Today’s Featured Author – Elona Washington

Today I welcome author Elona Washington to my blog. Her memoir, From Ivy League to Stripper Life, came out last year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Washington DC & I currently live in suburban Philadelphia. I’m a mother of two, author and blogger.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I used to escape via reading and writing so I guess you can say my abuse inspired me to start.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve considered myself a writer since I was a child. I considered myself an author when my first book was published April 2015.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

 

I write full-time and Uber for additional income. I write in the afternoon in between driving shifts.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

I love the freedom but hate the minimal pay.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Helping others heal inspires me to write.

What inspired you to write this book?

It’s my memoir and I wanted it to show how child sexual abuse shaped me.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

I explain how my cousin first abused me at 5 in DC. I relocated to NJ and was abused by my best friend’s brother and his friends. He told me that if a boy wanted to have sex with me, I was supposed to let him.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

Game of Thrones

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

The library

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Perfect Peace by Daniel Black

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Iyanla Vanzant because she is wise & Oprah because she’s motherly.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I love alternative rock especially Linkin Park.

Book Blurb

Did you envision a better life for yourself but you’re unsure where things went wrong? In From Ivy League to Stripper Life, Elona talks candidly about why her life spiraled out of control and the lessons she learned along the way.

Through childhood memories and true stories from the strip club, Elona offers tips and life lessons every wife, mother and single woman will find useful. In these pages you’ll discover:

* Why men frequent strips clubs.
* Why no woman should ever be called a ho.
* That it’s possible what you’re going through has been assigned to you.

The key to finding your purpose and improving your life, love and relationships starts with you. If you want to get your life back on track or impact the lives of others, this book is for you.

About the Author

A native of Washington, DC, Elona Washington is the Amazon best-selling co-author of two anthologies and a blogger for the acclaimed Huffington Post and Digital Romance. She’s made guest appearances on HuffPost Live, prominent radio shows and podcasts.

Elona’s most recent book, From Ivy League To Stripper Life, attained Amazon bestseller status in two categories the day of its release. Between these pages, she candidly discusses her life as a stripper, why her promising life spiraled out of control and the lessons learned along the way.

With an undergraduate degree from Howard University, Elona later obtained her Master of Science in Management from the University of Maryland University College. She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a mother of two. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

You can purchase From Ivy League to Stripper Life on Amazon.

 

Today’s Featured Author – J.P. Willson

Please welcome author J.P. Wilson to my blog. His book, Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-discovery, came out last year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.  

I will never get used to this question, simply put I just never know how to answer. What “bit” does one pick?

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Burlington, Ontario and I now reside in Vancouver, British Columbia, yet my home is Victoria B. C. for all intents and purposes.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I have always enjoyed writing from a young age, at eight or nine years I was writing stupid little stories simply for fun.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I still do not consider myself a writer per se. I can write yes, but do I write well? I cannot answer that question only the readers can. I do call myself an author, there is a very fine line for me.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Easy question, all of me, all, of it as the book is about me, the next book slated for release is all about me. There is a third book in the works that is about another topic yet the premise is how it relates to me. I like me. No seriously, I am a memoir writer first and foremost, the other is creative non-fiction.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I think I answered part of this question already. The first book being about my initial recovery from alcohol addiction- the second is about living with sobriety and all the ups and downs that go along with that premise.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

Unfortunately I do not write full-time, maybe one day. I am a certified Red Seal Chef by trade which keeps me fairly busy yet I always make the time to write. Odd as this may sound the writing is an ongoing part of the never ending recovery process, one that is invaluable to me.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Best- I think I would have to say the solitude. Worst- I think I would have to the solitude!

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Typically I will just start writing although there is one book I am working on that has required a fair amount of research-then I just start writing from what I have learned doing this research. Hence the “creative” in the creative non-fiction.

Please tell us about your current release.

Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery is a compilation of my initial recovery process from alcohol addiction, the treatment program and the follow up needed to stay sober.

What inspired you to write this book?

