Today will be the last author I am interviewing for a while due to the writing classes I’ve begun.
Please help me welcome…
Stephanie and I first met on LinkedIn in PenAndPaperWorld. Since then, we have become friends on Facebook. Now it is your turn to enjoy learning more about this delightful lady.
When did you know you wanted to become and author, and why?
I never planned to be an author. In what felt like the blink of an eye, I went from being a young woman wrestling with a temperamental marriage to a single mother of an asthmatic, autistic toddler and an epileptic infant in heart failure. There were suddenly an overabundance of WTF moments, OMG moments, and “just hold your head in your hands because you can’t even remotely believe this is happening” moments. I began writing therapeutically, and I found my recollections came in layers. I would first write what happened (like, “the baby stopped breathing in my arms, but I didn’t start CPR right away as I should have”), and I would think, “Oh, I handled that horribly; I’m such a rotten mother!” Then I’d remember, “Oh yeah; this was going on, too,” (like, the fact that I was a young, sleep-deprived, postpartum mother who had just bore witness to hours of failed IV attempts. And I was reeling over a rare, potentially fatal diagnosis, holding onto hope for survival, but not having any idea what that survival would actually mean for me or my baby. And meanwhile, I was preparing myself for the very real possibility of her passing. Oh, and I was also “mourning the death of the healthy child I thought I had” before receiving her diagnosis). Then it would hit me that 3 otherthings were happening at the same time (like my failing marriage, pathetic financial woes, and my other daughter’s increasingly bizarre behaviors), and so…if that portion of my parenting career didn’t exactly resemble June Cleaver, well…no wonder! Those were some pretty extreme circumstances! Digging through those layers was definitely therapeutic.
Then other people (specifically nurses and therapists) began to read what I had written, and said things like, “Wow, I’m working with another family right now, and I’m certain the mom is struggling with the feelings you wrote about here, but she doesn’t seem comfortable sharing her thoughts. I think she’s ashamed or afraid to open up, and I think reading something like this would really help her to know she’s not alone…that the way she’s responding to what life is throwing at her right now is only natural.” After many similar comments, I decided to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and bear my exposed, bleeding heart to the world. I figured if sharing my tale would help just one family facing similar challenges, my fear of criticism from the rest of the reading world would all be well worth it.
How long did it take you to publish your first book?
Because I had no intention of publishing, I was in no rush with the writing. That part of the publishing journey lasted a good fifteen years or so. Once the decision was made to publish, however, I took about two years to put the book together, then spent about a year working with my editor/publisher.
Are you published through the traditional method, or are you an Indie author?
I’m an indie author. I was extremely lucky to find a talented, professional, trustworthy editor/publisher through Pubmatch.com, named Donna Erickson. Donna owned a very small publishing service, so despite her very helpful hand, I’m still considered an indie author. Along with the title of “editor and publisher”, Donna holds the much more significant title of “friend”. Sadly, she had to retire early due to a recent cancer diagnosis, but we remain close.
What is the biggest thing you have learned in the process of becoming an author?
I’ve learned so much throughout my publishing journey! I would say my biggest lesson was the sad reality that there are likely countless brilliant books out there that nobody will ever have the pleasure of devouring. Being a successful indie author (i.e., being an indie author who gets many people to read his/her work) is a two-step process. Step one is writing a good, quality book. Step two is effectively marketing that book so people know it exists. That’s the real trick! I would be willing to bet that the majority of authors are introverts – not exactly a population of people one would expect to be great salesmen. If you don’t have a traditional publishing company dealing with promotion for you, the challenge is for you to shoulder it, alone. From there, the process of promotion has a steep learning curve! I resisted the title of “chief publicist” at first, but now I’m actually enjoying the process.
What is your genre? Do you think you may write in another at some point?
I wrote a memoir. I actually had some question in the beginning as to what category my story fit in. I was told very early on that because I changed the names of all of my “characters” (out of respect – and fear in one case – of those who didn’t want their names in print), my book had to be considered fiction. I have since found that pretty much everyone is comfortable with me calling this [100% true, aside from names] story a memoir.
The irony of ever thinking I would have to label With Angel’s Wings as fiction is that I have ZERO imagination. I have massive respect for authors of fiction; I could never do what they do! As for writing another book of non-fiction, I don’t have any plans to do so. I wrote an epilogue that covered the 10 years after the end of the book. After multiple requests for a sequel, I “compromised” with a monthly blog. I think of it as a continuation of my epilogue. That’s enough writing for me for now.
(Below are some pictures from the book, With Angel’s Wings, and their corresponding chapters from the book.)
Chapter Two Chapter Four Chapter Five
GoogleSites seems to be having a BIG problem today with downloading and these pictures are taking forever to do so, so please hop over to my Group Forum on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersandauthorsforum/
to see the remaining two pictures, which are in order for their pages.
I apologize for the inconvenience.
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Twenty-Two
This picture has 4 pictures on the page (missing image) This picture has two pictures on the page (missing image)
What was your biggest problem in writing your first novel?
