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Saturday, July 3, 2010
Author Interview: Roseanne Dowell
The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Roseanne Dowell whose latest book Time to Live Again was released in May by Red Rose Publishing. She also has three other releases scheduled for August and September.
She's written several books, and they are all her favorite when she finishes them. However, her current release has a lot of her own emotion in it.
"Is it about me?" she said. "Absolutely not. My husband is still very much alive, but I did lose my sister—my best friend. Fortunately, I have another sister."
She shared with us a little bit about Time to Live Again.
"Time to Live Again is about a 58 year old widow who becomes a recluse after her husband and sister die. The man next door tries to make friends with her, but she pushes him away. Her one and only friend keeps trying to bring her out of her seclusion with no success. The little girl next door, the man’s granddaughter, and her friends begin harassing Rose, playing in her yard, building snowmen and sledding. Rose is more than annoyed and makes a fool of herself complaining to the handsome man, who she’s more than a little attracted to. That’s when the ghost of her sister shows up and begins to haunt Rose, showing up at the most unexpected times. She tries to make Rose understand that there’s still a lot of life to live."
Roseanne has always loved reading and writing. She told me she seriously can't remember not writing. When her own children were young she wrote children's stories, but never submitted anything until about eight years ago. A friend advised her to try her hand at nonfiction and ended up publishing nonfiction articles before she published any fiction.
She always thought of herself as a writer, but didn't consider herself an author until she published that first work.
"Does that make sense?" she asked me. "I mean if you tell people you’re a writer, the first thing they ask is 'Are you published?' They don’t understand you don’t have to be published to be a writer. All you have to do is write!"
She shared with me she recently suffered from horrible writer's block on a work in progress and couldn't write anything on it for about a year.
"Every time I opened it and read it, hoping I’d get past the place I was stuck, I stared at a blank screen. I just couldn’t get past the last scene," she said.
So, in the meantime, she worked on other things. One day she was emailing her writing buddy and started talking about the manuscript again—asking for her advice.
"This time I started coming up with ideas – the what if’s of writing, so to speak and suddenly it all became clear how to move on. Part of the reason, I was blocked was because I plotted out the story ahead of time and wrote the synopsis as one of our speakers suggested. While that may work for them, it didn’t work for me. I can’t and don’t write that way. Once I unblocked myself, I even created a new character and the story, while moving along the same lines, deviated somewhat from my plot outline."
"What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?" I wondered.
"The most important element in writing is to 'show' not 'tell' the story. Action, thoughts, and dialogue without the author interfering. There’s nothing worse than reading a story and hearing the author’s voice telling it to you. I want to feel the emotion, see the action, and hear the voices. I also want to taste and smell. I want to live what the hero/heroine are living."
Two authors who achieve that for Roseanne are Nora Roberts and Lisa Scottoline.
"They both bring the characters alive and I become them," she said.
I also asked Roseanne which came first—the plot or the characters. And, her answer was a definite, "That depends."
Sometimes she will look at a picture in a magazine and a character will jump out at her. At other times, she'll read something in the paper or hear a news story on TV or overhear a conversation and an idea will hit her. It's different with each story.
"One day my husband came home from the store and told me about a conversation he overheard about deadbeat dads and a story idea hit me," she told me.
She was inspired to write her first book by her friends at Book Club.
"We were discussing things we regretted not doing and I said I regretted not writing and publishing a book. They convinced me to go for it and I did."
She doesn't have a set schedule for her writing; she just writes a little every day. Sometimes she writes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon or evening, and sometimes she'll even get up in the middle of the night and write for hours.
"I tried to set a schedule where I got up every morning and wrote and that blocked me. I guess I'm more spontaneous and need to write when I feel like it, not when I'm forced to."
Roseanne told me she used to have a lovely room she called her office with dusty blue walls and ivory blinds. Since then they've moved and now she has a laptop, so her office is wherever she happens to be.
On more of a personal note, if Roseanne could erase any experience from her past it would be watching her parents, brother, and sister all die.
"Watching them wither away was awful," she told me. "My mother passed first and was fairly quick. My brother had been diagnosed with cancer long before my mother. He died three years later, followed by my father – who just gave up and died of old age. My sister passed the year after my dad. Her death was extremely difficult to take because we were so close. She’s the Mary I write about in my story. She was my best friend, my shopping buddy. We lived close and our kids grew up together. It was painful watching her suffer through the chemo and radiation. Plus, she sold her house and moved 45 minutes away and I didn’t see much of her. We lost our house and moved to an apartment the month after she passed away. It was like closing the book on a chapter in our lives."
Finally, I asked Roseanne what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out.
"Never give up. If you truly love to write, keep at it, keep submitting. If you don’t submit, you can’t get accepted. I could probably wallpaper a room with all my rejections. Also, I recommend finding a writing buddy, another author who will give you honest critiques of your work. Join your local chapter of RWA or MWA or whatever genre you write. Writing buddies are also good for brainstorming sessions. Also, write the way you want to write. There are very few 'Always' or 'Nevers' in writing. If it doesn’t feel comfortable for you, don’t do it."
You can keep up with Roseanne on her website, http://www.roseannedowell.com