Welcome Roberta Goodman to Author’s Corner:
A Meeting Place for Emerging Authors
Q: Tell us about yourself; include how you got started writing.
A: Before I get started, I’d like to thank you for featuring me on your blog, Barry. I appreciate the support. I’m an extroverted introvert. I’m very social and talkative when I want to be, but I can be just as content spending time alone. Individuals who don’t know me assume I’m quiet and reserved. I’m actually quite loud at times. I think the tendency to raise my voice, which most of the time I’m unaware of, stems from being raised in a large city. I grew up in Philadelphia. I moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland with my husband, then boyfriend, fourteen years ago. I hope to move to a warmer climate in the future, because I dislike cold weather. I can tolerate cooler temperatures, but I hate winter and snow with a passion. I’m an outdoorsy person who loves to walk, hike, bike, and swim. I practically go insane during the winter months when I’m cooped up in my house because it’s too cold to do anything outside.
When I turned thirty-six, back in 2008, I found myself on a quest to find my passion in life. There had always been this desire inside of me to tell stories, but up until that point I was busy being a SAHM to my two children, so I waited until they were both in school to pursue a writing career. In January 2009, I embarked on writing my first manuscript. A Sojourn in Hell is loosely based on situations that occurred to members of my family. I weaved fact with fiction to create a story that’s an emotional roller coaster ride. I revised it in 2012 to make it a much deeper read than it had been originally. It’s my second published novel, but the first one I self-published.
About seven months ago, I started focusing my energy on becoming more involved in the indie writing community. I created Tweetathons on Twitter to showcase some of the amazing writers I meet there on a daily basis. I initially focused on writers, but I realized there were lots of other talented individuals as well as those trying to make their small businesses successful that deserved support, so I started including them. My scheduled tweets run four days for twenty-four hours straight. I devote Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays to help spread the word to all my followers about books, music, or anything else they might not learn about otherwise.
Q: What is your favorite part of writing? Is there a least favorite part? And, if there is, what is it?
A: My favorite part of writing is creating scenarios that will get readers thinking. I prefer writing fiction to non-fiction overall. In the case of my upcoming memoir, I used my writing ability to document a very dark period of my life, because I needed a way to cope. It was a cathartic experience to know my words might end up helping others who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis of themselves or a loved one. I haven’t discovered a least favorite part of writing, at least not yet.
Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser? And, how would a typical day look for you while you are writing?
A: I’m a complete pantser. I make notes about my characters, but I never outline. I do my best writing when I’m alone in my home. I can’t concentrate unless I have a quiet atmosphere. I usually start right after my kids leave for school. Depending on my mood, I’ll either sit on my sofa or at my dining room table with my laptop. I’m a caffeine addict, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so I usually have a Diet Coke or a cup of hot chocolate sitting beside me. I usually work for hours completely unaware I’ve done so until something alerts me to the time.
Q: Were you inspired by particular writers or genres and, if so, how did they influence your style?
A: I’ve been inspired by every writer I’ve ever read. It’s a list that’s way too long to write here, but I can’t honestly say any of them has influenced my style. I like to believe I have my own unique way of telling a story which is independent of anything I’ve chosen to read.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I’m ashamed to admit I’m not reading anything at the moment. When I have free time from editing my memoir, which I’ve been working on daily, the only thing I want to do is rest my eyes.
Q: Was your road to publication difficult or a walk in the park?
A: I apologize in advance for this lengthy response. My journey to become a published novelist wasn’t an easy one. In January 2009, I began writing my first manuscript. My tragic romance/family saga took ten months to complete. After many months of querying to agents I failed to secure representation, so I decided to set it aside.
I was inspired to write Snow Escape a few months later. It took me a total of five and a half months to complete it. Again, I started the process of querying to agents. I had high hopes someone would feel as passionate about this work as I did. I sent out over a hundred queries and waited patiently for the responses. Rejections started to pour in from about half of those queried. After several months I ended up shelving Snow Escape.
I started doing some freelance work, because I couldn’t bring myself to write a third manuscript. I didn’t even consider self-publishing, because I didn’t feel it was a road I wanted to go down. At the time, I falsely believed the stigma some people attach to self-publishing, and I was convinced the only way I’d succeed in the writing world would be through traditional means.
