How long have you been writing?
I loved to write and illustrate stories in elementary school. My fourth grade teacher was the first adult to encourage me to pursue writing as a career. As an adult, I’ve written for magazines, dabbled in poetry, written screenplays, and recently completed my first novel, THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Other writers. As a child, I was always reading. I loved the book fairs at school. The local library was my sacred space. To this day, I love a story that makes me forget the world around me—or seduces me into pondering my surroundings through the lens of the story. I sincerely appreciate well-written television, plays, lyrics, and movies. It all starts with the story on the page.
Who is your favorite writer?
Just one? HA! This is definitely an incomplete list:
Fiction: Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling, Alice Hoffman, C.S. Lewis, Barbara Wood, John Grisham, Anne Rice, James Patterson, Stephen King, Deborah Harkness, Willa Cather, L.M. Montgomery, John LeCarre, Tom Clancy, Paulo Coelho.
Poets: Shel Silverstein, Seamus Heaney, Maya Angelou, Nichole McElhaney
Non-fiction: Minus political commentary, that leaves pretty much the entire self-help/new age section of the bookstore. Anything written by Shirley MacLaine.
Screenwriters: Aaron Sorkin, Nora Ephron, James L. Brooks, John Hughes, John Hindman, Rob Reiner, Liz Hannah, Josh Singer, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, M. Night Shymalan, Kenneth Biller, Michael Sussman, Chuck Lorre, Christopher Lloyd, Steven Levitan.
Why did you say “minus political commentary” regarding non-fiction writers?
I rarely share my political opinions because you’re here to escape reality. There are plenty of other places to find political commentary, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to think for yourself. Please don’t mistakenly think I am unaware of real world issues or worse, think that I don’t care. I earned my BA in International Relations from a rigorous, well-respected political science program and I worked in politics for several years. I made the conscious choice to exit that career when I was up to my eyeballs in meetings and realized I had no enthusiasm for it anymore. I have no regrets though. I gained a heartfelt appreciation for most elected officials and if I hadn’t gone to college in my 30s, I wouldn’t have started creative writing again. After cranking out public policy papers incessantly for my classes, the idea of writing 200+ pages of fiction seemed possible and exciting.
What are your goals as a writer?
I aspire to be a woman who is valued for the love she shares and a voice for those who have not yet found their own words. Like any writer, parts of my own journey have found their way into my stories, so I’d love to hear from readers who recognize themselves in the pages of my books and scripts.
Is THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES based on a true story? Is it your life story?
There are a few similarities. Like Iona, I grew up estranged from my real father and his real mother, my grandmother. I reconnected with them on my high school graduation day. As I got to know them, I discovered their beliefs were quite different from how I was raised. Understanding them helped me understand myself in new ways. I chose a few character names from deep within my family tree, and many of the characters are combinations of people I’ve known. Dyllan and Jules have characteristics of half a dozen different boys, and Cookie is a combination of four different girls I knew in high school. The setting is beautiful Michigan, where I lived my entire life until 2017. (I couldn’t write the story anywhere else!) Although the locations in Michigan are real places, and some of the situations are similar to my own story, 99% of it is fiction.
What are some of your favorite activities besides writing?
I love classic movies, crazy socks, and all things Halloween. I do my best writing while wearing lucky Halloween socks and sipping a cauldron of coffee. I like to bake–not always well because I get distracted–but I bake. I go to the movies often. I love to take walks in the woods and visit cemeteries. My family and I are big fans of FACE OFF (SyFy), THE CURSE OF OAK ISLAND (History Channel), and I NEVER miss a Detroit Lions game.
You said you wear lucky Halloween socks. Are you superstitious?
Yep. It’s the gift and the curse of a wild imagination. Many of my own personal superstitions are included in THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES. Just for fun, I made a list of 13 superstitions that I learned mostly from my own family.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I have to pick just one? There are so many. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few famous people and every time I do—I trip, spill something, break my glasses, drop my camera, or step in a mud puddle. Let’s just say that secret service for a certain ex-president probably has me on a “she could trip and accidentally impale him” watch list. The only exception was when I met Shirley MacLaine. Nothing happened. She was absolutely lovely and I managed not to spill anything on her. Likely because I was with my good luck charm of a husband.
Okay, once, during a well-attended public meeting, I accidentally flung a pen across the room, which hit someone in the shoulder and caused her to spill the water she was pouring. Did I mention it was well-attended and there were TV cameras? They still don’t know it was me. Hey, it’s all material.
Do you have a bucket list?
Yes, and it is ever evolving. The famous person category keeps changing because I’ve been able to meet a few of them already. You can see it HERE.
Before becoming a professional writer, what other jobs have you held?
My first job was a part-time cashier at Woolworth’s, where I honed a poker face for people who pay with exact change from their sock or bra. The hardest job I’ve ever had was certified nurse aide. Those people break their backs (and hearts) taking care of patients for really crappy pay! I had better biceps than Michelle Obama back then. I also taught preschool at a daycare in my early 20s (also for crappy pay and a sore back). I’ve been puked on, bled on, peed on, coughed on, sneezed on, and talked back to…and that was just when I worked in politics, ha ha ha!
If you weren’t a writer, what other job would like to do?
I love to do different voices and accents. I love guessing where people are from originally. I don’t mean just the easy ones like Boston, New York, or Texas. I can often hear the subtler differences between say, Fort Wayne and Grand Rapids, or Sydney and Melbourne. I’ve even guess a person’s parents’ origin, based on certain vowel sounds. Maybe I could work at a carnival guessing accents next to the guy guessing weights. Actually, I’d love to be like Mel Blanc or Robin Williams. You know, do all those amazing cartoon voices. Or Meryl Streep. That woman can mimic any accent from anywhere in the world. That’s it. I’d want to be Meryl Streep.