My biggest challenge in writing my story was digging through the layers of circumstance and emotion that made it necessary to write therapeutically in the first place. It was very important to me that I was completely honest in all I wrote (what good would it be, otherwise?). Sometimes, though, truth can be lost in excuse and/or confusion. Interestingly, clarity was a surprising side-effect of changing the names of all involved and re-writing the book in a third person perspective. Those alterations allowed me to set aside some of the raw emotion, which – oddly – helped the whole process. For instance, I found I had much more patience and understanding for “Laura” than I did for myself. It was fascinating to me that altering the writing in preparation for publication ended up becoming an even more therapeutic process than the original writing!
What is the key message of your story?
There is a duality to all parenting. How many times can a parent be heard saying, “It’s a good thing you’re cute!” We love our children, but raising them is difficult and challenging, so it is not always “pretty”, wonderful and rewarding. We often get bogged down in the trenches of parenthood.
Once special needs are added to the mix of typical parenting challenges, everything is intensified ten-fold. The simple act of a special needs child picking up a toy can bring tears of joy, much less the magnanimous event of a first word or first step. But just as typical parenthood is a blending of joys and frustrations, so is the life of a special needs parent. Who can help but be frustrated to tears at the sight of a blow-out diaper…yet AGAIN…after 20 YEARS of changing that child’s diapers? Who can help but scream out in agony after months of watching his or her child suffer through gut-wrenching seizures? Who can help but be angered…that’s right – ANGERED by an autistic child who repeatedly lashes out physically in frustration over not understanding the world around him or her?
Society has deemed it acceptable to complain about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. It is the fodder of countless successful comedians. We love our children, and despite the grief they bring to the table, we more than welcome the entire package because the good so easily outweighs the bad. But with special needs children, rarely is anything so simple. Bluntly stated, special needs children can be much more difficult to love. As a parent, you don’t always “get back” what you give…sometimes, not even close. And that’s frustrating. That’s painful. That’s difficult. But we love our children. So we trudge on…silently. Because what kind of a person complains about a child who seizes…or is non-verbal…or is incontinent? Special needs parents are perpetually trapped by guilt. They feel they’ll be looked at as a monster if they complain about such hardships. And if they can’t vent – if they don’t feel comfortable honestly communicating their pain, then it can’t help but be destructive…to their marriages, their children…themselves. Honesty is the first step in healing, and that’s what With Angel’s Wings is all about – opening the door to honest discussion about REAL life with special needs children.
How did you land on “With Angel’s Wings” as a title?
My editor/publisher, Donna, helped me come up with the title, With Angel’s Wings. When she got to that line (the phrase “with angel’s wings” is a direct quote in the story, describing a stuffed angel cow), she recognized and wanted to cast a spotlight on how that particular part of the story was a real turning point. As a matter of fact, one of our title considerations was “The Cow Room”, referring to a room described in that same section of the book. After some thought (and a few laughs – because, how ridiculous would it be to name a memoir “The Cow Room”?) we decided on “With Angel’s Wings”, especially since it offers a bit of a wink and nod to the reoccurring angelic theme about one of the main characters.
On the book’s website (www.withangelswings.net) there is an “Ask the Author Forum” where you invite readers to ask questions. How did the idea of this section arise?
My two hopes for sharing With Angel’s Wings was that it would offer hope to others facing similarly difficult situations, and that it would enlighten “typical folks” – people who have no exposure to the realities of special needs in their own lives. That being said, my story certainly doesn’t “say it all”. If a reader is left with questions, I want to try to answer them. And I certainly don’t have all the answers. So, if one reader can help another reader, all the better; especially if it results in a lasting, supportive friendship! The Ask the Author Forum is all about offering an area for everyone to share questions and/or experiences, so we can all help one-another.
Tell me more about yourself, Stephanie.
With Angel’s Wings (along with the epilogue included on the book’s website and my new blog) pretty much sums up who I am. I am a mother of 4. Catherine (“Emily” in the book), 23 has high-functioning autism with mild to moderate cognitive delay. Sarah (“Hannah” in the book), 20, has a rare genetic disorder, Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome (history of 7 heart defects, non-verbal, non-ambulatory, incontinent, exclusively G-tube fed, seizure disorder, and cognitively approximately 6 months old). Will, 12, has severe ADHD and dyslexia, and Ellie, 8 – who I described for years as my [finally!] “typical” child [albeit with something of a princess complex] – was just diagnosed last fall with ADHD/dyslexia (although, a significantly milder case than Will’s). I have a 4-year degree in psychology and a 2-year degree in nursing. I worked for approximately 10 years as a registered nurse on the medical unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital, but gave up my career to focus on the growing needs of my family. When I was 40 I set out to get rid of the 10 souvenir pounds I had collected from each of my 4 pregnancies. In the process, I found my inner jock, and I now love to run and I’m addicted to Zumba. Other than that, I read every minute I can.
Book Website: http://www.withangelswings.net
With Angel’s Wings ~ Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Angels-Wings-Stephanie-Collins-ebook/dp/B00GYL9DCA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=
With Angel’s Wings ~ Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/with-angels-wings-stephanie-a-collins/1117049291?ean=9781627766807
With Angel’s Wings ~ The Later Years (Blog): http://withangelswingsepilogue.blogspot.com/
With Angel’s Wings’ Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/withangelswings
Stephanie Collins, I have enjoyed learning so much more about you and your work. I’ll look forward to seeing more from you as well. I know our readers will be looking.
Thank you again for allowing me to interview you and God bless all your efforts.