Initially the therapeutic value of daily journalling was all it was, the thought of this being anything else came after many discussions with others, the help I was able to give to them through my own experiences was the final inspiration. I wanted to be able to help others with their own journeys. I had taken counselling courses to this end yet I felt very strongly that the written word was my way of offering that help.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Having taken the deepest possible look into myself, my soul, my inner-core was all the research needed. This is an incredible task to accomplish with any certainty no what whom you are.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

You will have to read the book for that answer, there are many.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

I would have to say chapter nine, in this chapter I get into some serious issues concerning depression, the loss of family etc. For me this was a very hard thing to re-live over and over throughout the editing process. There was a short time after the final edit where I seriously doubted whether I should publish or not. I was about to put myself “out there” for all to see. So vulnerable to the world, was I strong enough within myself to face this was the question.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

The story has turned so much better than first anticipated, the positivity from the feedback has been absolutely overwhelming for me in so many ways.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

Strictly at my desk, perched over the computer, with my coffee.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Coffee, just coffee.

What book are you reading right now?

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins and Memoirs of a Pahktun Immigrant by Teresa Schapansky  – memoirs of course…

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Stephen King without a doubt, to me he just seems so real, so down to earth. His life has been on public display for so long I feel as if I know him already, I just think we would “hit it off.” To be honest I cannot think of a second right now, another author has just recently compared my writing to that of James Joyce so let’s go with him…. no?

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

As a hobby I was once on an underwater hockey team. Yes that does say “underwater hockey.”

Book Blurb

51cfyohljalDepression, self-loathing, unemployment, and destroyed relationships: the effects of drug and alcohol addiction run so much deeper than the morning-after hangover. However, awareness alone will not save the struggling addict, as J.P. Willson reveals in his fearless examination of substance dependency; recovery means doing the mental and emotional work to look inside oneself and discover a way to live as a sober, fulfilled individual in an often challenging world.

Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery is a thought-provoking and honest examination of the emotional, psychological, and physical ways someone must enact their own healing. As a former alcoholic, Willson courageously shares his own story of addiction, as well the ups and downs he experienced along the road to recovery. Packed with astonishing insights about our culture’s relationship to alcohol, as well as the lies we tell ourselves in order to keep using, this book will change the way you view addiction. Willson has no qualms about telling the reader how difficult recovery is—and how there is no quick cure-all—but his compassionate, candid reflections help foster the knowledge and will to change.

About the Author

joseph-wilsonJ.P. Willson is a writer and chef living on the western coast of Canada. Growing up as the shy, quiet child in a large middle-class family, he has always been an observer, a thinker, and a wonderer. He has worked as a Red Seal chef for twenty-five years, and is highly skilled in his trade. However, despite his accomplishments, his life has not been easy. J.P. struggled with alcoholism for nearly thirty years, which resulted in homelessness, unemployment, loneliness, and spiraling depression. Having done the soul-searching and continuing work required for recovery, J.P. decided to share his experience and knowledge to help others along their own journeys. Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery is his first publication. J.P. is deeply grateful for the love and support of his family, counselors, and friends.

You can purchase Through the Mind’s Eye on Amazon.

 

#NewRelease – Last Dance at the Savoy by Kathryn Leigh Scott

On April 16, actress/author Kathryn Leigh Scott released her memoir, Last Dance at the Savoy: Life, Love and Caring for Someone With Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, about her husband’s battle with this rare neurological disease and her experiences caring for him.

Please make sure you read the excerpt after the interview.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Writing and acting have been twin pursuits for me since I was a youngster growing up on a farm in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. I now split my time between New York and Los Angeles, continuing to act and write. I’ve written several nonfiction books and three novels, including Dark Passages (2012), Down and Out in Beverly Heels (2013), Jinxed (2015), while also appearing in a recurring role as George Segal’s girlfriend in The Goldbergs and in the 2015 launch of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wrote Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood about five decades of the television series that launched my acting career. I played Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres, the fiancé of vampire Barnabas Collins (1966-1970), and appeared in a cameo role in the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton film, Dark Shadows (2012).

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I started writing stories as soon as I was able to put pencil to paper. I wrote a play about George Washington when I was in second grade and gave all the good lines to Martha, the role I cast myself in—knowing then that I would always want to both write and act! I wrote for the school newspaper and won a state award for an interview I did with poet Carl Sandburg when I was sixteen years old. If I hadn’t got a scholarship to study acting, I would have pursued a career in journalism. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself a writer.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Last Dance at the Savoy is a memoir about my husband’s battle with a rare neurological disease and my experience caring for him. I draw a great deal on my life experiences and the many places where I’ve lived, worked and traveled in writing both fiction and nonfiction. When I was still a student I worked as a Bunny in the New York Playboy Club, where I met young women who are still my friends today, and wrote about it in “The Bunny Years.” I’ve also drawn on my life as an actress, enabling me to write authentically about Hollywood. I’ve written several books about “Dark Shadows,” the series that launched my career, in which I played Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres, the fiancé of vampire Barnabas Collins.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Imagination fuels me as an actress and a writer. I always begin with “what if?” and that informs everything I do creatively. I like turning the expected inside out imagine a place, time and circumstances

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I usually jump in and start writing to see where it goes, what “voice” I’m hearing. After spinning out some “what ifs” I generally write a detailed synopsis of the full story. I rarely outline more than two or three chapters at a time because I want the story to evolve and I usually just begin by elaborating on my synopsis. I hate to face a blank page!

