With thanks to Kathy Murphy, founder of the Pulpwood Queens for alerting me to these great books!
I always believe that writers are haunting into writing their books. What was haunting you? And did you feel, after finishing that you were unhaunted?
To answer this question, I'd have to back up to my first
writing experiment - a collection of interviews I did over a two year period
back in the early 2000s. I compiled
these interviews of my dad's World War II unit into a book for the families of
the men I interviewed. That whetted my appetite for digging up memories and
stories and preserving history. I worked as a photojournalist from around 2007
to 2020 interviewing everyone from CEOs and celebrities to ranchers and chefs.
This experience convinced me that everyone has a story...even those that think
they don't. I became 'haunted', as you say, by the numerous 'if only's' I heard
from those I talked to...most of them had regrets about not finding out more
about their family history, not asking the questions that years later still
haunted them. So, I guess you could say those regrets kept echoing in my own
heart, as I realized there were many things I still didn't know about my own
family and I determined to not let any more of those memories slip away.
In 2017, I wrote and co-illustrated with my husband a book about my childhood When I Was Small as a gift to my two grandchildren (at the time), to let them know what growing up was like for me. I was also working on a full-length book about my Dad and his life leading up to and through World War II and his experiences fighting the Battle of Iwo Jima - A Blessed Life: One World War II Seabee's Story. Finishing Dad's book satisfied that "haunting feeling" for a short while, but after the book was published, the feedback from so many prodded me to write my latest book The Art of Story Keeping - Saving History - One Family At A Time.
Over and over I heard the same sad statement from readers..."if only I had asked about ...but now, it's too late" or "my kids/grandkids don't know anything about my parents or my childhood, it just never came up...is it too late?". Statements like these kept me awake at night until I finished the book which gives a blueprint for recording/preserving those memories and stories for future generations. Research has proven that when people know where they are from and have shared family stories, they are more content and usually more accomplished in their day to day lives. Kids especially benefit from sharing stories. So, I've made it my mission, so to speak, to encourage people to start where they are...start sharing their stories and saving them because if we don't, those stories will be lost. We all need connection, especially now, and sharing our stories is a wonderful way to connect with those we may not be able to be with while dealing with this pandemic. I guess I will never be "unhaunted" because there are always more stories that need sharing...but what a wonderful way to spend my writing life!
What kind of writer are you? Do you plot things out or do you wait for the pesky muse?
Both! It depends on the project. I usually work from a loose outline or general idea, then add to it as I go. As far as my day to day writing, if I get stuck, I usually go on a walk and let things percolate for awhile. I wish I were more disciplined in my writing, but some days all I can get on paper (I write everything longhand first in spiral notebooks or yellow legal pads) is a snippet of character conversation, a descriptive paragraph, I don't beat myself up if I don't accomplish much in a day. I think it scares my muse away if I get too anxious. On days when everything flows and life doesn't interfere too much, I can get a lot done, but that doesn't happen often enough. On weekends, if I am undisturbed, I can get as many as 10,000 words down...maybe not all usable, but they are on paper nonetheless.
What one thing do you want readers to come away knowing after reading your book?
You matter. Your stories matter. You, your family are all
part of this great big human experiment. There is no such thing as a nobody -
we are all somebody - and we all need to share our own story, for our sake, our
children's sake, and for the sake of history. We all complete part of the
mosaic of life - don't leave your spot empty.
What's obsessing you now and why?
Besides cleaning out my storage closets, I guess it would be finishing well. As I get older I see more and more people, especially women, abandon their dreams and give up on who they once wanted to be. That frightens me and motivates me to encourage women to never give up on their dreams, especially as they get older. You may not be able to do exactly the things you dreamed about as a little girl, but you could possibly have a version of that dream if you are aware. You have to learn to see the possibilities and the promise in situations you have at the present. The answer to a dream may be right in front of you, but you have to be 'open' to see it. Life has a way of working things out if we are willing and patient. I feel everyone has a purpose to fulfill and I want to play my part until the end. My Dad has a saying, "If you're not living, you're dying." He has set a great example by making the most of everyday, even now, as he's working on his 98th year on this earth. Play your part, never give up, and strive to finish well. That is my mantra.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
What are you working on now? A novel about the cross-over world between the earthly and the spiritual, due out in 2022. Also, I am working on a devotional book about my travels accompanied by my photography, another children's book, and a book of essays. I like to stay busy. :)
My belief is - if you really want something, you will work for it, make time for it, and make it happen. Hoping something will happen is good, but hope combined with action is unstoppable.