interview with my mom!

I try to write a blog post a week and I typically write my weekly post on the weekend. When I’m out of town, as I was this weekend visiting my mom so we could both do our taxes with the family accountant, it makes finding time to write a post very challenging without neglecting my maternal figure. The way I saw it, I had two choices: I could either skip the blog post this week or I could somehow combine my time with my mom with completing the task.  Since I’m rarely one to refuse a challenge, I made it work. For my blog post this week, I bring you my interview with Susan—my mom.

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Besides being the woman who gave birth to me, my mom is also one of my most productive writing muses and among the strongest and funniest women I know. (I take after her, of course.) Even though she’s been my mother for *cough* years, there are things even I don’t know about her. So, I decided to conduct this interview. As you’ll see, the questions become increasingly personal as we both warm up:

Meredith: Who are your favorite authors?

Susan: Eileen Goudge (my mom is so impressed and a little envious that Eileen is actually a dear friend of mine), Julie Buxbaum, Belva Plain, Meredith Schorr (fourth. She mentioned me fourth), Jennifer Weiner, Cynthia Freeman, and Maisie Mosco.

Meredith: What is your favorite genre?

Susan: women’s fiction and family sagas (immigration experience, rise to riches)

Meredith: Where do you get your books?

Susan: The library, Jewish Community Center, my daughter. I very rarely buy books.

Meredith: How influenced are you by covers?

Susan: Not very. I’m more drawn to the title and reading the blurb. I also get recommendations from the Hadassah Best-Seller list. (You think my mom is Jewish?)

Meredith: Do you care about reviews or if you’ve heard of an author before you read a book?

Susan: Not at all.

Meredith: How do you feel about sex in books?

Susan: I used to be more interested in it, but after I’ve experienced practically everything, it doesn’t titillate me anymore (TMI, Mom. TMI!) It doesn’t turn me off, but I skip a lot of it.

Meredith: Why don’t you buy books?

Susan: Too expensive.

Meredith: Would you ever consider getting an ereader?

Susan: Yes

Meredith: What is holding you back from getting one?

Susan: Not having someone to set it up for me and show me what to do. I  don’t think I can handle doing it myself. (Like mother, like daughter) I’m a technophobe.

Meredith: Do too many typos in books bother you?

Susan: Very rarely have I come across books with a lot of typos, at least that I’ve noticed. (Yeah, but she noticed a mistake in my book that no one else caught – apparently, there is no such thing as a Ford Escalade – the car Cheryl was driving in How Do You Know?)

Meredith: Have you ever wondered if you’d be able to write a book?

Susan: It’s crossed my mind, but I don’t think I’m talented enough. I’ve had ideas about books but to write one? No.

Meredith: Tell me one of these ideas.

Susan: A man leaves his wife to fend by herself with her children and she goes back to law school and becomes a lawyer and she faces him in court one day – she’s the prosecutor and he’s the defendant. What does she do? (Note to self: book 10 maybe?)

Meredith: Do you think your own life could make an interesting memoir and, if so, why?

Susan: Absolutely. Because I made lemonade out of lemons. When I was working, I didn’t want to have any credit card debt or interest and any time I got money, I invested it while others spent foolishly. I didn’t want to worry about the buck when I retired and I made it my business to be independent even though I was a single mom with a deadbeat ex-husband and three children. While all the other kids had Benetton shirts and designer jeans, my girls couldn’t and when they got older and had jobs, half the paycheck had to go in the bank and half they could spend how they wanted to. (I’m sorry I begged you to take me shopping all of those times!)

Meredith: Do you think your conservative outlook with money was passed along to your children?

Susan: Absolutely. (No one tell her about the Christian Louboutin shoes I bought a few months ago.)

Meredith: Of what in your life are you the most proud?

Susan: My three children. My biggest accomplishment. All three are beautiful human beings on the inside and the outside.  (*blush*)

Meredith: Is there anything you would have done differently if you could go back in time?

