Introducing...Ms. Bojangled Nerves

Sitting here on the eve of the Kindle release of As it Seems, an absolute jangled mess of nerves, I ask myself one question: Why do I write? Why publish my thoughts for everyone to read? (Okay, that's two!) The simple answer is: I have something to say and this is how I express myself. But it's not easy, especially for someone who takes criticism to heart. I dread the moment I bump into someone I know has read my book...and they say nothing. Ouch! It stings. I'd rather they said, "nice try" than nothing! 

I can't help but wonder how this novel will be received by readers of my first book. Will they love it or hate it? Will they be disappointed with my sophomore effort? I don't know. I want to say 'and I don't care!' but that would be a lie. In my last blog post, I said 'I wrote this book for me and if my readers like it, that's the icing on the cake.' Well, I want a big ass cake made only with icing, inside and out!

Believe me when I say it's not pleasant to read a nasty review about something I put my heart and soul into. My books are my babies; the characters, my family. Imagine someone criticizing your child in a very public way? Doesn't feel good. Publishing a book is like dropping your little ones off at school for the first time ever, praying the other kids won't pick on them, that they are accepted for who they are. But...we know deep down not everyone will love them as we do. Our hope is the good outweighs the bad. The same goes for my baby, As it Seems. Not everyone will love it. All I can do is set it free and hope for the best.

My new book comes with a few disclaimers: 

One, the setting is primarily in Rhode Island but I created two fictitious towns. Why? Because Rhode Island is a small state and I believe the social underpinnings explored in this book could be Anytown, USA. I'm not pointing fingers, though if you know RI well enough you may have some idea where I got my inspiration. For my New England friends who love to read about home, not all locations are fictitious. A lot happens in Providence, Boston and Nantucket, with a few mentions of Bristol and Newport. 

Two, this book tackles difficult topics such as adultery and depression. An unfortunate fact of life is most people have experienced adultery in one form or another, or know someone who has. The same goes for depression, whether mild and fleeting or severe and lasting. It's been called 'a page turner with plenty of action', but 'could trigger some painful emotions or memories'. You've been warned!

Three, there are intimate scenes in this book. No big surprise to anyone who read my first novel! That said, you will never find gratuitous sex in any of my books. If I include this type of scene, there's a purpose. It's meant to capture an emotion that drives the story forward, whether it's love or hate, desire or despair. According to readers, the scenes depicted in my first book were 'full of love.' In my second book, the emotions are more complex and the reasons for these scenes more complicated as a result. Some are heartwarming, others are not. 

Four, because of the subjects addressed, I don't recommend this book to anyone under 17. Not because the intimate scenes are more graphic than my first novel, but because I don't think teenagers can understand or appreciate the stage of life I've depicted here. This is written from the perspective of people in their forties, not their twenties as in What if I Fly? This isn't about the first flush of love. As it Seems is about what happens once that flush fades and how love grows and changes. 

Disclaimers aside, this story is not doom and gloom, I promise. By the time you reach the last page, you will have a smile on your face, and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart. 

Fact vs. Fiction

People have started to read the book, and the feedback is trickling in. All positive so far, though I suppose if they didn't like it they wouldn't tell me! I'd read their bad review on Amazon or Goodreads! I've received a lot of questions about what's real and what's not.  Someone even asked if that was a picture of me on the cover. I WISH! My body hasn't looked like that in a decade! Let me state again, this is a work of fiction. However, there are always kernels of truth in any fictitious work. 

I went to a Wally Lamb book signing last summer, and he summed it up pretty well.  We write what we know. It doesn't mean we know it well, but there is some basis of truth in everything we write. My plot is fiction based on little nuggets of truth from my life, my characters are fictitious, but are comprised of an amalgamation of traits from different people I've met over the course of my life. Imagine a silo.  At the bottom are a dozen itty, bitty kernels of truth and the silo is filled to the top with piles of fiction.

So, here are a few truths...

Is Julia me? No. Do we have some similarities? Yes. We both have dark curly hair. We both love history. We both went to school in NYC. We both did summer theater. We both grew up in Bristol, RI. My parents are also divorced. I am a teacher. I have traveled around Europe. I did go to a society wedding with a guy and that bathroom scene really happened (those b**ches!).  I don't want to give the plot away so I'll keep the other similarities to myself, but these little factoids are what I built a fictitious story around. 

