This month, I had the opportunity to talk with my publishers at Eckhartz Press. I’ve experienced a whirlwind of activity since the release of my novel in June, and the following interview provided an opportunity to briefly glance back at some of the highlights of the book publicity tour.
What has surprised you the most about the reaction to your book?
What I never expected, and what I truly love, is that I have heard back from so many readers with their very different and personal interpretations of the story and what it means to them. It’s so rewarding to be able to write a story, with my own intent and experience and perspective, and then to hear back from people where the story resonated with them in a similar manner. It’s just as rewarding when the reader experiences something very different from the book. I know that if I asked one thousand people to read my novel, there is a good chance that I would get one thousand very different and personal interpretations. That is certainly a benefit of writing fiction that I did not initially expect, and I look forward to hearing about every single one of those interpretations.
Do you have any good anecdotes from your promotional tour?
I had the fortunate opportunity to be at the Chicago Writers Association tent at the Printers Row Lit Fest this past summer. I had my book out on display and people were coming by to look and to talk to me about my story. I looked up, and I noticed a gentleman standing about five feet away, in the background, and he was looking at me and smiling. I returned his gaze, curiously. He said, “I get it. I get the allusion!” He smiled and nodded his head, pleased with himself, and then he turned and hurried away.
He was referring to the title of my book, Recalled to Life, and my indirect but intentional reference to the Charles Dickens classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, and the message “recalled to life” that signified Dr. Manette’s second chance at life after being held captive in the Bastille prison for eighteen years. The gentleman at the Lit Fest was the first person to ever share such a revelation with me. I raised my arms and yelled, “Yes!” I wanted to climb over the table and hug him, but he was already gone and lost in the crowd. I thought that if anyone, he was the one person that needed to have a copy of my book. I hoped that he would come back, so that I could give him a copy, but he never did. Maybe he will read this interview and contact me so I can personally thank him and send him a book.
What have you learned about yourself and your writing since the book was published?
Being a writer is a humbling experience. Every single day I realize that I have an opportunity improve my skills as a writer. I have a responsibility to improve—a responsibility to the reading public and myself. Every writing project I complete defines my writing career at that specific point in time. But then there is always what comes next, and what comes next needs to be better.
I try to make a conscious effort to improve my writing on a daily basis. I have a fairly extensive library of books on writing, and I find myself going to them often if I have a question or need help with something I’m working on. We have all heard that to be a better writer, you need to be a better reader, and I believe that statement to be indisputable. So, I read a lot of books across a diverse range of authors and genres. Ultimately, the best way for me to improve my writing is to just keep writing—a little at a time—on a regular and consistent basis. Only by getting the words down onto the page do I get the ability to read, review, and revise what I have written, and I find that the process of revision is often the best teacher.
I know that my writing is getting better, but it takes time and it’s a continual learning process. I also realize that much of what I wrote earlier in my career could benefit from another revision or two, and that’s okay. I can read a short story from years back and I can see where it is that I came from, and where I am at today in terms of my writing abilities. Every day is a learning experience, and it’s one of the great benefits of being a writer.
What is the question you hear the most, and how do you answer it?
Many people ask me if the story of Recalled to Life is autobiographical. I have come to think that the question arises most often because the story is so real, believable, and relatable. The story is not autobiographical but like everything I write, all that I have crammed into my head over the last fifty years influences it, and my head is chock-full of goodies. Everything I’ve read and learned and experienced, in some way, seeps into the stories whether I realize it or not.
One of the more wonderful aspects of being a writer is that I get to become other characters. I get to create a character and put that character in a situation, and then I get to put myself into the head of that character. I get to pose the questions and the character gets to provide the answers. The result is that the character takes me on a journey and it is often a journey that I never expected. Sometimes I get to lead the way and sometimes the character leads me. It’s an awful lot of fun.
Tell me why your book would make the perfect Christmas present.
Recalled to Life is a timeless story about family and the importance of taking the opportunity every now and then to put all of life’s distractions aside to focus on what is most important. Similarly, the holiday season is one of those times for us to take a break from work and all those activities that fill our daily lives. It’s a time to get together with friends and family to celebrate love and friendship, and when everything has settled down, to curl up with a good book. Why not bring Recalled to Life and the O’Hara family into your home and into the lives of your friends and family. They will be glad that you did.