Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
Writing has been a part of my life since childhood. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t engaged in some form of storytelling. My greatest comfort was found inside the pages of books, where I could delight in fantastical worlds. My first dream, however, was to be a singer/actress. But it did not seem to be my true calling since I could not sing and was too shy to act. It was my Great-Aunt Anna who suggested that I take writing into consideration. She knew that I loved expressing myself with words and insisted that I had a future as a writer and that it was my given path.
Do you remember what your first story (article, essay, or poem) was about, and when did you write it?
I don’t recall the first story I ever wrote, but I do know the first story that was published. It was called “A Writer’s Life,” and it was about the ups and downs of being a writer, along with the inexplicable need to participate in a career that offers no promises. After I graduated from college in 2016, I spent much of my time at a local café, penning the story that would become my first published piece.
What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is titled Look Back To Yesterday, and it delves into the subject of loss. My inspiration for the book came shortly after the death of my father. I was feeling incredibly vulnerable having lost not only my dad but my mother when I was twelve. Like so many others dealing with loss, my mind tends to wander into the past. I thought it would be cathartic to write a book about a woman unable to cope with the loss of her parents and the repercussions of the inability to move on.
How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
It initially took me ten years to write Look Back To Yesterday. The first draft was started in 2009 and completed in 2012. I then put it on the shelf while I finished college. In 2016, I enrolled in a creative writing program in graduate school, and the book I had begun so many years before became my thesis. The new draft of my novel took another three years to complete. I am not sure how many words I write daily, but I try to write at least three or four days per week.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t know if it’s considered unusual, but I like to be surrounded by photos of famous authors like Mark Twain and Willa Cather when I write. I have a St. Francis charm on the desk in my study, because he is the Patron Saint of writers. I also have a writer’s baseball cap that I wear. Whether or not it gives me ideas, I can’t be sure. But it’s one of my idiosyncrasies. Many times, however, I will flee to a local café. I seem to write better over endless cups of tea. Ambiance is vital to my writing mood, especially since I am easily distracted. I need to be enveloped in a creative atmosphere to be able to think creatively.
Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I have such an appreciation for the canvas. Vincent van Gogh is one of my favorite painters. I have completed several paintings of my own, but I do not consider myself talented in that area. It is simply a hobby that I wish I could perfect. One of my favorite places is the MET in NYC. I am fascinated by the ways in which an artist can capture expression with the stroke of a paintbrush.
Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
When it comes to the classics, I enjoy authors like Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Charles Dickens. It we’re talking contemporary, give me anything by Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Berg, or Harper Lee (though she only wrote two novels). I am drawn to female authors who broke barriers in a male-dominated society so that writers like me could have a voice. Women like Alcott and Cather proved creative genius was not only reserved for our male counterparts.
What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
I am working on my first nonfiction book. It is a “faith-based” motivational book. My life as a writer has been an extraordinary journey, and without the help of my faith, I don’t know that I would have been able to realize my dreams. I endured so much negativity as someone who wanted to make a life out of the written word. My hope is that with the next book, I will inspire those who have big dreams, but lack the fortitude, to see those dreams through.
Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
Anyone who has dealt with the death of a loved one should read my book. Loss is such a universal topic, something that unites us all. At some point we have all pondered the possibility of time travel, and readers might be curious to see how the protagonist in my novel deals with her loss when she is sent back in time. Also, if readers are familiar with Brooklyn in the eighties, I think they will enjoy a bit of nostalgia.
Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
My advice to new writers is to keep at it. Along the way, you will encounter naysayers who will tell you that writing is not a secure road in which to travel. Ignore the negative comments and be persistent. The goal is not to become rich and famous, it is to write.
What is the best advice (about writing) you have ever heard?
The best advice about writing was something I read from Willa Cather. It was one of her philosophies on utilizing an idea. In essence, she said that when a writer has a new idea, “they need to use it or lose it.” I carry a pen and paper with me at all times, along with a voice recorder. Since I never know when inspiration will hit, I want to make sure I capture the concept of my next story.
How many books do you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
I average anywhere from 20-30 books per year. At present, I am reading a biography on Louisa May Alcott and her mother. My favorite literary genre is literary fiction. I also enjoy mysteries.
What do you deem most relevant about your writing? What is most important to be remembered by readers?
The most relevant aspect of my writing is that I tackle subjects that are timely and relatable, be they about loss, pain, womanhood, realizing a dream, etc. I hope that readers will remember my work as inspiring. I would like to think that I am giving readers pause to consider life from another lens, which is ultimately what all writers wish to do with their work. Writing is not simply a form of entertainment, it is a way to get people to think and to analyze.
What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
I think the publishing industry and also getting an agent is much more difficult in today’s world. As for trends, I think the use of social media has been quite beneficial. I have found it difficult drawing a crowd for in-person readings (with the exception of family and friends). More people have access to the Internet nowadays, so it is helpful to have media sites like Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, where writers can do readings and interviews.