Please tell us about your current release.

Last Dance at the Savoy: Life, Love and Caring For Someone With Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is the story of my husband’s battle with one of the prime-of-life diseases that has also claimed the lives of Robin Williams (Lewy Body) and Dudley Moore (PSP), and my experiences as a caregiver. Some 20,000 Americans have been diagnosed with PSP, about the same number afflicted with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), yet little is known about this neurological disease for which there is no cure or treatment. Our challenge was to live our life together fully, making the most of each precious moment while facing up to the inexorable decline in my husband’s health.

What inspired you to write this book?

When my husband was diagnosed, I trolled the Internet hoping to find not only facts about PSP but also personal stories from people who had dealt with the challenges of caring for someone with a neurological disease. I wanted to know what to expect and how I could best care for him during the progression of the disease and all its ramifications. Figuratively speaking, I wanted someone to hold my hand and guide me through what I knew would be a very physically and emotionally difficult journey. There was so little available on the Internet at the time, and no book that could provide me with everything I needed to know and understand. Drawing on my own personal experience, I’ve written what I hope will provide guidance and inspiration to others embarking on their own journeys with these prime-of-life diseases.

How did you come up with the title?

Last Dance at the Savoy is very much a love story that began on a romantic evening dancing at London’s Savoy Hotel when, wrapped in each other’s arms, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. It was a fairy-tale beginning to a wonderful marriage, but “happily ever after” came with its challenges when we began noticing my husband’s difficulties with eye-hand coordination, repeated falls, slurred speech and other symptoms of a neurological disorder. But we continued to live life fully, holding each other close until our last dance together.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

When my husband was diagnosed with PSP, his neurologist suggested I keep a journal. As a writer I already did write daily, but I began to focus on recording the effect of various medications and keeping track of the progression of the disease, as well as the adjustments we continually made to accommodate his changing needs. Everything was recorded as it happened, including my experiences as a caregiver and our evolving emotional responses to living with a terminal disease. I also learned a tremendous amount not only from my own hands-on daily caregiving, but from the professional medical personnel conducting the support groups I attended. This journal was very useful as a reference for my husband’s doctors when he was enrolled in drug trials and immensely helpful to me as a template for writing this book. Having this diary of our journey is a great comfort to me now and I am so grateful I can share my experiences with others as they deal with the challenges of living with a neurological disease.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

I shed many tears in writing this book, reliving each moment as I read through the journal I kept throughout my husband’s illness. The most difficult scenes to recall and write about were the times when I had to acknowledge my shortcomings as a caregiver, becoming impatient or short-tempered and gave into my own despair. I could not write an honest book without acknowledging the physical strain and fatigue, as well as the emotional fears and anxiety that are a part of caregiving. It’s very difficult to see someone you love suffer and know you are losing your loved one day by day. There were many moments when I ached with longing and had to take a walk in the garden before I could return to my desk and continue writing.

Excerpt

“Indian Summer”

We had spent such a lot of time apart during my mother’s illness that once Geoff and I were together again in Los Angeles, I was able to see him with fresh eyes—and I was concerned. Gestures that had once seemed idiosyncratic—such as the way he fumblingly adjusted his eyeglasses or scratched his head or tapped surfaces with his fingertips before setting something down—now struck me as odd behavior. Sitting with him at dinner, I found myself pressing my thumb on the base of a stemmed glass so that when he reached for it he couldn’t tip it over.

I’d hoped the time apart would ease the tension that had been building up between us. It wasn’t so much that we were bickering, but more that we were trying so hard not to do anything that would lead to an argument or hurt feelings. I made a point of not commenting in any way if Geoff tripped, stumbled or tipped something over. He hated being seen as clumsy or awkward, and avoided any situation that required dexterity.