Susan: Yes. I’d be more attentive to my children when they were little, I would have studied harder, and I’d be nicer to my mother.

Meredith: What is your favorite part of being a grandma?

Susan: They’re not my responsibility!

Meredith: When you’ve observed your two older daughters raising their children, have you ever thought that how they dealt with something was not how you would have done it?

Susan: Yes, only one thing. My grandchildren have too many material things and I don’t think they appreciate the hard work their parent’s did to get those things for them.

Meredith: How do you think your daughters were better mothers than you?

Susan: They were more involved.

Meredith: At seventy-three years old, how do you feel about the aging process?

Susan: I don’t feel differently than I did when I was younger. I’m grateful for my continued good health. When I have my annual mammography and freak out about it, I’m so grateful for good results. I don’t take it for granted since life can change on a dime.

Meredith: At what age do you think you were the happiest so far?

Susan: Right now. (Wow. Finally something to look forward to.)

Meredith: Do you think that people who say quality of life decreases as we get older are wrong?

Susan: In my case, yes, because I’m healthy, have all of my marbles, a pot to piss in, three wonderful children, and friends. I’m active and don’t have to worry about where the next dollar is coming from. That makes me happy.

Meredith: As you get older, obviously your body changes as well as your skin. Was this a difficult transition for you and did you notice it happening?

Susan: In my 60s, I noticed my neck and eyes changing and so I had work done. I never thought I’d have money to do that. If you can do it, do it! Menopause came and went with no hot flashes. My period just stopped and that was the end of it. And I didn’t dwell on it. It’s a rite of passage. You can’t go back so don’t dwell on it. You can’t go back so you might as well enjoy the time that you’re in. (Can I hear a round of applause for my mom’s attitude, please. She’s an inspiration.)

Meredith: If you could have been any career you wanted, what would you choose?

Susan: There’s really no career I would have wanted, but I am sorry I didn’t study harder in school – that it wasn’t a priority in my life. Getting an education was not a priority, but that’s how you were raised in the 50s. You were raised to marry well. I never thought I’d have to earn a living and neither did my parents, but I don’t blame them. Divorce was less common and I thought I fell in love with the perfect guy. He was an Ivy League college graduate who went into his father’s established practice. No one could have predicted how it would play out.

Meredith: What are your talents?

Susan: Playing mahjong and canasta (LOL)

Meredith: Who are among your celebrity crushes past and present?

Susan: Pernell Roberts, Kenny Rogers, Peter Riegert,  Alan Arkin, Josh Duhamel. (She was almost somewhat age appropriate until that last one…)

And now for the lightening round:

Love or money? Money (Mom…)

Salt or sugar? Sugar

Appetizers or dessert? Dessert

Extended foreplay or a quickie? Quickie.

Bald or hairy? Bald with beard

Television or movies? Television

Red meat or chicken? Red meat

Vegetables or fruit? Neither (hehe)

Dogs or cats? Neither (Says the woman who loves to cuddle with all of my sister’s dogs and dragged us to pet stores to look at the puppies even though she wouldn’t let us have one!)

Overweight or bad skin? Overweight

Rain or snow? Rain

Pants or dresses? Pants

Blind or deaf? Deaf

And there you have it: Susan Goodman at a glance.

Thanks for playing, Mom. I love you!

Isn't my mom cute?

Isn’t my mom cute?

Hope vs. the worst-case-scenario

I love the feeling of being hopeful and excited and anticipating good things. It’s a rush. The future is wide open and bright and great things are comin’ around the mountain. In contrast, when things take a disappointing turn, which they often do, it’s like a punch in the gut. Sometimes being let down hurts so much that I can’t catch my breath.

I have to ask myself: are the hopeful moments worth the disappointment that often follows? Is it better to not allow yourself to believe good things will happen in the first place so that you have less distance to fall when things come crashing down?

I posed a question on the Meredith Schorr, Author page on Facebook asking people if they allowed themselves to get excited and hopeful about things or if they were always focused on the worst case scenario and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under them. I got mixed responses. I’m somewhere in between.

