On the west side of Milwaukee. In a blue collar neighborhood very much like the one featured in Good Graces
When did you begin writing?
I was born with a pencil in my hand! One of the first things I can remember getting down on paper was a poem for a school contest, entitled I am the Sun and I'm in the Sky. I won! Encouraged, I tried my hand at a script for 77 Sunset Strip. It was my favorite TV show back in the day. I must've been around nine at the time. I thought I'd come up with a pretty good story, and asked my mother to send it to Hollywood for me. Bless her heart, she did. I waited every Friday night for weeks to see Stu and the rest of the crew solve, The Mystery of the Dog Collar. Alas, some dreams do not come true. I did receive a nice 8 x 10 glossy of Ed "Kookie" Burns, though, so I was rewarded for my efforts. I kept a diary for many years. Wrote more than I had to for school assignments. Came up with some comedy skits in high school and college. During my working years as a DJ and interviewer, I wrote all my own pieces. When I moved out to LA, I worked for an in-house advertising agency and wrote thousands of commercials. As odious as they are, it was good preparation for my writing career. I journaled. Wrote outraged letters. It wasn't until seven years ago, at the age of 54, that I wrote my first novel, Whistling in the Dark.
What is your newest book about?
Good Graces is a sequel to my first book, Whistling in the Dark. Set in Milwaukee the following summer, the summer of 1960, it's the story of two young sisters, Sally O'Malley and her Irish twin, Troo. A heat wave has everyone in their close knit neighborhood on edge. Especially when a series of disquieting events begin to unfurl.
What inspired you to write it?
Not so much a what as a who. Shortly after Whistling in the Dark was released, I was inundated with mail from readers asking for another book about the sisters. My response was, "Oh, thank you for liking the book so much, but that will never happen. I think I actually said, "Over my dead body will I write a sequel." I then proceeded to write, Land of a Hundred Wonders, the story of a young brain damaged woman set in small town Kentucky. Tomorrow River, my next book, was also set in the South. After I'd handed in the manuscript, I realized that I was feeling homesick. I wanted to set another story in Wisconsin. This time in a small town. I tried, but when I began writing it, Sally and Troo's voices kept popping into my mind. And those of the readers who enjoyed them so much. I eventually surrendered. I was scared. I thought it'd be a challenge I might not be able to handle. Could I recapture the story line? The feel of the neighborhood? I needn't have worried. When I finally committed, it was like the sisters were just waiting for me to show up. Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
As you know, if you want to be traditionally published, you need to find a literary agent who is willing to represent your work. Whistling in the Dark was rejected by over 150 agents. (It went on to become a NYT bestseller.)
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
At your local bookstore, Amazon.com, B&N.com. It's widely available, thank goodness.
I'm currently touring around the Midwest, doing lots and lots of book clubs and trying like heck to finish another story. This one is a mother/daughter tale that I'm just have a ball with. Hopefully, it will be available sometime in 2012.
Release: September 2011