At the beginning of 2011, my husband was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. It was an incredibly devastating time in my life. I knew I had to stay strong and find a way to deal with the stress of his having to go through surgery and chemotherapy, so I began to write a manuscript about our struggle. After I completed it I started the process of querying to agents, but I didn’t get very far. I was told several times our story is too personal, therefore it isn’t marketable. I made the difficult decision to set it aside.
In July 2011, something compelled me to revise Snow Escape. Within a week, through fate, I had the number of a small independent publisher. I called her up and told her about my project. I ended up sending her a query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters of my manuscript. A little over a week later I received an email stating my work was going to be published.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much control I was giving up by going with an indie publisher. Couple that with the fact promotion of the book was my sole responsibility and most writers will understand why I decided to try self-publishing. After I revised my first manuscript, I was able to overcome the intimidation and stigma I initially felt about the process and it’s not something I regret. I plan on self-publishing my memoir.
Q: Now that you are a published author, what is the most rewarding thing for you?
A: It’s a powerful thing to know I possess the ability to entertain readers or help them escape their own troubles just by reading something I’ve written. If I can get them to relate to my characters, and to become engrossed in the story, then I’ve done my job.
Q: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to combat it?
A: I have suffered writer’s block, and I continue to occasionally. The only thing that helps me combat it is to walk away from what I’m working on. I’ve learned the more pressure I put on myself to break through a block, the worse the block will become. I’ve purposely shelved work, because I felt I couldn’t do justice to the story by forcing myself to continue. I do find myself going back to most stories, but there are some I’ll probably never finish. My philosophy is I can’t beat myself up when inspiration leaves me.
Q: What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?
A: Characters give me the most trouble. I have a tendency to focus more on their flaws as opposed to highlighting their positive traits. I believe flawed people are much more interesting to read about, so I always have fear readers will think my characters are boring if they aren’t flawed enough.
Q: Though A Sojourn in Hell was your first manuscript (2009), a very different novel Snow Escape (September 2011) saw the ‘light of day’ ahead of it. What was happening to bring this about? In other words, what inspired you to write Snow Escape as your first published novel?
A: I endured three huge snowstorms during the winter of 2009-2010. Two occurred within a week of each other. I was sitting at my computer querying agents for my first manuscript, A Sojourn in Hell, about a week after the back-to-back storms. I looked out the window and watched as more snow fell. Thankfully, this storm was going to pass my area and head up to New York. I remember thinking Thank God we’re not going to get hit from another storm. Let New York get clobbered with it, because I’ve had enough snow. That’s when I had this light bulb moment. What if you had a woman in New York who’s trapped in her apartment, because it just keeps snowing? What if this woman uses online dating to meet guys and one of them decides to contact her during the blizzard? The details basically came flooding to me, so I was compelled to write them down. Here’s a brief description of my murder mystery/thriller:
Set against the backdrop of a historic snowstorm, Snow Escape is the story of one woman’s innocent foray into the world of online dating turned deadly.
Allegra Maxwell is a 30-year old, single school teacher looking for love. Having chosen to use the Internet to meet the opposite sex, she encounters an articulate, prospective beau on the night the biggest blizzard in history is blanketing the Big Apple. Their pleasant conversation soon turns sinister when she discovers “Charles” has been stalking her for weeks and claims he lives in her building. When threats of destroying her little by little are made Allegra must stay one step ahead of the mind games. Turning to neighbors for help, tragic consequences ensue.
When her sanity is questioned because the online evidence her stalker exists disappears, Allegra must prove he does exist, and she isn’t losing her mind. She’s convinced he’s somewhere in the building just waiting for the right time to attack, so when a power outage thrusts her into darkness will she be able to overcome the helplessness she feels? Placed in a situation that’s spiraling totally out of her control, while trapped in her apartment building with no escape, will she survive until the authorities can reach her?
Q: A Sojourn in Hell—a multigenerational novel spanning almost 80 years from the Depression through WWII and beyond—is rich in historical research. Was it difficult for you to capture the life during that period? Describe how you went about preparing yourself to write this novel.
