I was a single mother working two jobs and attending graduate school, and late at night after my son was asleep, I’d sit in the bathroom and read. I don’t know why I chose the bathroom, probably because it was so warm and cozy. One night while reading Diary of a Mad Housewife, it hit me: The main character was falling apart and yet she didn’t even work. She had a husband. She had a housekeeper, for god’s sake. That’s when I realized that there weren’t many books about single mothers or women who lived messy lives and made bad choices and didn’t always show themselves in the best light but still loved one another, still were kind to one another. A few nights later, I imagined my Polish grandmother in the bathroom with me. “Ach, Pudel,” she said, and she nodded her head. And just like that, the book formed inside my head.
Was writing something you knew that you always wanted to pursue?
I went to a small country school, so small that there wasn’t a library. Every other week the teacher would wheel in a cart filled with books and I’d fidget at my desk, barely able to stand the anticipation of so many books. I was a voracious reader, you see. I read throughout my childhood, I read at every opportunity: While in school and in the bathtub, while out in the pasture and in the hayloft, and I even read while riding my horse. I still remember the day I knew I was a writer. It was summer and I was sitting up in a tree reading My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, and it was very green and lazy, and I was reading slowly, almost languidly. Then I came across a passage of introspection and reading over it, I suddenly I realized: This was what I did in my head all day. I was writing.
What book are you currently reading?
I never read just one book. I always have at least two and usually three or four working. Right now it’s Fat Girl, by Judith Moore; Leaving the Land, by Douglas Unger; and Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit, by Marianne Gingher, a young adult novel so well written that it never fails to perk me up.
What can your fans expect next?
My next book, still untitled, centers on Sasha Dewey, a 42-year-old woman who writes the obituaries for the Daily Anchorage Mirror (motto: A DAM good read). She and her husband have four dogs, each missing a body part: a tail, ear, eye or a leg. Sasha’s obsessed with death, having suffered a stillbirth and four miscarriages, and so she keeps the remains of her miscarried children tucked in the freezer in a Downyflake Waffle bag. The book is filled with quirky Alaska characters: A fortune teller destined to become a dental assistant; a tall journalist who only dates short men; a husband who dresses his dogs in his own shirts; an editor with a heartbreaking secret; and an ex-husband who appears at the worst possible time. The tone is quite different from Dolls Behaving Badly. It isn’t as funny, for one thing. And instead of recipes, it’s scattered with Alaskan obituaries and odd musings about death. I hope that this book causes readers to laugh at death, and cry, and fear it, and maybe, just maybe, accept it a little bit more.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Dig in deep and believe in yourself because, trust me, no one is going to hold your hand during the long and lonely journey of writing a book. It took me over seven years to write Dolls Behaving Badly. I was constantly exhausted, and I wrote whenever I could find the time: while stopped at traffic lights and waiting to pick my son up from school. I even wrote at the grocery store; I once scrawled a passage on the back of a cantaloupe. I don’t know how many times I cried, how many times I fell asleep at my desk, how often I was tempted to give up. Writing is hard work. It’s a job, and like any job, there are days and weeks and sometimes even months when you simply don’t want to do it. Here’s the truth: I almost gave up once. I took off a couple of days, and then a week. I was ready to walk away. Then I thought of my characters. I thought of them alone in the dark, half-formed in their lives, and it seemed almost a crime, almost murder, to leave them like that. Who would know them, care about them? Who would love them? I sat down at my desk and began writing again. I didn’t believe in myself, you see, but I did believe in my book. I believed in the goodness of my characters. I believed that they would lead me to where I needed to go.
You can purchase your copy of Dolls Behaving Badly on Amazon.