What inspired you to write your first book?
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write books. I think it was because Nancy Drew was getting so boring. I suppose, too, I was picking up on the formulaic nature of the structure and figured, “I can do better than that!”
How did you come up with the title When the Wheels Fall Off?
It just kind of came to me like a wheel falling off a truck and smacking me in the head. It was perfect since the novel deals with the protagonist’s deep desire to take up drag-racing at the same time that she’s messing up her life with her car-crazy boyfriend.
Is this your first book?
No. My first book is called A Root Beer Season, which is a prequel to When the Wheels Fall Off. A Root Beer Season is told from the point of view of 15 year old Sonja Pfeiffer, who, driven by a surge of adolescent hormones, stumbles through one existential crisis after another.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hadn’t planned on any particular message, although the first book might convey to younger readers that even though the kids of the 60s and 70s didn’t spend their days chained to Twitter and Instagram, we did go through much of the same teenage angst that they’re experiencing today. Also, hopefully, it will touch the nostalgic funny bone of a lot of us thick-around-the-middle baby boomers.
How much of your book is realistic?
Although the first book, A Root Beer Season, is based more on real events and the characters are composites of some of the important people in my life at that time, in When the Wheels Fall Off, I found that to move the story in the direction I needed it to go, I had to ‘fictionalize’ almost everything and everyone. And besides, it’s always more fun to make up lies.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favourite and why?
Well, after Sonja, who is the protagonist in the series, I think I would have to go with Dagmar. Even though she is as messed up as Sonja, she does manage to portray a strength of character that helps to guide Sonja through her uncertainties. Sonja needs tough love and Dagmar provides it.
Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
Yes. I love you all and if my books take you along that well-travelled road of shared memories of our good-old-days, then I have succeeded. For my younger readers, please know that we old fogies aren’t that different from you. Life is still about figuring things out for yourself, rebelling where rebellion is due and following your dreams.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
On good days, the way the ideas and inspiration seem to flow effortlessly, like waves lapping onto the shore. Sometimes my fingers can barely keep up with the thoughts and ideas coursing through my brain.
On bad days there is always Facebook and maybe even a load of laundry or two. I’ve been writing long enough to know that even when it seems impossible, a jumble of words and a commitment to fifteen revisions can, in the end, be worked into something coherent and maybe even suitably clever. Oh, and wine o’clock. There is always wine o’clock.
What is your favourite part?
I think it would have to be when I’m working on something that is evoking strong emotions and conflict. As every writer knows, conflict is what makes the reader turn the page. Dialogue is easy for me and I always start there, filling in the beats and descriptions later.
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
What I’m writing now—about growing up. When you’re young you think all your problems will magically be solved when you reach adulthood. Ha! In truth, that’s when you’re only getting started.
Is there one subject you would never write about? What is it?
I can’t think of anything at the moment although I must admit I suck at anything that would require me to get in touch with my inner poet. I don’t have an inner poet. Which is too bad, really because I think writing poetry can make one a better writer.
What book are you reading now?
I always have about three or four books on the go. My bedtime reading is usually non-fiction. I started reading non-fiction many years ago because the fiction was keeping me awake too long and I’d be a complete witch in the morning. That didn’t work. Just ask my kids. Right now I’m reading Joseph Stiglitz’s book called The Price of Inequality. Horrific. It keeps me awake.
For my daily Starbucks getaway, I’m reading Brian Brennan’s Rogues and Rebels and Ahdaf Soueif’s, A Map of Love.
Are there any new authors who have grasped your interest?
I’m always watching and waiting for any new books by local writers whom I know personally. I’ve acquired so many books at book launches and readings that I never have to visit a bookstore again. Of course that’s not even a possibility since, well, you know, Starbucks is located inside mega bookstore, Chapters.
Do you see writing as a career?
No. Not for me. Maybe if I sold books like Margaret Atwood I could call it a career. I certainly don’t do it for the money. I don’t think too many writers do. We write because we can’t not write. It’s like some psychotic illness. We hear voices in our heads. We talk to ourselves—sometimes even in public. We eavesdrop on other people’s conversations—all the more interesting when they’re arguing or coming close to fisticuffs. We write it all down. Is it time for my meds yet? Where are my meds?
Do you nibble as you write?
I do, actually, but only my fingernails. When the writing is going well, I forget about eating until I can’t ignore it anymore. If I won the lottery, the first thing I’d do is hire a cook who can remember to take the veggies out of the microwave before the next morning.
Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?
I still bite my nails to shreds. No interesting childhood stories come readily to mind but I think, as a child, I would have benefited from a good dose of Ritalin. My fidgetiness was cured with sharp yelling and the odd smack. My childhood was blessedly uneventful, well, except for the smacks.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Mmmm….that’s hard to know. If I win the above mentioned lottery you can look me up in Tahiti or some other tropical paradise. If I don’t win the lottery, I’ll be here, at home, more than likely taking a nap and feeling guilty about not writing.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time and endless distractions. For me it’s not just a matter of sitting down at the keyboard and pounding out words. I have to be immersed in the story and know where it has to go next so a lot of my planning and plotting is done while I’m doing things that don’t require concentration. Like many writers I know, the best ideas always seem to come just when I’m about to fall asleep. And all writers know how that turns out.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
Deadline? No deadlines for me. A deadline would kill me. I’d fidget myself right into an early grave.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Daily. First drafts are exceptionally hate-worthy. Thankfully I know that they can be fixed or deleted.
What book do you wish you had written?
Harry Potter because then I could be sending you this interview from Tahiti or Barbados. Or, maybe that 50 Shades of …….No. Not that one. Not ever. I’d rather shovel snow.
What is your best marketing tip?
I’m not sure there is any one tip that is better than another. Some writing gurus will say you need a blog and a lot of Twitter followers and the next guru will say that you don’t. I think if you’re not a Kardashian-spectacle or a bombastic Trump, a lot depends on luck. Which brings me back to the lottery…….
There’s only so much room on top of that mountain and no matter what you write and how well you write it, it is luck that will give you the name recognition necessary to put you on top. Either that or you can do something to become infamous. The press loves infamy. The more the better.
Thankfully, I no longer want either fame or infamy. The Buddhists say that it is only desire that will make you unhappy so you must stop desiring. Easy-peasy!
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
My third book is another instalment in the Sonja Pfeiffer Series and this one takes her to Fort McMurray and into the world of bush-flying. It’s called Winging It and I’m about halfway through. I’m hoping to launch it sometime in 2017.
How can we find your books, blog and bio?
You can find my books at Audreys Books in Edmonton, Shelf Life and Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, on Amazon worldwide and at my writing collective website, www.crabapplemewscollective.com.