Tell us a bit about yourself-something that we will not find in the official author/illustrator’s bio. Do you have any unusual creative habits?
I am a person with a lot of ideas. I have been a voracious reader since my early childhood. When I am not writing, I dream a lot about what I will write. I am a visual learner. I create outlines and lists in my head, even in the middle of the night. Eventually, those thoughts end up on my computer on Chrome. When I am not writing, I research everything I can about the subject I want to write about, and download books on my Kindle so that I always have a ready supply of background information. Because of the demands of my legal career and family responsibilities, I only had time for legal writing, and articles about legal subjects. I published over sixty articles in my field of family and criminal law. Now that I am older, and in a sense freer, I am allowing my imagination to take me, ever increasingly, toward fictional characters and stories. Much of what has been residing in my head for sixty plus years is ending up in Times New Roman font. The other expression of my creativity is in my paintings and illustrations. I study at the Art Student's League, and I have recently created illustrations for children's books. I work on them in the studio there, and at home. I frequently go to bookstores, museums, galleries and exhibitions, and look at books regarding art, to give myself a 'good eye.' I alternate between writing and my artwork, so that my mind is stimulated seven days a week. One practice informs the other.
Do you remember what your first story (article, essay or poem) was about and when did you write it?
Even as a child, I wrote. I remember accompanying my mother to the private school where she taught as a high school English teacher when I had school vacation at a public school. I was in seventh grade at the time, and she was teaching high school seniors. She taught a class about writing with free association, and then asked the students to write a story using that technique. She told me that I should join in on the assignment. Later, when we arrived home, and after she read all of the stories, including mine, she told me that she was so proud that I understood the concept, and that my writing was on par or better than the much older students. Given that she had extremely high standards and was a harsh critic of herself and others, her words meant a lot to me. I consider that "work" my awakening in terms of my creativity. I am grateful to Adelaide Publishing for publishing my first novel fifty-one years later, and for being in contract with me for two more books to be published in the spring of 2020.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I am working on a fictional novel entitled “A Grey Divorce Support Group: From Pain to Peace.” It is about divorce focusing on the older woman's point of view. I am using everything I learned as an attorney and in my research, from friends and family, and from my own personal experiences to inform the characters I am writing about. I was the Director of the New York State Parent Education and Awareness Program, which involved statewide educational programs for divorcing and separating parents. At that time, I wrote scholarly articles on the topic. I am now letting "free association" take me to new places.
How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
I have two books of fiction, which will be published by Adelaide in the spring of 2020. The first is entitled “Women in Crisis: Stories From the Edge,” and the second is entitled “Through Walter’s Lens.” The first was inspired by women I have either known, read about, or imagined at all stages of the life cycle from teen years to end of life. They are each talking to their psychiatrist about important issues impacting upon their lives. Each chapter is a different woman. The second is the story of a post World War II street photographer who encountered many famous photographers of his day, mostly in Germany and in New York City, from the time he was a young adult until his death at eighty-one. It took me approximately four months to write each of the books. I do not write a specific number of words daily. Some days I may write an entire chapter, and other days I may write three pages. When I am not writing, I am researching for the book.
What do you deem the most relevant about your work? What is the most important thing to remember about it?
My work is, at heart, about the struggles people go through in life. Psychological and ethical issues intrigue me. I lay out individual's concerns, their highs and lows, their strengths and weaknesses, where they have succeeded and where they have failed. I try to give a realistic and comprehensive picture of whichever character I am writing about. Some of my characters are combinations of numerous people I have known, with bits and pieces coming together in a mosaic. In the end, I am always hopeful that the reader will connect with my characters, and, in some cases, provide inspiration to them. All of my books are set in a particular period of time. I want the reader to remember the concerns of individuals during that snapshot in history. Nonetheless, the struggles are meant to transcend the snapshot and to be universal in nature.
Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I began to study art at the Art Student’s League in New York City, and in other venues, in my late fifties. I continue to do so. My artwork is rendered in many mediums including collage, acrylic, oil, pastel, watercolor, and pen and ink. Recently I wrote and illustrated two children’s books, which will be published by Adelaide, entitled “Juliette Rose’s Dream of Becoming” and “William Wondered Whether Worrying Was Worth It?” The first book is a wish list of human traits, embodied by famous women in different fields, which make for an exemplary human being. The illustrations show each of these women, with a visual representation of the corresponding traits. The second book is about certain things that William’s family worried about when he was an infant, toddler, and preschooler. The illustrations show each of those worries, with a corresponding solution.
Authors and books that have influenced your writings? Artists that have influenced your work?
The author who has intrigued and influenced me the most is probably Oliver Sacks. His concern for his patients, and his medical knowledge, were combined in unique and readable ways to inspire. I was particularly enamored with his books, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," "Awakenings," and his memoir "On the Move: a Life." I am attracted to stories of dysfunctional families, written with ironic humor, including Augusten Burroughs' book, "Running With Scissors." I continually read memoirs, including Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking." I am fascinated by memoirs/ biographies, including "Just Kids," by Patti Smith. In terms of my artwork, I am drawn to the works of Henri Matisse, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Frida Kahlo, and Picasso. I am attracted to the subject matter of their works, their compositions, and, most importantly, their use of color.
Do you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think-who reads and who should read your books?
My readers could be anyone, female or male, who have an interest in how people feel about what they experience in life, and how various individuals deal with challenges and triumphs. Even when my book is about women, men will want to understand the female perspective and will learn about it from reading my works. My books will appeal to all ages, from sophisticated teens, to the elderly. People who are particularly interested in the psychological aspects of humanity should read my books.
Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
Writing is challenging and requires discipline and endurance. You have to spend enormous periods of time in your own head, doing research, and on your computer. You have to be able to spend time alone. In my experience, the more you write, the more you want to write. It is important to believe in yourself and your own vision, and not to be too sensitive to criticism. Writing is something you do because you have to express yourself. You almost do not have a choice. The main thing is not to be discouraged by the challenges.
What is the best advice (about writing) you have ever heard?
Writing regularly is important. It is a discipline, and the more you practice it, the better you become at it. Also, writing down your thoughts, even if they come to you in the middle of the night, is helpful to delve into your subconscious levels.
How many books do you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
I read approximately one hundred books per year. I am re-reading “Heartburn,” by Nora Ephron at the moment as I am working on a book about divorce. My favorite literary genres are memoir, autobiography and biography.
What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
The advent of the Internet has helped publishers and authors to disseminate the work to a wider audience. Publishers and authors have become involved in social media in order to market their books. In addition, bookstores still seem to be surviving, book fairs continue to thrive, and book clubs have become more popular. Authors and the publishing industry must be current with the times. What is important is that people have the opportunity to read the books, and anything that publishers and authors can do to promote them, in whatever forum, must be done.