I do allow myself to get keyed up about things. I try to be cautious and stay in the moment, but I do find myself getting revved up about the “possibilities” and I have to consciously reign myself in. But no matter how many times reality does not meet my expectations and I swear to never allow myself to believe the best case scenario is within my grasp, I find myself living that high again at some point.

On the flip side, even when things are looking good and there is no reason to suspect anything bad will happen, I automatically assume the worst is just around the corner and the slightest suggestion that something *might* be off sets me into a panic and a whirlwind of self-doubt. Even though I allow myself to get excited for a period of time, part of me is always waiting for things to fall to shit. Probably because they usually do. And usually, it is the precise moment when I allow myself to consider that maybe my doubts are in my head—a result of bad past experiences—that disappointment sets in. And when, through no fault of own and with the best of intentions, I find myself defeated and beaten down, I  insist I’ll never be able to pick myself up and begin again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my sister that I can’t do it anymore—I can’t keep dusting myself off and starting from scratch when failure is imminent.

But it feels so good to be hopeful. When I’m in positive spirits, it’s contagious as I am better able to talk my friends off the ledge too. I smile more. I have more patience. I go to sleep with a sense of peace and look forward to the days ahead of me. Each day I have faith is a day I enjoy living. That’s not to say I never engage in a pity-party of one. When the shit undoubtedly hits the fan, I cry. I sulk. I curl on my couch watching mindless television. I text my sister insisting nothing will ever work out for me. I enlist my friends to go out with me for a drink (or three). And I scream at my best friend Alan for dying and leaving me without his guidance and unflagging certainty that someone as special as me should always have hope because I, more than anyone else he knows, deserves to be happy. But then I wake up, dust myself off and start all over again. I don’t really have a choice.

So, at the end of the day, I guess I believe the hopeful moments, however fleeting sometimes, are well worth the subsequent crash and burn. And even if I didn’t believe it, it’s who I am and if the past is any indication of the future, it’s who I will always be.

Maggie Piper dishes her thoughts on tv, smug marrieds, and turning the big 4.0.

For my blog post this week, I thought I’d introduce you all to Maggie Piper, the heroine of my latest light women’s fiction release, How Do You Know? I’ve asked Maggie a series of questions and she was kind enough to answer them honestly, even some of the more personal ones.

By way of background, Maggie is a thirty-nine-year-old marketing manager who lives and works in New York City. She’s an only child of a broken home, but considers her first cousin, Cheryl, more of an older sister since they grew up in the same house and even shared a room. Maggie’s love life is, well, complicated as you can see from the book blurb:

On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding toward her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.  

Appearance-wise, Maggie is 5’5” and doesn’t have much in the way of curves. Her hair is strawberry blonde and she has blue eyes and an abundance of freckles. She looks closer to thirty than forty, although it doesn’t make her feel much better about the impending 4.0. I’ve always pictured Maggie looking like the actress, Sarah Jane Morris.

Maggie Piper

Maggie Piper

Without further ado, let us begin the interview:

Me: Thanks for joining me today, Maggie! Let’s jump right in. What is it about turning forty that scares you so much?

Maggie: Wow! You don’t waste much time, do you? Haha. Honestly, I just thought I’d be somewhere else in my life by forty and fear that my opportunities to get there are dwindling away. At the same time, there isn’t much I would do differently.

Me: By ‘somewhere else’ can I assume you mean married with children?

Maggie: Yes. You don’t really hear about too many forty-year-old women who’ve never been married and the media clogs my vision with images of older men with younger women. I fear that I’m approaching an age where I won’t be appealing to the opposite sex. It makes me antsy and scared of the future.

Me: But you have a boyfriend, right?

Maggie: Had one. We broke up recently. I love Doug, but I wasn’t sure it was right. I wanted time to figure it out, but he didn’t want to give it to me.

Me: What about the people who say it is selfish or immature of you to not have your shit together by now?

