Your memoir Aprils and Decembers is pretty raw. What made you want to tell such a personal story?
The whole experience of writing this book started out as a simple, personal journal.
…OK…more like an extraordinarily long diary. After six years of writing about all the things that happened in my life, I stepped back and realized I had 400 pages of it all actually written down…that makes a book!
Has your son read this book? It’s dedicated to him. I mean, the Viceroy…
Haha! I know, I know… Everyone asks about the Viceroy.
To answer your question, no. It’s too much for him now. He’s only 16. Yes, I dedicated the book to him and the entire purpose of writing it was so one day he could maybe understand me better, maybe understand the complicated relationship I had with his dad with a little more clarity. But I didn’t write it for Ben as much as I wrote it for myself with a nod to Ben as the source of my inspiration. To leave out those intimate details of the story would have been inauthentic and unfair to the overall narrative. The Viceroy was important in my transition through all that grief. But yes, it’s a bit too much ‘real life’ for a teenager.
The people who love this book the most have fallen in love, had their hearts broken, mended deep wounds and survived more than a few really tough stages in their own lives. Ben hasn’t gone through those things yet. One day, though…a long, long time from now.
How have your parents reacted to the book?
Naturally, they were hesitant to let me tell some of their stories. We all carry the same kinds of shame but the gift of this book comes by showing each other – meaning everyone who reads it – how universally flawed we ALL are. My parents transitioned through Forgiveness just like I did. In some ways, telling these stories healed all of us.
Have you always been a writer?
Always. I started writing in a diary as soon as I learned how to write in cursive. I wrote President Reagan telling him I didn’t like some of his Administrative policies, I think I was probably in middle school when I started this. Anytime I’ve ever quit a job, I felt like I had to write to my employer telling them exactly why I was so unhappy. I am a diligent sender of thank you cards. I’ve always been a letter writer, and love letters were part of every intimate relationship I ever had. I express myself best with pen and paper. It’s who I am.
What do you think the character “Troy” would say about this book?
My husband’s real name was Bob and if he were alive and here with us to read this book himself, I believe he would say two things about the stories I’ve told. Number One, he would say “You’re right, we made some mistakes.” Then he would follow up with “I’m sorry, and I just want you and Ben to be happy.” He was a good man…a flawed man, but a good man. I have forgiven him and if he were alive, I hope he would forgive me as well.
What was the reaction in your community? Clearly, some names had to be changed!
I live in a small town and people still remember many of the things that happened in Aprils and Decembers. As a result, I’ve often been touched by private, deeply personal and sincere support.
Publicly, people have been extremely kind and immensely complimentary towards this project, for the most part, but as you might expect, not everyone is going to like it. I try not to let the opinions of strangers affect me but I do worry that people misunderstand why I made my private life so public. There’s a reason, actually. I’ve always believed that there are people who need to be told “I’ve made mistakes, too,” and that has happened countless times since this book was published. The connection I’ve made with other imperfect people and their imperfect lives has made that little bit of negativity all worth it. And you know what they say. You can make the best peach pie in the world and there will still be people who hate peaches.
What are some of the pearls of wisdom you hope people take away from your story?
Spend time with your parents and have them share stories about when they were young. It’s incredible. Love your kids and protect them, no matter what. That will help them overcome a lot of the things you screw up. Then, forgive yourself when you screw up. Tell the truth and make amends. Surround yourself with loyal people and people who lift you up. Remember: your spouse comes first. A good man is a special gift but don’t ever lose yourself in a man. Be strong even when you don’t feel strong.
What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned?
Your kids are 50% nature and 50% nurture. Some things about your kids come from parenting, so make damn sure that those are the things you do well. The other half is completely genetics. Good luck with that!
What’s been the most surprising thing about publishing a novel? Are you rich yet?
I wish. I’ve realized how many talented writers out there in the world will probably never have the chance to share their work with large audiences. Publishing is mostly dumb luck, unfortunately. The industry is chock full of rejection and as a result, most writers must find contentment in just writing for the joy of it. If you go to a bookstore, you’ll notice that all the rich and famous people are right at the table in the front. The entire rest of the store is full of talented folks who have to keep their day jobs.
What’s been the best part about publishing your book?
When someone tells me, “It was like you were telling my story.” And then I think to myself, “AH! I knew it!”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope I live nearer to my mom. I hope both of my parents are still alive because I sometimes forget how spoiled I am having them both. I hope I’m still traveling. I hope I’m watching my son live a happy, successful life inside of a relationship that makes him a better man every day. I hope I am still teaching high school…just part time. Haha! I will be writing, of course!
Have a question you’d like to ask? Shoot me an email! The Contact Me form is right up top and I would love to hear from you.