Yet, he would somehow manage to hurt himself doing the most ordinary task. He favored one hand and would therefore drop dishes, newspapers, cartons of milk, or injure himself just lifting the lid on a rubbish bin. He was simply not capable of holding the lid up with one hand and using the other to toss in a sack of garbage. If he broke something, he became sullen. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t offer to clean up.

When Geoff retired from Los Angeles magazine, we joked that I would have to take over as “staff.” In fact, “staff” became his funny nickname for me. Adding paper to the copy machine or wrapping a package were tasks he simply could not handle because of his growing difficulty coordinating two hands. He’d try to fill ice cube trays in the old refrigerator in the garage where we kept beer, wine, bottled water and juices. Hours later I would find pools of water on the garage floor and the ice cube trays in the freezer compartment were barely filled.

When we gave dinner parties, it was Geoff’s job to “set the scene.” While I worked in the kitchen, he lit candles, chose music, filled the wine bucket with ice and set glasses on the bar. But on a couple of occasions I found him struggling to open bottles of white wine hours before dinner. Once I stopped him from opening a bottle of champagne more than an hour before guests were to arrive.

“Stop! Why are you doing that?”

“I don’t want to be stuck opening bottles when everyone’s watching me.”

“But it’s too early.”

“Then do it yourself.”

So I did—and also took on the job of lighting the gas logs in the fireplace when it became dangerously apparent that Geoff could no longer do it. One evening I smelled gas and found Geoff sitting on the living room couch trying to reach the gas peg while struggling to click the fire starter.

“You could have blown us up!”

“I’ve been doing this for forty years,” he shouted. “If you don’t like the way I do it—.“

“Use two hands! You can’t do this without getting on your knees and turning the gas on with one hand and lighting the logs with the other.”

“So you do it!”

Doing everything came at a price. The more I took on, the less confident Geoff became. If he was slow to do something, I stepped in and then bore the brunt of his frustration. “You just have to show me up, don’t you?”

Geoff, who had always been a warm, gracious host, deft with conversation and full of good stories, had begun to fall silent once the meal was served. He’d prop his elbow on the table, lean awkwardly over his plate and use only one hand to eat. He handled a soupspoon like a shovel and couldn’t manage to hold a fork to eat salad.

I’d continually remind Geoff not to clutch his wine glass, but set it on the table; to use both his fork and knife; take smaller bites so he wouldn’t choke and to please, please cover his mouth when he coughed. I sounded like the dreaded hall monitor, or the nanny from hell. Geoff was sick of hearing “a laundry list of complaints.” Sometimes we argued, often we rode home from an evening out in silence. I could not understand how he could have become so oblivious and ill mannered, and he wondered why I’d stopped loving him.

“You never used to complain,” he’d say.

True. No matter how hard I tried not to, I’d begun to complain a lot. So I saved my complaints for important things, such as, “Please shower and get dressed so we can leave on time!” Then, as we were walking out the door, I’d notice he wasn’t wearing socks, or had forgotten his belt. My husband, who had always cared about his appearance, was no longer willing to wear certain shoes, pants or shirts. We struggled and argued over the most mundane things.

It wasn’t until one evening late that summer, when we were getting dressed for a black tie event that I realized how difficult it was for him to get dressed. I ended up helping him with everything, including his socks and shoes. I teased him about needing a butler and gave him a kiss, hoping our evening wouldn’t be spoiled.

Life was becoming a lot less fun. Too often I’d offer help when he didn’t want it, which annoyed him. Worse, I failed to notice when he did need help. Frustrated, he’d give up and we’d suffer the consequences.

“Why didn’t you just ask me to put your belt through the loops?”

“I didn’t want to bother you.”

At the least sign of exasperation from either of us, tempers flared and we ended up saying hurtful things neither of us meant.

“Leave me alone! You don’t love me anymore. Divorce me!”

“I don’t want a divorce. I just want you to put on a clean shirt.”

We loved each other and our marriage would not come to an end over table manners and wardrobe issues. But anger, frustration, resentment and hurtful words were taking a terrible toll. I made every sort of adjustment and concession to avoid trouble, which meant we no longer talked about it.

Book Blurb

LastDanceAtTheSavoyCoverBorderWhen her husband is diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a neurological disease for which there is no cure so far, actress/author Kathryn Leigh Scott’s very active and creative life comes to a halt. Scott “yearned for someone to figuratively take my hand and walk with me through the difficult times I knew were ahead.” Last Dance at the Savoy is the story of Scott’s marriage to Geoff Miller, the founding editor of Los Angeles magazine, and is filled with insights into caregiving based on her practical experiences.

