So please join me in learning more about Linda Rettstatt. I will have a review up for this book early next week.
How did you celebrate when you found out your first book would be published?
That's actually a funny story. I was living in Memphis at the time. A friend from Pennsylvania had just flown down for a visit and we were meeting my roommate for dinner at a local pizza restaurant. I stopped by my house on the way from the airport and checked email. There was a contract offer from Wings ePress for my first novel, And the Truth Will Set You Free. Our dinner became a celebration, though we didn't alter the plans. Most people would have gone out for steak and champagne. We still had dinner at CiCi's Pizza Buffet--$3.99 per person for all-you-can-eat. It's become a standing joke now. When I get a contract, I call my friends and order pizza.
With each additional novel that gets published, does the thrill remain the same?
Absolutely. Each book is like a new birth. I tend to fall in love with my characters and so each publication is a celebration of their lives.
You have several books coming out this year, Next Time I’m Gonna Dance came out in January (and in paperback in April), Shooting Into the Sun came out in May, Renting to Own will come out in August and Love, Sam in November. With all of those books, have you had time for anything but writing? :)
That explains where the times goes. J I do have a 'regular' job four days a week. But writing is a passion and it energizes me. Most evenings, I'll take a few hours to edit, critique, or write a few scenes. My three-day weekends are dedicated to writing, with an occasional break to tend to housekeeping or to go out with friends. I always tend to work on two or three manuscripts at one time, so it's not unusual for me to finish one first draft and, in a matter of weeks, finish a second manuscript.
Since I’m reviewing Next Time I’m Gonna Dance next week, let’s discuss that one. Without giving anything away - what is Next Time I’m Gonna Dance about?
Emmie Steele has already survived one bout with breast cancer. During her recovery, her husband walked out. Now, two years later, Emmie discovers a lump in her other breast. As Emmie goes through diagnosis, surgery and follow-up treatment, she examines her life and considers regrets. She is surprised that her one regret is that she never learned to dance, and she resolves that, if she is given another chance: Next Time I'm Gonna Dance. Emmie is supported by her four best friends since childhood: Brett, an attorney; Lynn, a teacher and Emmie's sister-in-law; Chris, a nun; and, Polly, the wild child of the group and a writer for a soap opera. These women laugh and cry with Emmie; they push, pull, and carry her through her ordeal. And then there's Sonny who has loved Emmie since high school. Sonny steps in and teaches Emmie to dance--with her feet and with her heart.
Where did the idea for Next Time I’m Gonna Dance come from?
Next Time I'm Gonna Dance started with the title. I was thinking about things I've not done in my own life. I'm not much of a dancer, and I joked with my friends that, in my next life, I'm going to come back as a dancer. Well, that started me thinking and asking the 'what if' questions that spark creativity. What if a woman was faced with a potentially life-threatening illness and the one regret she could think of is that she never danced?
I have a mother who has had breast cancer and is thankfully a 14-year survivor and also a grandmother who survived the disease (and I already have to get my yearly mammograms due to family history), was this book based on anyone you know personally that has gone through this disease? (You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to - I’m just nosy)
I have known women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and two women who died from the disease. But when I considered a plot for this book, it wasn't with any particular one of those women in mind. Rather, it was recognizing that breast cancer affects all women, even those of us without family history who are never diagnosed. My hope is that Next Time I'm Gonna Dance will serve as a story of inspiration and hope, and will also encourage women to care for themselves and to support other women who are battling this disease.
Since this book is about Emmie and her desire to learn to dance, have you taken dance classes?
Ha, ha. I have a friend who was at one time a dance instructor. Years ago when I said I could not dance (something that made no sense to him since I am a musician), he insisted I could and proceeded to try to teach me. I say 'try'. After a very frustrating hour, he admitted that I was hopeless, saying, "I've never know anyone who couldn't do a simple box step." Simple for him, maybe. Then he said perhaps it was a math problem--I just couldn't count!
But there are many ways of 'dancing' in life, and I believe we each find our own way. Writing is my dance.
Crystal: I think you have made a great point on finding our own dancing in life.
What made you decide to write women’s fiction?
I had taken a long hiatus from reading in my young adult years. I was busy about other things, mainly music. But when I picked up a novel by Elizabeth Berg, I fell in love with the story and with characters who seemed so real. I read everything she had written. I had envisioned myself as a writer when in high school, but had neither the self-confidence nor the encouragement to follow through at that time. And at that age, I probably had little to say that would be of interest. After reading Berg and a few other writers, the passion to write was once again stirred in me. I also have a background in clinical social work and worked as a therapist for a time. I heard story after story from women who were depressed or defeated and who had to search inside themselves to summon the strength to change their lives and move forward. I had also been conducting a group for women who were dealing with mid-life issues. When I finally sat down to write, it made sense to meld these two interests.
