(There are spoilers in this discussion ~ please read the book first, before reading this section)
How did you come up with the title, Not To Us?
The title for this novel was easy enough because the premise is all about people/characters who have led fairly normal lives in suburbia America. They drive nice cars, live in nice houses, and lead nice lives. The trick is underneath the surface, when one bad thing happens to our main character “Ellie” and then another that affects them all. The title Not To Us serves as kind of a double entendre (love that phrase). These characters believe nothing bad ever happens in the world; they have that “not to us” kind of attitude; and then something bad does happen. That’s where the title came from. I came up with it fairly early on and never questioned whether it was right or not. It is.
Is Ellie based upon a real person? Is Carrie?
Short answers: No. And, no.
Long answers: Ellie is a figment of my imagination. she is the personification of so many women today that strive to have it all–she’s attractive, funny, smart, and accomplished in her own right, but is eclipsed somewhat by the others in her life. She’s not perfect and the reader quickly discovers this early on in the book, but she’s lovable and we want to root for her.
Carrie. Carrie. Carrie. She was so much fun to write. She’s smart, selfish, attractive–a taker, in the extreme. Carries runs her world and she gets what she wants no matter what and/or who she hurts in the process. On the one hand, Carrie appears very giving with Ellie, taking charge in reaching out to Dr. Lisa Chatham, for example. But, on the other hand, she’s Carrie; and she takes what she needs when she needs to, regardless of who she hurts or destroys by doing so. In Carrie’s view, the world rotates around her. That’s it. She was a complex character to write about. Frankly, I like her on a lot of levels., but I dislike what she does to Ellie and Michael in the story.
They (Ellie and Carrie and Michael) are all fictitious characters that I made up…really.
What made you think of this story?
I was washing dishes and looking out the window and thinking about a friend of mine who was dealing with breast cancer. I started asking the question: what would you do if you were confronted with a life threatening disease? Would you change your life up? Make different choices?
That’s where the book started, so I wrote out the first draft and it was about 70,000 words. I thought, hmm, not bad. But then, I started thinking: what if you were focused on yourself and fighting cancer and something else happened that rocked your world in a completely different way? That’s where the story went.
What made you base it in Seattle?
Everything I’ve been writing before this had me in Paris or New York or Chicago. I was constantly doing a ton of research to get it just right. Then, I read a book that was based in Seattle; and I thought the next story I write is going to be around here, so it’s easy to describe and then I won’t have to look everything up all the time and slow the writing process down. And, that is why Not To Us is based on Bainbridge Island (a place I’ve been to, like twice). Ha!
What is your writing process?
Well, I usually go for a manicure on Mondays. Write a couple of hours; then, come back and dust. By three in the afternoon, I’ve changed out of my apron and greet the children at the front door wearing a cotton blue dress and a string of pearls and carry a wooden tray ladened with healthy snacks and iced spring water as they arrive home from school.
No. No. Not really.
My process is that someone just told me that summer’s about over; and somehow, I’ve missed last fall, winter and spring.I’ve been pretty despondent since my birthday in early February, having marked some kind of milestone that no one lets me forget about. Literally, I write or edit or study writing all the time. I am grateful to Costco for frozen lasagna and their Penne pasta with chicken. My family hates all that stuff now because they’ve eaten it so often. I cleaned the bathrooms just yesterday after a month of experimentation with mold. Thank God for Kaboom. If I ever recoup the money that I’m not making by writing full-time and giving up a career in high-tech sales, I’m hiring back my house cleaner, Amy, in a proverbial heartbeat.
More…on my writing process?
I’ve been lucky enough (smart enough) to sign up for classes at The Writer’s Studio out of New York. I take these online classes (10-week sessions). I just finished my sixth session (at the Fiction III level) this summer. These classes have upped my craft exponentially. I can’t keep up with the ideas I have for novels in taking these classes. Some of my short stories are pretty good, too. I hope to put those out into the world when I can find or buy some time. Of course, this is after I finish the novels I’ve already started on…
And, that’s all I have to say about this… (Yes, I love the movie, Forrest Gump , and Tom Hanks, of course.)