Today, I’m mixing things up a bit. Instead of offering you my words, I’d like to share with you the wonderful words of a bright and talented woman whom I *met* early in my blogging life.
She had a dream. A big and beautiful dream. And you know something? She made her dream come true.
To write and publish a novel (and a very good one that I heartily recommend).
Life After Yes (HarperCollins/Avon May 18, 2010) is the story of Quinn—born Prudence Quinn O’Malley—a confused young Manhattan attorney who loses her father on that tragic September morning that changed everything. Now, at an existential crossroads in her life, Quinn must confront impossible questions about commitment and career, love and loss. Her idealistic beau desperately wants a wedding, and whisks her away to Paris just to propose. But then Quinn has a dream— featuring judges and handcuffs and Nietzsche and Britney . . . and far too many grooms. Suddenly, her future isn’t so clear. Quinn’s world has become a minefield of men—some living, some gone, and traversing it safely is going to take a lot more than numerous glasses of pinot grigio.
Aidan Donnelley Rowley. Aidan started a blog after securing a book deal. I stumbled on her blog in the early days when I furiously clicked on every link to connect with other bloggers. Her prose had a singular style with an artistic flair that I enjoyed immediately. In the coming months, the relevant topics that she examines and her engaging voice drew me in more and more until finally I was hooked. She uses words like virtureal, pathetiquette and digital detox to enlighten and entertain while encouraging her readers to ponder the tough questions and to acknowledge those multi-layered emotions that too often go undiscussed.
A terrific writer and a super nice gal to boot, I’m delighted that Aidan took the time in her hectic schedule to share with us her thoughts on fact, fiction, the art of writing and work/life balance.
THP: Aidan, I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I know that you are a Manhattan native with an Ivy League education (Yale and Columbia) who once practiced law and is currently a blogger, a wife, a mother to two little girls, and now a published novelist. How do you define yourself?
ADR: This question of self-definition continues to baffle me and fuel my writing. Even though I have now actually published a book, I have a hard time uttering the simple sentence, “I am a writer.” I have always chalked this inability up to insecurity, but now I am beginning to see my own confusion and my reluctance to streamline my identity as positive. I see myself as many things – a mother, a wife, a writer, a blogger, a lawyer, a philosopher – and I think this is okay. I think this is good. I think it is unfortunate that society urges us to focus our frame of self-reference so narrowly.
THP: What is writing to you? How did you come to be a writer?
ADR: Writing is everything to me. Well, not everything. Family is that for me. But writing serves such a spectrum of purposes in my life. It helps me navigate my days, it helps me excavate my neurosis, it helps me tell my stories real and imagined. A day on which I write is always better than a day on which I don’t. I think I have always been a writer at heart, but I came to truly believe I am a writer on May 18, 2010, the day on which Life After Yes was published. Until I got that objective stamp from a publisher, until I saw my book on the shelves of a national bookstore, I did not dare consider myself a writer. I hate this. Intellectually I believe, and know, that all of us who write are writers, but owning this is a different matter entirely, isn’t it?
THP: With regard to the process of writing, how do you decide when your work is finished? When do you hit “publish” or turn in your manuscript?
ADR: Great question. For me, nothing is ever finished. There is always more work to do. Thankfully, there is a bit of pragmatism lurking inside me and I am able to force my finger on that publish button and meet submission deadlines. Even though Life After Yes is technically “finished” and in final form, for me, the story is still alive and evolving in my head.
THP: On your blog, you talk about your love of metaphors. In your book Life After Yes, you discuss clichés. How do you view metaphors and clichés in relation to fiction writing, blogging and real life?
ADR: I think metaphors and clichés play important, if elusive, roles in writing, blogging, and real life. A good metaphor says so much and if we are lucky, we stumble upon one in our thoughts and in our words and in our lives. And clichés? As writers and people, we are advised to avoid them, but I am more forgiving, if not embracing, of platitudes. Not everything in life can be original and enlightening. Some stories, some blog posts, some days, will be riddled with clichés and that is okay in my estimation. That is life.
THP: As a playground philosopher (according to your twitter bio) and writer, tell us your thoughts on fact and fiction. What’s the deal? Can we humans always tell one from the other?
ADR: Another wonderful question. I think that in life and in literature, fact and fiction will forever commingle. Life After Yes is a work of fiction, the arc of its story is the product of my imagination, but there are facts in there. Facts from my experience and my existence. This is unavoidable. I think we humans are unable to separate fact from fiction and I feel that this is what makes writing and life layered and interesting. All of this comes down to one simple question that is far from simple: What is truth? Anyone who thinks this question is answerable is missing something.
THP: Tell us your thoughts on work/life balance. How do you juggle it all?
ADR: I’m not sure I believe in work/life balance and yet it is something I strive for on a daily basis. I know that when I throw myself into my writing and feel productive, I also feel as if I am neglecting my girls and my family. And vice versa. The resultant guilt is something I am trying to learn to live with. I do happen to like the juggling analogy though because isn’t this something we all do? We all try to keep those various existential balls in the air. But I am realizing that balls will drop and constantly and that, again, this is life.
THP: How do you like being a published author? Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
ADR: Obviously, I like being a published author because this is a dream I’ve harbored for some time. But. (Yes, there’s always a but.) There are aspects of this identity and reality that are hard for me. Having a book out there in the world – for people to love or hate, embrace or ignore – is a very wonderful, but scary thing and depending on the moment, I feel quite victorious or quite vulnerable. I am very thankful to have a blog where I can talk through some of my anxiety and doubts and confusion. But, yes, it bears repeating: I am thrilled to be here and wouldn’t trade it for the world!
THP: Any advice to other writers? To moms (and dads and everyone else) who want to have it all?
ADR: I am not a fan of dispensing wisdom, but if I had to say something, it would be small and simple and big and bold. And it would be the same for writers and mothers and all of us. My advice? Dream. Allow yourself to dream. As Carl Sandburg said, “Nothing happens unless first a dream.”
THP: Thank you, Aidan! I for one am looking forward to more books from you.
To learn more about Aidan, visit her blog at Ivy League Insecurities.
To order Life After Yes,visit Amazon, Borders or Barnes and Noble.
Click over to Motherese for a book club discussion and a peek at what others are saying about Life After Yes.
Image courtesy of Aidan Donnelley Rowley.