About the Author 

KathrynLeighScottAuthorHeadshotAuthor/Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott has written several books of fiction and nonfiction. She starred in the cult favorite “Dark Shadows” and has recently appeared in a recurring role on “The Goldbergs.” She grew up on a farm in Robbinsdale, Minnesota and currently resides in New York City and Los Angeles.

You can find out more about Kathryn on her website.

You can purchase Last Dance at the Savoy on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author – Karen Levy

Today, I welcome author Karen Levy to my blog. Her debut novel, My Father’s Garden, a memoir, was released in 2013.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am an Israeli-American writer who loves a well-told story, whether it’s in print or on the screen. My first book, My Father’s Gardens, was published in 2013 and I have enjoyed sharing it in various venues ever since.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Jerusalem, Israel and after many years of traveling between my two countries (I am a dual-citizen), I realized that you can call more than one place home. Yet the more Americanized I become, the more comfortable I am in the United States.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always loved language and the almost magical power it has to transform and inspire. I didn’t know what I wanted to write until I needed to figure out who I was and where I belonged, and writing has always helped me find order in chaos. Writing about my two worlds did just that. I also know what it is like not to have the power of words since English is not my first language. So finding my voice was crucial for me.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

This first book, My Father’s Gardens, is a memoir, so everything I share in it is personal. I don’t know how to express myself in any way other than by being completely open and honest about my experiences. Audiences deserve, and hopefully appreciate authenticity. Of course this makes writing fiction a bit tricky, since I tend to bring myself into the picture more than I intended originally.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have started my next book and once again, it takes place on two shores, starting in the United States and traveling to the Middle-East. The protagonist finds herself wondering about her purpose in life now that her children are older and need her less and less. While in this dark mood she finds herself thinking about her past and about one particular friend she has not thought about since the uprising that tore them apart. The friend is Arab while the protagonist is Israeli. She will eventually discover that those closest to her have kept a secret for years, a discovery that will cause her to question who it is we can trust in a world full of betrayal.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I spend part of my time teaching English at Sacramento State University, trying to convince students that language is a powerful tool that can help them navigate the world. When I’m not grading student essays I read my favorite authors for inspiration and keep plugging away at my own manuscript. I should, but don’t have a schedule for my own writing. When I get an idea, I sit down and write.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing is succeeding in taking those great ideas you think you have and effectively capturing them in words that impact readers. I love when someone has read my book and tells me that they could relate, or that it moved them. Of course, not everyone was pleased with what I shared. My own mother has not spoken to me since the memoir’s publication. The worst part about writing is self-doubt. Writing a full length novel is a daunting task and since I am so used to writing non-fiction, I question my decision to attempt fiction quite frequently.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

One of my favorite authors is Julia Alvarez, a Dominican-American writer whose lyrical language and story-telling abilities astound me. I wrote to her years ago, just to thank her for the incredible books she has created, and surprisingly, she wrote back. I would love to continue our “conversation” in person, so I could learn more about this art of writing. The other writer I enjoy is Ann Patchett. She also weaves intricate stories that feel so real. I would love to learn from her as well.

Book Blurb

Levy_Cover_Blurb_TopMy Father’s Gardens is the story of a young girl who comes of age in two languages, and on two shores, between warring parents and rules that change depending on the landscape and the proximity of her mother. Struggling to find her voice and her place in the world as a result of her frequent travels between her native Israel and the United States, she feels that she must choose a place to call home. As her scenery alternates between warm Mediterranean and snow capped mountains, loud-mouthed Israelis and polite Americans, so do her loyalties: Is she more Israeli or American? How will she know when she has arrived? And while she chooses she is slowly transplanting bits of her father’s gardens on foreign soil.

About the Author 

DSC00594Karen Levy is an Israeli-American writer whose memoir, My Father’s Gardens, candidly shares her search for belonging and her coming of age between the shores of two worlds. Her work appears in journals such as, Welter, So To Speak, The Blue Moon, The Meadow, Davis Life Magazine, Jet Setter Magazine, among others.  My Father’s Gardens was a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee.

You can follow Karen on Facebook or Twitter.

You can purchase My Father’s Gardens on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Today’s Featured Author: Mary A. Perez

Today author Mary A. Perez stops by my blog as part of her Running in Heels virtual book tour.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Puerto Rican descent, meaning both my maternal and paternal grandparents, as well as my father, were all born and raised in the Island of Puerto Rico, which by the way, I have yet to visit!