Maggie: I say those people haven’t walked a mile in my shoes. There are people who think I’m putting too much emphasis on my love life and should just relax and let things happen. But the people who say that are usually the ones who have never struggled in that department. Navigating the dating world is not easy for most of us. I’m guessing the naysayers have never come so close only to have the rug pulled out from under them. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, hurt someone they cared for deeply because they knew it wasn’t right. It’s like that Match.com commercial with the woman who tells her friend that if she wasn’t married, she’d totally go on Match. She can only say that because she is married.

Me: Bridget Jones referred to them as “smug marrieds.” Do you agree?

Maggie. *laughs* Some of them, yes. But not all. Of my three closest friends, one is happily married, one is recently divorced, and another hasn’t had a relationship in close to a decade. Yet, none of them judge me for feeling the way I do.  These are people who might not understand where I am coming from based on their own experiences, but they are able to look beyond their own lives and appreciate that not everyone figures things out at the same pace.

Me: Onto a less serious question, is it safe to say you have an addiction to television?

Maggie: Ha! Yes, I do. I’ve been binge-watching television since way before Netflix was born.

Me: What are your favorite shows?

Maggie: I’m a sucker for the legal-suspense type shows, like The Following, Criminal Minds, and Law and Order: SVU. But I also enjoy the sharp wit of shows like Grimm, Veronica Mars, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Castle has it all.

Me: What are you looking for in a romantic partner?

Maggie: And we’re back to this line of questioning, huh? I’m not sure. I think that’s my problem. I wanted the break from Doug to figure that out. I don’t want to hurt anyone in the process, but I want to be happy.  As much as I love male companionship (and sex), I want to commit for the right reasons; not simply so I can tick off “married” on questionnaires. But how do you know when you’ve found what you’re looking for? How do you know when it’s right?

Me: I wish I knew, Maggie, as I ask myself that same question often. I hope you find the answer.  Is there anything else you’d like to say to those who read How Do You Know?

Maggie: I would just hope that after people read my story, they pause before making assumptions about where someone should be in life based on the year they were born. Not everyone has the opportunity or even desire to take the more traditional path and some folks have a longer learning curve. Don’t invalidate someone’s insecurities/doubts just because you did not experience them yourself. With each birthday hopefully comes more wisdom, but “growing up” is a life-long process.

my love/hate relationship with New York City

To use a phrase I’m sure you’ve never heard before, “I love New York.” Specifically, I love New York City—so much so that it’s practically a main character in three out of my four novels.

I love New York City, but there are times when living here makes me crazy and I wish I could jump into a Calgon commercial and scream, “take me away!” I just aged myself, but it’s not like you thought I was nineteen anyway…

For my latest blog post, I’ve compiled a list of my most recent grievances about The Big Apple, although I’m guessing I wouldn’t be able to avoid some of these simply by moving elsewhere.

People who walk at an excruciatingly slow pace. Not children, the elderly, or the disabled, but seemingly healthy young adults-middle age individuals who choose to move at a glacial pace even when the streets are not covered with black ice.  Not tourists who are gazing at the skyscrapers, peering into store windows, or stopped in the middle of the street to take a selfie, but actual New Yorkers who should be accustomed to the average speed of walking in the city which is significantly faster than you’d expect in say, Charleston, South Carolina or Owensboro, Kentucky. Because the sidewalks are so narrow, I literally have to jog around slow walkers sometimes unless I want to be bound to their pace indefinitely.

People who walk with their heads buried in their phones and then look bewildered when they bang into someone else or almost get hit by a car. Put your phone away for ten minutes. Your texts will be waiting for you when you arrive at your destination. So will your friend’s boring Facebook updates and the silly but addictive quizzes on Buzzfeed.

The puddles that collect on the street corners after a rainy or snowy day that are sometimes so deep, I have to walk an extra block in order to cross the street to avoid getting soaked up to my knees.

