“Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy night.” When Bette Davis uttered those now famous words as the movie character, Margo Channing, in the 1950 release, All About Eve, who knew she was anticipating the story line for Susan Ricci’s new memoir, Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems? But she was.
Ricci’s book, now under development, tells the story of the once again “happily married” author‘s initial reentry into the modern dating scene. Like many of us, Ricci experienced an unexpected mid-life reboot, only to immediately plunge back into the fray. Her tongue-in-cheek, play-by-play account of her personal journey back from solitude to couplehood ranges from the hilarious, to the pathetic to the altogether unimaginable, as Ricci bumps along, crashing, burning, laughing and crying each unscripted step … on a ride that witnessed far more than a single dawn.
It is with great pleasure that I now introduce you to author Susan Ricci, our guest interviewee.
Sue, welcome to Write@You! Let’s start at the beginning: What got you started writing?
I began writing a newspaper called The Hill Weekly, a neighborhood gossip rag, which sold for a dime an issue, when I was ten. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the National Enquirer would steal my idea!
How would you define your genre, and what do you find most compelling and challenging about writing in it?
I guess you can say my current book is a nonfiction narrative, although a great author friend of mine told me she sees it as more of a memoir. So based on those opinions, Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems has limits. Sadly, it can’t be a series and there won’t be a sequel, but I accept that. And the challenges I’ve faced writing this piece lie not only in expressing myself, but getting to know my voice as the main character, and wording it the way I’m feeling. Does that make sense?
Absolutely! So, tell us, where does your inspiration come from? And what’s your writing process?
The inspirational challenge, for any writer, is hooking the reader, and keeping that reader compelled to finish reading your work. I’ve written for newspapers and been published in several magazines, and the high I experienced each time a nonfiction piece was printed was like no other, because the subject contents were real. I love writing fiction, too, because I also thrive on character development; it’s so neat to shape an unknown into a ‘person’ with a real identity, and give them a problem to solve.
When did you know you were going to be a writer? Was there a specific incident or triggering incident? And how did that knowledge make you feel?
I rewrote Hamlet in modern-day slang, for my high school senior term paper. My English teacher gave me an A+ for the year and told me never to stop writing; I may have taken a few breaks along the way, but I never quit.
Balzac had a simple method for staying focused and churning out copy: He chained himself to his desk and consumed endless cups of coffee. What’s your technique?
Self-imposed deadlines and goals help me stay grounded during my writing sessions. I’m kind of distractible, so I absolutely need a quiet place to compose, a hot cup of tea or Gatorade within reach, and food in my belly to get in my zone.
How long have you been working on Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems? What’s the story about, and where did the inspiration come from?
I’m the happiest of married women, but it hasn’t always been that way for me. I began Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems, a humorous, self-help narrative regarding mid-life relationships about a year ago as kind of a journal. I decided maybe some of my baby steps into dating and relationships might be helpful to others, who may not have the courage to reach out, so I’m working it. Like everything else, it’s all a matter of perspective: Make your baggage work for you, instead of souring your outlook on life. That’s it. And I was just dying to share these little vignettes, because life isn’t over until it’s over, you know?
What are the biggest challenges you faced, so far, in writing the book?
I’ve been writing in first person about people and events I’m passionate about for twenty years, but I’ve never written as myself, or how it feels to be me, in any certain situation. I find it’s easier to write a made-up character’s thoughts/feelings via third person, but very difficult to say what needs to be conveyed about me and the lessons I’ve learned guaranteeing my future. Fortunately, early on, I discovered I have a certain ‘sense of humor‘ to share with readers that provides a hardy topping of meringue to go along with the difficult task of resuming life when you’re down.
Do you have a favorite passage from your book? If so, would you share it with us here and tell us what is it about it that has such special significance for you?
Here’s an excerpt from Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems; nothing earth shattering, but the beginning of how I managed to see the silliness in life and embrace it, without taking myself too seriously…
All Aboard the Space Shuttle…
Chapter Three: Mr. Feet and The Lumberjack
Although the grocery store is stocked with produce, the bachelors wandering the market resembles zombies as they vacantly push their carriages, and my writer’s club and church are sparse of men near my age.
The truth is, I’m lonely. I don’t want much; a companion to maybe see a movie or go dancing with, no strings attached, easy peasy.
So, how does a girl go about getting one?
My girlfriend, Julie, recently married a man she’d met though a popular Internet dating site and suggested I give it a try.
“Oh, join one, it’ll be fun,” she’d said. “You just have to weed out the freaks to get to the decent guys, and don’t take things too seriously.”
Huh. Since my experience in the garden of relationship hadn’t proved fruitful thus far, I was dubious I possessed the correct weeding skills for such a venture.
“Nah,” I reply. “I don’t know much about these sites, and even if I did, I don’t think I’m up for approaching strangers on the Internet. Remember what happened with Charley Chooch?”
However, after another evening of reruns, the bolder side of my nature was unearthed in the form of Julie, armed with a bottle of Chardonnay, and promises that this venture would be entertaining, if nothing else.
That night, when we Googled Internet dating sites, we found some very interesting scenarios which generated really good belly laughs:
Internet dating sites were available for every race, color, and religious preference. There were Internet dating for singles with Herpes, HIV, STD’s, Gay affiliated preferences, Singles in every age category; Internet dating sites for Ménage Trois, swinger types, and last, but not least, several popular sites that appeared rather normal, much to my naivety.
With a belly full of Chardonnay and a tap on the enter button, I joined a seemingly benign, popular dating service. I viewed myself as the savvy woman who just had a makeover, instead of the middle aged hag duped by her second husband. My photos were uploaded, my interests and goals displayed in cyberspace for eligible men to drool over.
I’m also what my kids call a Slow Catch.
When I told them I’d decided to try online dating, they warned me I’d be associating myself with slobs, weirdoes, or scammers.
They weren’t wrong…
What writers have influenced you the most in your writing career and in developing your writing style? What, specifically was it about them that captured your attention and imagination?
I’m most respectful regarding any other authors’ voices and styles, since I love all kinds of books and genre’s, but I’d have to say I’ve been far more influenced by visiting my peers’ websites, doing and hosting interviews, and attending writer’s conferences, than by any of our literary giants—there’s so many out there, no?
How are you planning to publish your book? Are you going the traditional or indie route? What factors have influenced your decision? What have you learned about publishing in this day and age, that you’d like to share with others?
I plan on sending Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems to an editor soon after the holidays. I’m revising right now, but every time I think I’m finished with the story, something else crops up, begging to be included.
What other books do you currently have “in development?” Tell us about them.
I’m revising a contemporary fiction novel, Slick Trespass, which focuses on the similarities of physical sicknesses and mental illness, and how these two issues affect a married couple who’re totally committed to each other, that is, before the amputation and all that follows.
Two rough-draft manuscripts await me on the back burner as well, so I will have a lot to do going forward.
What do you like most about being a writer? What, in your opinion, are the perks?
Just for kicks, and because I can, I started writing another story yesterday, and I have no idea where it’s leading me…that, to me, is the biggest perk of being a writer: You never know where you may end up!
Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you’d like to share?
No, just, thanks, Jon, for hosting me today!
Thank you, Sue, and best luck with all your writing projects!
Want to learn more about Susan Ricci? Then, visit her at:
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