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in the Bronx and raised in Miami. In the year ’77 we moved to Texas. Although Houston has been my home for the past 38 years, I am far from having a Southern country accent. I am told that I sound like I am from up North. Go figure.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing about being a writer is that writing can be therapeutic. It is when I am at my calmest and my thoughts go uninterrupted. I don’t feel pressured trying to convey my words plainly from the get-go. I can re-write for clarity at my leisure to get my point across. I think the worst part about writing is making the time to write and to remain focus without all of the distractions in today’s busy world.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

My motivation for writing is the wonderful and positive feedback from the readers. Realizing that my stories have the impact enough to inspire someone makes everything I have experienced and written about worth it.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I didn’t know how to outline anything when I began writing. I just started jotting down thoughts and ideas as it came to me. After having written so much, I had to start naming the chapters in the book to know where I was and keep up. I knew enough about writing to know that a story should have a beginning, middle and an end.

Please tell us about your current release.

Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace is a coming-of-age journey of a Puerto Rican girl seeking love and security with her difficult mother in a dilapidated home. She becomes a teenage bride to a ruthless man twice her age and has her first child at seventeen and her fourth at twenty-two. Can she escape the shackles of poverty, alcoholism, racism, violence and abandonment to establish a happily ever after for her and her children?

What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted my children to know some things about the hardships their momma endured. Because it is in the overcoming of those struggles that has made me the person I am today. They were accustomed to seeing me as some biotic woman, but that was far from reality. I had my share of pain and suffered losses my children didn’t fully understand until they read about it. Having said that, the book became larger than that when I realized others needed to hear that they may be inspired.

How did you come up with the title?

 I found myself running in heels plenty of times, which only caused me to stumble along life’s journey. I couldn’t run fast enough in those heels, shoes I felt too big for me, even, in my adulthood, thereby making me feel like the small, insecure girl again. But in the midst of it all, I also discovered grit and the grace needed to get me through another day. I’m talking about God’s grace because His grace was sufficient for me and still is.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

My favorite characters would have to be my grandparents. They instilled old-fashioned principles of love, devotion and stability within the simplicity of a home. They may not have been perfect, but in my eyes they were flawless. As to the character I didn’t care for, naturally, I would have to say that was Natasha the home-wrecker.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

The bleakest time period in my book would have to be the times of abandonment, both as a child and as a young adult. Then of course, writing about death and the sorrow of having to say goodbye to loved ones for good. And finally, the regrets of some of the choices that were made.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

The most difficult scene to write was the chapter about the passing of my baby sister. That chapter was written and re-written through deep sobbing and blinded tears. There are several scenes throughout the book regarding abandonment. Each sequel was difficult to bring to life across the pages, even, the temporarily abandoned my own little girls.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

I would like to meet and chat with Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I Was Puerto Rican. She also wrote a memoir of coming from an impoverished environment where parent-figures seek the American Dream, while constantly drinking and fighting along the way. Her story shares the loss of childhood innocence—even having to gaze upon a baby in a coffin—and children are expected to take on adult responsibilities.

I would like to meet and sit with bestselling author of twenty-three books, Jan Karon, author of The Mitford Series. She knows she is doing what God created her to do. At age 50 it was finally time to pursue her dream; she left her lucrative advertising career and began writing fiction. Her heartwarming character-driven work seeks to give readers a large, extended family they can call their own and serves to bring real-life situations in every series.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I tend to weep while watching a movie or a TV program of a newborn’s birth, as the mother bears down giving birth, and in hearing the newborn’s first cry. It doesn’t matter if the show is real or not; if I see or hear the miracle of birth, I cry. My husband thinks it’s sweet, but I can’t help it.

Book Blurb

HeelsHBK13“More than a memoir—this book is a promise of hope for anyone who was abandoned as a child, to anyone who woke up hungry and went to bed hungrier every day, for every wife who has loved a husband who left bruises on her heart and on her body.”

Somewhere between stealing cold cuts from stray cats and watching a stranger leave her mother’s bed after breaking in through their bedroom window, Mary figured out that her family was dirt poor. Worse than her empty stomach, she was hungry for acceptance and love. She thought she found it when her baby sister was born and she became her “mommy”, taking care of her needs as best she could at the age of seven. Then she had to say goodbye over a small white casket.