A: It wasn’t difficult for me to capture life during the period starting with the Depression, because I grew up in a family whose members enjoyed talking a lot about what life was like in the 30s, 40s, 50’s, etc. The only thing I did to prepare myself to write A Sojourn in Hell was recall stories told to me throughout my lifetime. Writers write what they know, so for my first manuscript I chose to build a story intertwining fiction with real life events. Here’s a brief description:
A Sojourn in Hell focuses on the tragic romance of a young woman. Losing the love of her life in combination with a dysfunctional upbringing help to shape the subsequent decisions she makes. As you’ve stated in your question, the story is a multigenerational tale spanning almost eighty years. From the Great Depression through WWII and beyond, the reader is witness to the changes one woman’s life undergoes as she becomes a wife, mother, and grandmother as well as the trials and tribulations her own children end up going through. Alcoholism, untimely deaths, physical and mental abuse, adultery, and life-long regrets abound in this heartbreaking character study of human emotions.
Q: A Sojourn in Hell explores the long reaching effects that violence has on a soul. Why do you think this is a common theme in literature?
A: Writers know most readers can empathize with suffering characters; ones who’ve been physically or emotionally scarred from a violent incident or incidents. If they’ve been a victim of violence themselves, reading about a character in a similar situation can sometimes help individuals delve deeper into how the violence they experienced shaped their own lives. If they’ve never been a victim of violence, reading about it will hopefully build compassion within them for those who have suffered.
Q: Do you have plans to extend A Sojourn in Hell to follow any of the central characters on new adventures? Do you think there is scope to follow up the novel in this way?
A: I don’t have any plans to extend A Sojourn in Hell. The supporting characters are definitely interesting individuals, but I purposely built the book around a complex main character. The reader follows her throughout her lifetime until her death. I felt content ending the story with her passing and letting readers use their imaginations to envision what happens to the other characters in the future.
Q: Your most recent project Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer will soon be published. Recently you wrote “…Persevering is closest to my heart because everything documented happened. I hope to spread the word about Testicular Cancer by releasing this story.” Cancer has touched many families including my own. I am still battling stage 3 prostate cancer (Gleason 7) after a prostatectomy 2 years ago. Describe this most recent endeavor and how you hope “to spread the word about Testicular Cancer.” How can people reading this Blog help you reach your goals?
A: I’m sorry to hear about your struggle, Barry. I certainly hope you win the battle. Cancer is an insidious disease that can strike anyone at anytime. I was hit with this realization when my husband, who was thirty-six at the time, was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer in January 2011. He underwent an orchiectomy to remove his testicle which we later learned contained two tumors. When TC is suspected removal of the testicle is the only way to perform a biopsy. When it was discovered the cancer had spread to his pelvic area, he was forced to endure four aggressive cycles of chemotherapy for a total of twenty doses.
It was a very stressful time for my entire family, because we didn’t know what to expect. When I initially looked for information about TC, I was overwhelmed by the medical jargon. I also discovered not many people have written personal accounts of their TC battles. It’s not a cancer that gets much publicity, because the numbers of men who get it are overshadowed by the number of individuals who get other cancers. I decided I needed to document what was happening to better educate people about the emotional upheaval and the treatment options for this particular cancer. I knew very little about chemotherapy until my husband went through it. I didn’t realize older people can’t get chemo in the amounts he received, because they’re not strong enough to handle it.
Writing down what we went through was my way of coping with a situation I couldn’t control. If I can reach those who might be comforted by reading what my husband and I as well as our family went through, and triumphed over, then all the work I’ve done writing, revising, and editing it will be worth it. If I can educate those going through a similar situation, so they are aren’t terrified by the experience, then all the suffering that happened in our lives won’t be in vain.
Q: Where can readers find you? And, where can readers find your books?
A: Website/blog- http://rogoodman.com
Facebook Author Page- http://on.fb.me/Wm9RBE
Linked in- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/roberta-goodman/44/886/b87
Goggle + – https://plus.google.com/103358666573770201293/posts
Buying info for Snow Escape:
Amazon UK- amzn.to/1h1FjfF
Write Words Inc-http://www.writewordsinc.com/snowescape.html
Barnes & Noble-bit.ly/11x6dBK
Buying info for A Sojourn in Hell:
Amazon UK- amzn.to/15MdlCe
Barnes & Noble-bit.ly/168oIAJ
Buying info for Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer:
eBook coming soon to Amazon, Amazon UK, & Barnes & Noble
Thank you Roberta for taking time from a very busy schedule to participate in this interview. I hope all goes well and I am looking forward to your next book.