I’m pleased to be doing this interview with author, Deborah Doucette. Her contemporary novel, Bad Girls, is set in a small, New England town and is the story of three women and choices they make as they embark on a journey of discovery, both shared and distinctly their own. The novel is now available at Amazon Kindle and in print.
Linda: Deborah, one of the first questions I like to ask authors is when did you first want to write?
Deborah: I’ve always enjoyed writing, as far back as adolescence. But I made a decision to write professionally after my last child was born in 1986 - a surprise baby. I had been a real estate broker for years, but at the age of thirty-eight with a two-year-old and two teenagers, I decided I needed a change and I knew that what I really wanted was to write.
Linda: Who has influenced you the most in your life?
Deborah: My grandmother and my Italian heritage, both have afforded me many treasured memories and many blessings.
Linda: What books have most influenced your life and/or your world view?
Deborah: I started reading “grown up” books very early. At ten or eleven, I read Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights and The Wake of the Red Witch. They were books of my mother’s that were stored in an attic that I would retreat to for quiet and privacy. I was always sort of old beyond my years, and those stories resonated with me even at a young age.
Linda: Do you have a favorite author? What books have influenced your own writing?
Deborah: The first book that spoke to me as a writer was Margaret Atwood’s Cats Eye and the author who has had the strongest, ongoing influence on my writing is Alice Hoffman. Turtle Moon was the first book of hers that I read, and I’ve read most of her subsequent works. I turn to Alice Hoffman’s works for inspiration still.
Linda: Many writers feel their inspiration comes from beyond them at times as they are working with their characters. Do you experience that in your writing? Do you “walk” in your character’s shoes? (I must say I had to smile in asking that question after seeing the opening paragraph to your book.)
Deborah: Yes, that is funny, Linda…”Bad girl shoes, hard and beaten, black as licorice. Twisted.” I’ll answer your question by telling you that the book I intended to write was one about the Italian-American immigrant experience. But, some family stories and local lore led me in another direction entirely. Once I began, the characters took over, leading me in directions I never intended to go. When I develop characters, I do walk in their shoes, they are people I come to know intimately and care about deeply. I respect where they want to go, and follow them there.
Linda: Tell us more about your new book, Bad Girls, and what led you to write the story and create your main character, Rebecca?
Deborah: I wanted a protagonist that was conflicted. Someone I could relate to. Someone who had hidden and/or buried strengths. All I can say is Rebecca was born out of those desires. Once she came to life, Rebecca lead me to explore some of the broader issues that are woven through the story: what it means to be true to yourself, why women make the wrong choices - particularly in men, how society defines who is a “bad” girl and who is a “good” girl. I also wanted to write about the way in which our past creates blueprints for our future.
Linda: Are you working on another novel at this time?
Deborah: A new novel has been percolating in my mind for quite some time. It will be told in flash back, flipping back and forth between the past and present, whose protagonist has undergone a battle with cancer and come through a totally changed person. A before and after story. With a touch of romance and a lot of magic.
Linda: What is your favorite quote, Deborah?
Deborah: That’s a good question and the only one that pops into mind at the moment is one that I heard just recently. I don’t know which author said it but in a discussion about writing they said the goal was to have the reader “sink into the dream of the story.” I love that!
Linda: I understand you have a new edition of your nonfiction book, Raising our Children’s Children: Room in the Heart, coming out in the spring of 2014. Tell us about that.
Deborah: In the early nineties, I adopted my biological granddaughter and became involved in the issue of grandparents raising their grandchildren. I worked with my state’s Elder Affairs Division to develop a manual, spoke at conferences, and ran support groups. I listened to many stories from grandparents in that situation. I learned quickly what an enormous issue it was, and still is; millions of grandparents are raising millions of grandchildren, many under dire circumstances The book “Raising Our Children’s Children,” was written to help grandparents and the grandchildren they were raising, as well as to raise awareness in the general public. These issues still exist today and now, more than ever, grandparents need help. I recently updated the book and it will be released as a second edition in 2014 with new information, a new cover and a somewhat new title, “Raising Our Children’s Children: Room In The Heart.”
Linda: How did it come about for you to write a Blog at the Huffington Post?
Deborah: It was rather out-of-the-blue! I had been reading the Huffington Post, came across an article about grandparents raising grandchildren, and posted a comment there. Many weeks later, I received an email from an editor at Huff Post asking if I’d like to Blog for their Huff Post 50 section - for the over fifty crowd - and that I could blog about whatever I wanted. I said yes immediately and then asked my daughter, “What the heck is a blog!” After an explanation, I started submitting blogs on a variety of topics and I average about one a month now on topics ranging from grandparenting to the Marathon bombings.
Linda: What other comments would you like to leave us with? Thoughts to ponder? Thoughts on writing?
Deborah: One of my Huff Post blogs is on the writing process. My favorite quote about “the process” is from Tom Clancy, who said, “Just write the damn story!” And that’s the way I write - I don’t create outlines, or have goals to write a certain amount of words a day, or get up at five am and tear my hair out over a blank page. When I am in the middle of writing a novel, or anything else really, I think about it all the time. When I finally sit down to write, the words come out. I believe in a good story. But at the same time it has to mean something. A lot of what is being called “Women’s Fiction” are just stories, but with no real meaning or relevance. For me, a novel has to leave the reader with something beyond a sitcom episode, something lasting and true, to be called literature. I hope that lots of people read Bad Girls. And I hope that as readers they want a multi-layered story that reveals something important and gives them food for thought. And, finally, I hope they “sink into the dream of the story.”
Linda: Thank you so much for this wonderful interview, Deborah. I know how important it is for a writer to inspire and touch people deeply with our words, whether it be in a novel or a nonfiction book. That’s what writing is all about. I’m sure you’re doing that with your words. Good luck on finding a large audience for Bad Girls and continuing to raise awareness on the grandparenting issues.
Read more about Bad Girls at Amazon