Mary’s grandparents, first generation immigrants from Puerto Rico, took her in and gave her a glimpse of faith and stability. For a brief, shining spell, she had a real home—until they decided that Mama needed her. They may have been right, but Mama needed more than a little girl could give and Mary lost her way again.

Just out of Juvy Hall, Mary found a knight in shining armor to take her away. She became a teenage bride to a man twice her age—a man as deeply enslaved to booze as every “step-dad” she’d had as a child. She loved him anyway, even wearing the bruises he gave her, even when she tried to leave him to give their children a better life. Despite her fear and loneliness, she never imagined it would take a gunshot in the middle of the night to teach her courage. She was even more surprised when rediscovered faith paved the path to forgiveness after so many years of pain.

Running in Heels is a memoir of the grit and grace that carried a young girl through the shadows of her mother’s choices and on through an abusive marriage. Mary A. Pérez narrates an incredible story of survival in the face of hopelessness, and learning to forgive against all odds.

A story of coming of age, and coming into grace.

About the Author

maryaperez.author_photoMary A. Pérez was born in the Bronx, raised in Miami, and now resides in Texas with her husband of twenty years. Her award-winning essays have appeared in La Respuesta and Sofrito for Your Soul.

You can find out more about Mary on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Running in Heels can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

#NewRelease – Against All Odds: From the Projects to the Penthouse

Just out last month – Against All Odds: From the Projects to the Penthouse is the memoir of Mahisha Dellinger who decided to alter her life for the better.

Book Blurb

Against all odds_For Mahisha Dellinger, life in the rough streets of Sacramento, California was paving the way for a lifetime of poverty, despair and dysfunction. But while criminals ran rampant, gangs took over, and her own relatives chose drugs over dreams, Mahisha knew she was destined for something greater. Rewriting her story. Determined to write a different ending to her story, Mahisha set out to alter her destiny, through college and hard work. But her dreams were bigger than just a 9-5 job and she worked tirelessly to pursue her passion of owning her own hair care business. That dedication and commitment has paid off as Mahisha’s company, CURLS LLC, is one of the leading natural hair care companies in the country. Against All Odds chronicles Mahisha’s journey from the projects to the penthouse, how she overcame an impoverished beginning to lead a life of wealth, privilege and success….doing a job she loves. Complete with success tips to process in your own life, Against All Odds will show you how to turn your tragedy into triumph, no matter what the odds.

About the Author

In 2002 Mahisha Dellinger left Corporate America to follow her passion. She launched CURLS, an award winning line of organic hair care products for women and girls with natural waves, curls and kinks. She singlehandedly built a strong demand for her brand and Target, Sally Beauty, Wal-Mart and CVS came knocking at her door. CURLS has been featured in a host of beauty publications including InStyle, Essence, Glamour, Ebony, Juicy, Redbook, Lucky, Seventeen, Vibe, Black Enterprise, Elle, Modern Salon, Woman’s World, Parents and a host of other hair and salon trade publications.

You can purchase Against All Odds: From the Projects to the Penthouse from Amazon or read an excerpt from the publisher.

Today’s Featured Author: Mel Ryane

Today I welcome author Mel Ryane to my blog. Her memoir, Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me That Hollywood Couldn’t, was released in August.

Interview

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Back when I was an actor, I couldn’t imagine ever not being an actor — even though I had been fooling around with writing for quite a long time. Ideas would come to me and I had to write them down. In between acting jobs (and there is a lot of time in between acting jobs), I wrote a sitcom pilot and some comedy sketches, I took a novel writing class, then I was accepted into the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, when I started writing screenplays. Although I was getting positive feedback and some encouraging possibilities from my writing, I didn’t take them seriously because I still thought of myself as an actor.

Only after I left acting did I take a more in-depth approach to writing, and wrote a book. At a writing conference, I read aloud from this book and there happened to be a literary agent in the audience. She took my writing seriously and wanted to represent me.

On the plane home, as we were about to land, the man in the seat next to me asked, “What do you do?” For the first time I said, “I’m a writer.” And that felt so true and so good to say aloud.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

My first published book is a memoir. In the time it took to sell, I kept writing and completed two novels.

The first, Nobody’s Dolly, is a family saga that takes place across 80 years. I was curious about how one crucial decision made by one person affects future generations. In this case, a young woman flees an arranged marriage and her 14-year-old sister is left to fill her place at the altar.

