1.Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
Because of my family history of early mortality, I take good care of myself – exercising daily, keeping an eye on what I eat. I’m already past my genetic “sell-by” date, so every day is carpe diem. Fortunately, it’s too late for “early mortality” but I’m very cognizant of time running out.
2. Do you remember what was your first story (article, essay, or poem) about and when did you write it?
At the age of nine, I published my first four-page newspaper, The Hollywood Star, about a Pacific Coast League baseball team. It contained news but most of it was my youthful, biased opinions, celebrating my latest hero on the team. I typed out four carbon copies, then had to type it twice over to satisfy all my “subscribers.”
3. What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
AS ALONE AS I WANT TO BE is a defense of an introverted lifestyle, lived with both intention and intensity. I prefer interaction on a one-to-one, though I’ve spent much of my life in more public careers. The book reminds readers that being alone is necessary for the incubation that leads to personal growth and is not the same as being lonely.
4. How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
AS ALONE AS I WANT TO BE is a series of essays, written in pieces over about a three-year period. The essays flowed quickly. Word count is meaningless for me, unless I’m writing for a literary source that prescribes a specific number. I tend toward direct, sparse meat-and-potatoes writing with little lyricism. My original training was in journalism and that could account for the speed and no-frills style.
5. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t sit down to write essays until I’ve spent time incubating and formulating the main points in my head. Once the opening sentence has been “written” in my head, I’m off and running until I finish it. It’s like turning on a fire hose.
This is not true with fiction, though. With a short story or play, I’m more inclined to process the story as I write. I want to see where the characters take me.
6. Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
I have a long history of performing. I was the first female disk jockey in LA in the mid 1960s. I’ve had my own cable TV show in the Portland, Oregon area and lived out several incarnations of singing in jazz and cabaret clubs throughout the country. In the early 2000s, I organized a Dixieland band, where I played the cornet and sang. I also sang with a big band for five years. The lifelong, volatile struggles with that performing passion is a large part of the just-published memoir.
7. Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
I think it’s more accurate to discuss books that have influenced my life. I have always been drawn to people who have been through difficulties in order to create themselves, especially but not limited to women. As an aside, I think that partly accounts for Michelle Obama’s popularity just now, just as it helped Katharine Hepburn in the 1930s and 1940s. That said, I would read most anything Robert Caro or Gary Giddins puts out; they are the best story-tellers around. I don’t read fiction unless it’s a play.
8. What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
Two years ago, I began a series of short stories set in “old” Hollywood in one form or another. There are eight stories now (six have been published to date, two reprinted). I’d like to write a few more to comprise a book about “women of a certain age” who are coping with the oppressiveness of the industry as well as the end of their careers. I’ve written two plays with this theme, too, and want to write more.
I also have another full book of personal essays which I humorously call FASCINATING ME: ESSAYS FROM AN UNCONVENTIONAL LIFE. Not sure it’s publishable but it was fun to write.
9. Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
Yes. There are two main categories: women like me who have been held down because of gender but who aren’t march-in-the-streets feminists, and people who are seeking a role model for living life authentically. I would like to think there’s an educated group of readers who might appreciate my honest and direct writing style, too.
10. Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
If you’re a memoirist, find out who you are before you sit down to write because it’s your job to let us in. If all you’re doing is telling stories, it’s insufficient to hold our interest. You must tell us what matters to you and why. Many successful memoirists these days sell well because they have endured tragic circumstances, are famous or have a pathological personality. Those stories, while affecting and even entertaining, can’t be easily translated into helping others. We love watching train wrecks but we don’t learn much from them. My mission was to reveal but also to educate. With effort, one can learn how to live a healthy and productive life.
11. What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Be yourself. Live honestly.
12. How many books you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
I am always reading. I’m the nonfiction book critic for Fourth & Sycamore, a small literary magazine in Greenville, Ohio. When I’m not reviewing, I’m reading for enjoyment. I’m currently savoring the new biography about Rock Hudson, usually while I’m on the exercise bike in the morning. I love biographies and autobiographies by people in show business, by the few articulate people in sports or in the political arena. I also enjoy political and cultural history.
13. What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is the most important to be remembered by readers?
People seem amazed by the fact a woman from my era has achieved mastery in so many areas but, of course, it was what I expect of myself. While it wasn’t my overall intent to fulfill all my dreams, I have done just that. The message to readers would be to go for it—whatever the “it” is. And only by knowing who you are and what truly matters can you do that.
14. What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
From what I understand, there is a gradual return to people reading actual books, not just the eBooks so ubiquitous today. I hope that means more people are reading and not living on their iPhones, texting and tweeting. We live in an ADD age, however, which doesn’t bode well for substantial writers. While I am active on Facebook, I haven’t as yet brought myself to live in the land of tweets and blogs.
15. What is your opinion about your publisher – Adelaide Books?
I am very grateful to Adelaide for its consistent confidence in me as a writer. Once in the fold, I’ve felt supported and honored. It’s a new publisher in the book department and I hope to be around as it ramps up its expertise in promotion. It feels sort of like family, one I want to support as best I can.