Questions for Interview and Answers:
Did you write as a child, if so, what is the first thing you wrote?
Yes, I wrote as soon as I learned how to write my alphabet. I began writing love notes to my parents. I was hyper aware of my family dysfunction as far back as 3 years old. All I wanted was for my parents to love each other and show me affection. I believe, looking back on those years, that my fears to verbalize what I was feeling translated directly into writing to express my feelings and desires.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Sadly, I hate to admit it, but I have no recollection of any books in my home growing up. The fairy tales I learned were from teachers reading to us in school. I somehow always identified with Cinderella and her wicked step-mother as I grew to realize that I felt my mother had used me as her personal housekeeper and messenger from the age of 7 and on. My love for reading began once I entered junior high school when we were given books to read as part of curriculum in English classes.
Who are your inspirations as a writer and in life?
Well, going back to childhood, I would have to say Barbra Streisand became my idol at a very young age. Funny Girl, still one of my favorite movies, became a movie I identified with because Streisand’s character – Fanny Brice, reminded me so much of myself.
Brice was portrayed as an awkward girl trying to make it on the stage, beginning with her shows with the Ziegfeld Follies. She didn’t consider herself beautiful or elegant enough to fit in with the beautiful and sexy cast of dancers, so she used her sense of humor to win over the crowd, which eventually, pushed her to stardom. One line in particular, caught my attention, and that line stuck with me and became part of my character – “I want them to laugh with me, not at me.”
As for my writing, it wasn’t the classics that inspired me as they have many writers. Being that there weren’t any books around my home, I loved reading the newspaper when sentenced to spending weekends at my paternal grandparents’ home, and soon found myself addicted to reading columns on everyday life and problem solvers by column writers like Ann Landers, Dear Abby, and Erma Bombeck. Even as a child I was fascinated by life stories and emotions and eager to learn how to resolve issues. As I got older, I found myself connecting with the writing of Norah Ephron.
When did you decide to write about your relationship with your mother?
I think it was in my early teens when I began to resent my mother for the way she treated my father and ignored the emotional needs of her children when I began taking notes about her and writing letters to her about my feelings. I never, ever gave her one of those letters, but somehow it was cathartic for me to get my pent-up angst on to paper and out of my head. My life was an ongoing saga of dramatic and traumatic events with my mother, so I often documented in journals what I was feeling and my analysis of what provoked my mother to act as she did. I got the urge to write a book about my life with ‘mother’, but my fear of ever publishing a book while she was alive kept me from bothering to write one.
I suppose the urge to expel my thoughts and stories rose to a peak as my mother became less lucid and immobilized, empowering me with knowing she could no longer attack me or reprimand me, or even sue me, for that matter. So, in early 2013 I began sorting out pages from my journals and writing Conflicted Hearts – A Daughter’s Quest for Solace from Emotional Guilt.
How did the decision change your life?
When I began writing that first book that’s all I thought I would write. But while I worked on the book I began learning about self-publishing at the same time, which led me to opening a blog and connecting with a whole community of writers and new friends who shared the same passion for writing. By the time I published my first book, I knew there was no turning back. I finally found I was doing what burned within me most of my life – writing.
In your introduction to Twenty Years: After “I Do”, you describe your husband as a soul mate. What does soul mate mean to you?
First, let me state that soul mate is typically said of a partner, but soul mate could also apply to a friend we are connected deeply with.
A soul mate is one we connect with on a spiritual level. When we are in tuned with someone who we share similar values in life with, understand their words and feelings without being spoken, and share a bond where there’s an intuitive knowing of their soul is my definition of soul mate.
When did you decide to write a memoir on menopause? Do you see it as a political statement?
My long-time bestie and I laughed our way through menopause and continue to laugh at the remnants of our former selves after surviving the event. We’d often joke around and make fun of our symptoms and that was my inspiration for sharing my journey through ‘the change’ with others to let them know what can be expected in trying times, and to share some important information and helpful tips to help ease through it. I also poked fun at the symptoms and shared how I dealt with them.
I never personally felt the book was a political statement, rather a part of life that every woman must endure. I mention my husband’s take on some of my antics in the book as he was the one who had to put up with some of my newly acquired crazy things I did to get through the process, sometimes involving almost freezing him out and leaving him feeling as though he were walking on eggshells if he even spoke at the wrong time, lol. Political no, but I was surprised to hear from a few men who read the book to get some enlightening about what their own partners endured or in preparation for what to expect.
In the prologue to P.S. I Forgive You, you write: “My mother had been dying for years, and through those years she refused to surrender her bitterness and remained in denial of her flaws. The many times I heard she was dying reminded me of the boy who cried wolf. I almost believed she was invincible, and even though I never wanted her to suffer, she did.”
I’d been warned to walk away many times but couldn’t muster the heart to do so. I lived under the thought that a child should never abandon their parents, and I was always worried about how I’d be judged by others for banishing my mother.
Finally, as often happens in life, the last straw hit with words I could no longer tolerate. At fifty years old I hung up on her for the very first time in my life and resolved myself that was the last time I’d take her nonsensical shit and I never saw her again. Oh, it was painful as I lived with my own new self-imposed guilt for doing so, but as the years passed, it got a lot easier to swallow, despite my feeling sorry for her. When she was dying, I had more fear of visiting her for all the years I abandoned her. Her vitriol only increased as she lashed out to anyone who would listen about her terrible children. I just couldn’t go back. And when she finally died, despite my grief for what never was with us, it was the first time I ever felt that hold she had on me was released.
I tend to think life as an adult child of narcissist is an ongoing process of separating the self from the abusive parent. Would you agree?
I would absolutely agree Rob. Narcissists don’t change. From childhood through adulthood we remain under their control, albeit, in different ways when we’re older. I spent my childhood waiting for the day I could break free from her hold on me, and when I finally got the chance to move away from home at 18, I thought I gained my freedom from her reign, but I found out that wasn’t so.
I spent my life with her trying to be the good daughter, doing everything she guilted me into doing and feeling bad for the things I didn’t do. My empathy for her was like a glue that I couldn’t unstick, which kept me falling prey to her schemes and tears and beckoning for her every whim. I’d try not answering her calls and keeping her separate from my life many times, but family events and celebrations bringing me back into her orbit repeatedly kept me within her web. I went years at a time not talking to her, but ultimately guilt or circumstances brought her back into my life. It was a never-ending merry-go-round of unresolved hurt and relentless tactics she performed that kept me in her hold.
How would you describe the job of the writer?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I think that every writer would have their own unique spin on this. For me, I don’t look at it as a job, but rather a passion. The only job I feel obligated to do as a writer is to tell my truth – essential for a memoir and nonfiction writer. But whether writing fiction or nonfiction, I think it’s important that we all effectively relay our stories in a fashion that readers can relate to and take something from whether it be a message, or an invitation to exercise imagination and feel like we’re right there in the action in fictional stories.
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