Is Will real? Hell, no! I know people from his world, but his character is a whole lot of men I've met rolled into one. I'll be honest, I've never met a society guy who has ever followed an unconventional path. Does that mean a man like Will doesn't exist? No. There might be, I've just never met him. The men I've met from that social sphere have all lived the life expected of them. That doesn't make them bad people, or ignorant, or whipped, or any other word that pops into your head. With the exception of maybe two men, the life set out for them is the life that makes them happy. My character Peter is one of those guys.

Ellie.  I know foul-mouthed butt-in-skis with the best of hearts and intentions. Me included. But no one from that world, which is what I think makes her a more interesting character. I like the idea of a society woman, someone raised in a somewhat oppressive world, who bucks convention and lets it all hang out, doesn't keep her mouth shut and does whatever the f**k she wants to do.

Gabby. She started off based on my best friend, and went in a totally different direction with each revision.  The only similarity remaining between my friend and this character is she's not afraid to say what's on her mind, and she'd (at least in theory) kick the ass of anyone who hurt me.

Julia's parents and step-parents. The circumstances of my parents divorce are not at all similar to what happened in the book.  Julia's relationship with her father is complicated, as was mine when I was her age, but that's where it ends. Well, my dad does like recliners and sports, and lives in a raised ranch...but yeah, that's about the sum total of their similarities. I had to dramatize their relationship, and the one between Julia and her mother and stepmother to make the story more interesting. My life is pretty boring! Have to spice things up!

The people of Poppasquash. Yes, I babysat for a family on Poppasquash for many years. It's true, we are from different tribes, no doubt about it. Poppasquash is a different world from the one I grew up in, BUT the family I described in the book IS NOT the family I babysat for. They are kind people. I was always treated with the utmost respect and would never, ever want to hurt their feelings. The kids are all grown up now and I don't know much about their lives anymore, but if they're anything like their parents, they're amazing people. 

Gram.  She's real.  I wrote a character based on my real grandmother, Mae. She was loving and kind, religiously watched soap operas and made the best meatballs.  She loved Joe Montana, the Red Sox and her family more than anything. She's been gone for almost seven years and I miss her terribly. I didn't want to leave my other grandma out, so I combined them a bit, adding some character traits of Grace's, as well.  She worked in the lace factory and sewed up a storm. Gracie taught me about birds and nature and art and rhinestones. She died when I was in college and it was when she died that I had 'the dream'.

Places and Events. 

Bristol's 4th of July (post) Parade. The crowds disburse. The arrow points to Hope Diner.

Bristol's 4th of July (post) Parade. The crowds disburse. The arrow points to Hope Diner.

The Hope Diner is real.  I forgot to change its name before I submitted my final draft.  Oops!  So hopefully this is some good publicity for them! Great place. I'm not at all close to the owners or waitstaff, but you MUST order the chourico and grilled Portuguese sweetbread if you go. Delicious!

Bristol 4th of July Celebration.  True, all true, except now the concerts are held at Independence Park. If you've never been, you must experience it once in your life! Bucket list item.

Letters left outside Juliet's House in Verona

Letters left outside Juliet's House in Verona

Casa de Giulietta, Juliet's Secretaries. All true, except I was never one of her secretaries! Gorgeous place to visit whether you're a Shakespeare fan or not. A must see.

Statue of Juliet, Verona Italy

Statue of Juliet, Verona Italy

Christmas Pasta. Yes, every Christmas Eve my family eats spaghetti with black olives and anchovies. It's a tradition passed down for generations. Of course, the secret ingredient was kept under wraps until I was a teenager, when I was already hooked. It's salty but good!

September 11th.  The day everything changed, not just for me but for our country. The way Julia found out is the way I found out. In my classroom, teaching the Elements of Culture. But I was teaching full-time and we didn't dismiss the children. As a matter of fact, we weren't allowed to say anything to the kids, so I had to pretend like nothing was wrong as we went about our day. To say that was difficult would be an understatement.

Hope I didn't give too much away!  Off to continue writing my second book, As it Seems (as in... nothing is as it seems). It's a much different story than What if I Fly, NOT a sequel. Once you finish the first book, you'll see there's no need for a follow up.

Happy trails!