Q & A With The Author
About Somebody Stole My Iron…
Q. What was the impetus for writing Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia?
A. Writing has been the means by which I’ve processed the twists and turns in my life since I was a teenager. Setting my thoughts to paper provides me with solace in times of stress or sadness. Throughout the years of caregiving for my parents, I was especially drawn to journaling in an attempt to make sense of what was happening…how my parents were changing and how it affected and ultimately changed me. Writing was the one constant in my life that made no demands and asked nothing in return. At the time of my parents’ decline, I did not find the support networks that are available today on the web and often felt I was alone in a dark place, with two demented family members pulling on me. During this time, an idea began to take shape in the back of my mind. I wondered if a written description of our family’s journey might shed some insightful light for others traveling a similar journey through dementia. Having talked to numerous people struggling with many of the same caregiving issues and lack of information, I felt there was a need for an outstretched hand offering tips or “lessons” learned along the way. Those of us traveling the dementia road share a common bond, and my goal in writing this memoir is to help make other people’s journeys less lonely and painful.
Q. How do you see writing a Memoir as different from writing other genres of books?
A. Memoirs are a personal, intimate look at a particular subject or period of time, based on “truth” as the author knows it. Of course, remembered conversations are rarely verbatim, but the overall tone is one of honesty, as reported by the author’s personal knowledge and experience. It gives the author a chance to share a slice of his/her life as well as what was learned or how the events changed or affected his/her outlook on life. It’s obviously different than fiction and what sets it apart from nonfiction is that it’s autobiographical.
Q. What advice do you have for writers considering writing a Memoir?
A. Write from the heart. Plan ahead and take good notes. And, be honest. Be sure to include dialog, as it’s much more interesting than simply reading someone’s journal accounting of a slice of life.
About Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival…
Q. What genre is your newest book, Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival, and why did you pick it?
A. It’s historical fiction, inspired by the life of my great-grandmother. Many of the events in this book actually happened, but it’s still called historical fiction because I wasn’t privy to the actual conversations, plus some of the story came from my imagination.
As long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by our family stories, passed down orally through the generations. I have chosen to write one of my forbearer’s stories—Maggie’s—down on paper. Her story has skittered on the edges of my mind for many years. It all started in 1997 when I decided to compile all the family stories I had heard growing up into a written narrative. I interviewed my parents, asking them to tell me everything they could remember about the past and then transcribed their words. I also incorporated information gleaned from documents discovered in genealogical research. Finally, after organizing all this into a manuscript and adding historical photos, the booklet was printed and became a keepsake for each member of my immediate family.
Without a doubt, the story of my great-grandmother emerged as the most intriguing. At the time, a tiny seed of inspiration sprouted within me and although it lay mostly fallow in my frontal lobes for years, I never let go of the idea to expand Maggie’s story into a book length novel. I believed her journey had the potential to be transformed into a compelling narrative. Maggie grew up during a time when women had few rights. Even so, there are definite parallels to today’s world. She could easily have been part of the #MeToo movement, as she overcame abuse, loss and overwhelming grief to evolve into a strong, confident woman, empowered by her own ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Maggie is the book I have deemed myself destined to write. Reaching down deep into my psyche, it’s a story that envelops my soul. I delved back through generations of my family’s female line to tell my great-grandmother’s story. Maggie and I possess that mitochondrial connection and at times it eerily felt as if she was channeling her story through me, leaving me as the vessel for the story she wanted the world to hear. I didn’t so much choose to write historical fiction as it chose me.
Q. Why are you so interested in keeping journals and writing about your family’s history?
A. On the pretext that there will be others who come after me who love family history as much as I do. I will have left something behind for them to discover. I know how much it would have meant to me to have found letters or journals from those who went before.
Q. What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years?
A. Maggie takes place over fifty-four years, between 1887 and 1941. The story opens in 1941 but soon returns to 1887 when Maggie is seventeen. She grew into womanhood during a time when women had few rights in the eyes of the law. Women didn’t even gain the right to vote until 1920.
Q. When and why did you begin to write?
A. Writing has been part of my life since my youth. How many times did I receive a diary for Christmas and how many times did I flame out on daily entries by March? Daily entries became weekly “catch-up” entries and weekly became monthly and by July, I realized I didn’t have anything interesting to write after all and cast the diary aside in favor of other pursuits.
By my mid-teens, I’d taken to journaling. This style of writing suited me much better. There were no dates or deadlines. I could write when I felt like it. I have never stopped journaling, although there have been years when I’ve only written a few times. I’ve learned that when the going gets tough, the journal gets going. Writing down the details has always been a way for me to cope, writing more vociferously during times of stress. I once filled an entire journal in a couple of weeks. Writing helps me to make sense of my life. Once in a while, re-reading what I write offers insights on how I might maneuver through the sometimes-rocky pathways of life.
Q. How do ideas come to you?
A. Ideas come to me when my brain relaxes. I might be walking my dog around my neighborhood or about to fall asleep. Sometimes ideas wake me up in the middle of the night. If I’m in some sort of dilemma with a character(s), one strategy is to let it go and move on. Often, if I come back to it later, ideas begin to flow. Again, it’s probably related to my brain relaxing. Another strategy is to give my brain free rein to be creative and accept all ideas that pop into my mind, regardless of merit.
Q. What do you love most about writing?
A. Several things:
- Getting to know my characters and seeing where they lead me during the writing process
- Time-traveling and immersing myself into their world
- Using my imagination in a creative way
Q. What’s it like to finish a book?
A. It feels like going through a type of withdrawal. When I wrote The Endfor my book, Maggie, I felt so emotional I actually cried. Not so much with relief as with a sense of melancholy, a mourning to be leaving my characters behind. After “living” with them for four years, it felt like losing an entire family, Maggie in particular.
Sometimes, I indulge myself and let my mind slip back into the story, finding it somehow comforting to muse upon my characters, and wonder what they’re up to.
Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?
A. Be persistent.