethos to my fiction. It isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to writing about sex or love! I like using metaphor and simile to evoke a mood or emotion. I often read passages aloud, testing the rhythm, so the pace fits the scene. If characters are in a heated argument, for example, I wouldn’t use flowing sentences with lots of metaphor.
Thank you! In the mid-nineties, I read a magazine article titled “My Father Was a Rapist” about several women who learned this horrifying truth about their conception. Their courage and resilience impressed me. I carried their stories with me for years. For this novel, I created Angelica, born in the mid-fifties when claims of rape were met with suspicion and an unwed mother was a scandal. This created the big family secret. I didn’t know how Angelica would find out about her father, or what would happen when she did, but that’s the joy and challenge of writing. And I knew there had to be a love story. That’s just the romantic in me.
Some aspects of my personality found their way into Angelica. I rebelled against my mother’s sheltering. I had issues with self-esteem, and fell prey to molestation and date rape. I went through periods of depression and cynicism. Joe is a bit like my first boyfriend, a tall, good-looking rogue. Funny, too. He drove a rattrap Galaxy 500. I don’t know about Gavin – he emerged from some shadowy corner in my brain. He’s an original.
Sit yourself down and imagine. What would it feel like to watch your husband come completely unhinged, and how could it be expressed other than to write “she was afraid”? Put yourself in the scene. Imagine. Don’t hold back. Then, after you’re all wrung out, you need to write in an understated way to keep it believable. It takes balance.
As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?
I love imagining those heart-rending emotional moments. I love rewriting when I can go deep into the scene and flesh everything out. The chore for me is pounding out the first draft, which only brushes the surface of emotion. When I’m about 50,000 words in, I start to get excited.
What would you most like readers to know about you?
About me? You can tell me anything. I’m a great listener. Plus I can keep a secret.
What is next? Are there any new books in the works we can look forward to?
I’m working on the life of the romantic heartthrob Joe Vadas. I’d also like to write a story about Angelica’s family that takes place several years after Gavin is released from prison, maybe when her children are young adults. Readers tell me they want to know what happens.
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