The fact that very few people make eye contact in the elevators. The majority of people are too busy robotically checking their phones or staring straight ahead to acknowledge the presence of another person. It makes me sad.

People who have loud telephone conversations in public using blue tooth and are seemingly oblivious to the fact that no one else cares what a jerk her roommate’s sister’s best friend’s boyfriend was at the party or how she’s not going to take her boyfriend back this time, even though based on her side of the conversation, she totally is.

When the local 6 train runs on the express route between 42nd and 14th street and skips my stop—33rd. I especially hate this when the announcement is not made until I’m already on the train and on the way to 14th street. There was a time when this happened every weekend for over a month and I avoided making  plans unless they were in walking distance of my apartment.

People who stop at the bottom/top of escalators in the subway system because they are catatonically focused on their iPhones. (Do you see a trend?) And sometimes, because they are just oblivious to the fact that there are people behind them waiting to step off of the elevator.

There are more, but I’ll save them for another post  🙂 What about you? Any peeves about New York City or your own home town?

I will leave you with something positive. Despite what people say about New Yorkers being cold, rude people, it’s not true. Granted, we won’t necessarily initiate conversation because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of crazy people out there, but we are almost always willing to help out a stranger. For instance, over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to find my way in an area of the city with which I’m not familiar.  Despite using Hopstop and Google maps as directional tools, I’ve found myself lost and needing the assistance of random strangers on the street. In every instance, the person stopped in his tracks and helped guide me to my destination. And in most cases, it wasn’t simply a matter of pointing me in the right direction. Most of the time, the person had no idea where I was going either, but instead of just saying, “sorry” and moving on, they went the extra step to help me figure it out. They get extra props considering how cold it’s been outside.

And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love New York City.

why writing a sequel scares me

When I finished writing Blogger Girl, I was sad to say goodbye to Kim, Nicholas, Bridget and the rest of the cast of characters (even condescending Hannah and evil Daneen), but I moved on to writing How Do You Know? on the assumption that Blogger Girl, like Just Friends with Benefits and A State of Jane before it, would be a stand-alone novel.

To date, Blogger Girl has not been my best-selling novel, but it has been a fan favorite. Soon after the book was released, fans made it very clear they wanted more. Since I had developed the character of Kim in Blogger Girl leaving her significant room for growth, both from a romantic and professional standpoint, I decided to grant readers their wish. I am proud to announce that the first draft of the follow up, Novel Girl, is almost complete and barring any extraordinary circumstances, I should be able to release it before the apple next drops in Times Square. (It’s worth noting that while the book takes off where the first one left off, I’m writing it in such a way that it can stand on its own too.)

It has been a blast reacquainting myself with the characters and finding new ways to torture…I am challenge… them and I’m excited to share Novel Girl with the people who loved Blogger Girl and hopefully a whole new audience of readers too. On the flip side, I’m terrified. Granted, with each of my books, I feared readers wouldn’t like it or would compare it unfavorably to my other books, but writing a sequel comes with the added pressure of meeting and, hopefully, exceeding the expectations of readers who loved the first installment. If a sequel fails, readers often wish it had never been written at all, especially if the first installment had a happily-ever-after. Sometimes it’s better to leave the characters in that permanent state of bliss than reintroduce them to the world and not do them justice.

Whenever I read a glowing review of Blogger Girl that calls out a favorite plot twist or aspect of the book, it is with a mix of delight and dread as the plot twists are naturally different in Novel Girl. I couldn’t write the same book twice, obviously, so I have taken the characters in different directions and thrown distinctive bumps in their journeys. I believe readers will have as much fun reading the second book as they did the first, but part of me is afraid of disappointing them. I am certainly putting as much care and thought into Novel Girl as I did with Blogger Girl as I am determined to do it justice and then some. I hope readers will be happy I wrote it and not wish I left well enough alone. My money is on the former, but I’ve never been much of a betting woman!

An avid reader myself, I’ve also been both pleased and underwhelmed by sequels of my favorite books. What about you? What are some of your favorite/least favorite sequels?