Do you plan your books out or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I'm very much a seat-of-the-pants writer. I generally start with the title or the what-if question and write a story synopsis--very sketchy, though. I've learned to write short character bios because it just makes it easier to keep the character and facts consistent. I love to follow the trail of crumbs the character leaves for me as her story unfolds.
Do you get time to read? What are your favorite types of books to read?
I'm a voracious reader. Right now I have a stack of five books lined up for summer reading. Of course, some are women's fiction. But I also enjoy mystery and contemporary romance. In addition to Elizabeth Berg, I love books by Kris Radish, Lisa Scottoline, Janet Evanovich, Elin Hilderbrand, Sherryl Woods, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, among others.. I just finished reading The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers. It is one of the most beautifully crafted books I've ever read.
Crystal: I love Elizabeth Burg and a lot of the authors you mentioned - they write wonderful books.
What is your favorite room in your house?
I live in a spacious third-floor apartment. I love my living room with its double-sized arched window overlooking the pool and the woods.
Crystal: Sounds gorgeous
What is your favorite spot to read in?
I usually read at night before bed, so I tend to read in bed. That is, after my cat goes through her ritual of pacing between me and the book. I have an e-book reader and buy many of my books in electronic format. It's much easier to handle and convenient for travel.
What is your favorite snack food?
Having recently modified my diet because my body is rebelling, I have to rule out the usual suspects...er...favorites: potato chips, nachos, pizza. But I'm hanging onto my chocolate (preferably dark) for dear life (or death). I am certain that, when I die, the undertaker will have to scrape chocolate off my face.
Crystal: I fully agree - I cannot live without my dark chocolate - in fact I'm eating some right now.
What is your favorite season?
I love autumn. Though it's not as spectacular here in Mississippi as it is in my home state of Pennsylvania, I still enjoy the earthy smells that the season brings, long with the chill in the air that calls for a sweatshirt. I do try to plan a trip up north in late September or October for a view of changing leaves.
Crystal: I love autumn as well. Hubby and I lucked up on our honeymoon to Gatlinburg almost 13 years ago that the peaking of the leaves was late and we got to witness it - it was amazing. We have pine trees on the coast of NC and they are not nearly as exciting in the fall.
Do you have a schedule for writing each day or do you just do it when you can?
I write every minute I can. Sometimes, I can sneak in writing time on my lunch hour. And, as I said, I use my evenings for editing and critiquing or working on a scene. I've been known to work for thirteen hours straight on a Saturday and it's not uncommon for me to start writing in the evening and watch the sun come up. I once wrote a scene for a book while sitting in front of a slot machine.
Where do you do the majority of your writing?
On weekends, with my laptop in my recliner. Although I do get a generous amount of vacation time in my job, and I've taken off full weeks this year to do nothing but write. What a luxury.
Did you find writing Next Time I’m Gonna Dance to be difficult or did the book just take off with no problems?
The story took off by itself. And Emmie soon became real and that made her character easy to write. The challenging part of writing this book was doing the necessary research. I was concerned about getting as many accurate facts as possible about breast cancer--diagnosis, treatment regimens, side-effects, prognosis. I was blessed by people in the medical arena who were very generous with their time and knowledge. I was equally blessed to have a few women who are breast cancer survivors and were willing to read the manuscript and give me feedback from their experiences. I wanted the story to be genuine and true to not only the physical, but also the emotional, psychological, spiritual and social impact breast cancer has on a woman.
Any book signings/conferences/public/blog appearances in the near future?
I just completed a virtual blog book tour. The links are still up on my blog at http://www.onewomanswrite.blogspot.com where readers can follow the links and read the interviews and blog posts. I'm in the process of planning events in the fall to promote Renting to Own, my next release in August from Class Act Books. As I schedule events, they are listed on my website at http://www.lindarettstatt.com
Do you have a new book in the works?
I have two more books coming out this year: Renting to Own will be out in August from Class Act Books, and Love, Sam is due out in November with Champagne Books. I'm currently working on the third rewrite of a new manuscript titled Unconditional. And I have two other stories in various stages of completion. (I'm never bored, and I never have writer's block.)
Anything else you would like to say?
I'd like to thank my readers. Without you a book is just a bunch of words. It's when those words are read and touch the reader's heart that they are given life and meaning. I love to hear from readers, so please do visit my website at http://www.lindarettstatt.com and sign the guestbook or email me. You'll find excerpts and reviews of my books there, as well.
Thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview with me
Thank you, Crystal, for having me here today. It's been a pleasure.
Thank you again, and please check out Linda's books', visit her website and stay tuned for my review of Next Time I'm Gonna Dance.