The second novel, The Novel Class, is a contemporary story set in Los Angeles during the latest economic recession. A recently widowed woman discovers she doesn’t have a financial safety net; she falls out of her upper-middle-class perch and moves across the city in search of survival. It sounds grim but there’s a lot of comedy in this one.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Unlike with acting, where the phone has to ring with a job for me to be creative and where I need a fellow actor with whom to play scenes, with writing, I only have to get to my computer to get down the sentences in my head. The worst part is finding an audience once my work is ready to be read.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I am very curious about human behavior. I love examining and imagining what people do in crisis. I love the details of what we do for each other, to each other, and to ourselves as we attempt to make sense of our lives in their most joyous or desperate circumstances.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

My plots come out of questions. For my memoir, Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me That Hollywood Couldn’t, I asked myself how I kept going working with children in an expectedly difficult fish-out-of-water scenario. Much of the book is comedic in retrospect, but it wasn’t so funny when it was happening. I was re-traumatized every time I did a revision on the manuscript.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

One of the things I hate most about writing screenplays is the protocol of writing a very detailed outline. I chafe at that along with the tight structure a screenplay demands. What I love about writing memoir and fiction is that I can just start. One clean sentence and then another and another. The hard work is in the revisions but that’s work I love to do.

Please tell us about your current release.

Teaching Will is the story of my leaving the actor’s life, searching for new creativity, and coming up with a crazy-assed idea of volunteering to start a Shakespeare Club for little kids at a public school.  Along the way I find a creative thrill that I never thought I would experience again after leaving acting.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

There are a lot of dark moments in the book that build up into a crisis of commitment. The kids want to quit and I want to quit, but oddly, none of us want to stop. I have to keep wrangling the kids and convincing them that what we’re doing matters. At the same time, I’m floating in my bathtub convincing myself not to jump ship. As hard as it is, I have to lead by example.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

My all-time favorite book is John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. If I could jump into any world, it would be New Orleans. I love that city, with its 69 cultures commingling in an astonishing and decadent array of architecture, food, art, writing and music. New Orleans is an urban jewel in the American landscape and I would love to live there anytime… except summer. Too darn humid.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I have an office with a window that looks out over our front lawn and our suburban street with its Chinese Elms. I write in my office with my feet up on the desk and my laptop on my lap, our cat in the window, our dog under the desk and jazz in the background.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Other than Shakespeare? Well, I’d love to hang out on a porch with William Faulkner and hear him riff on human behavior and the challenges of pure survival.

I’d also love to have dinner with Anne Tyler and chat about the tiny specific details of a story arc. How she walks her readers into a world and how she leads them out.

Book Blurb

TeachingWillPower. Revenge. Love. Shakespeare’s themes can be found in any schoolyard. And so a naïve Mel Ryane volunteers to create The Shakespeare Club at a public school – for kids who have never seen a play, much less acted in one. With a lifetime of theatrical experience but zero classroom skills, Mel throws herself into this rollicking adventure expecting to inspire young lives.

Alas the first lesson: beware of expectations.

What happens when an idealist volunteers to introduce Shakespeare to a group of unruly kids? Bedlam. Tears. And hard lessons learned. Teaching Will is a riotous cautionary tale of high hopes and goodwill crashing into the realities of classroom chaos.

Every week Mel encounters unexpected comedy and drama as she and the children struggle toward staging a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Woven through this fish-out-of-water tale is Mel’s own story of her childhood aspirations, her acting identity and the heartbreaking end of her onstage career.

In the schoolyard, Mel finds herself embroiled in jealousy and betrayal worthy of Shakespeare’s plots. Fits of laughter alternate with wiping noses as she and the kids discover a surprising truth: they need each other if they want to face an audience and triumph. Teaching Will is an uplifting story of empowerment for dreamers and realists alike.

About the Author 

MelRyane_lgFollowing a distinguished career as a classically trained actor onstage and in film and television, Mel Ryane has found a new artistic home in the written word with her memoir, Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me That Hollywood Couldn’t.

Mel became a professional actor during her teens in her native Canada, and then followed her career to New York City and to theatres across North America. After applying her skills to coaching actors on major studio and network projects, Mel was accepted into the Directing Workshop for Women at the prestigious American Film Institute. She subsequently wrote a screenplay that advanced to the semifinal round in the Motion Picture Academy’s Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition.

Mel travels across the country teaching “From Page to Podium: Reading Your Work Aloud,” a workshop that helps writers find their public speaking voice. She also offers school workshops introducing Shakespeare to students. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, their dog and cat.

You can find out more about Mel on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Teaching Will can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.