Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview with Nuala Reilly, Author

For anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I recently participated in a contest where I had to mention Nuala Reilly 50 times in 7 days to win 2 books.  I'm sure that I was kicked off of several friends lists due to my obsession with winning.  Yeah, I'm a little on the competitive side. While I didn't win the books, I did win the opportunity to interview the author about AUTUMN VIOLETS, the first novel in a four-part series. Since I was so impressed with the relationships between the characters in this book, I seemed to focus most of my questions on that.  So, here it official interview with Canadian author, Nuala Reilly!

SPRH: Fayette is an ideal little town that gives the reader a sense of "picturesque village that 
meets and marries 21st century industrialized nation." Did you paint the town of Fayette in
AUTUMN VIOLETS (or even parts of it) from memories made by your family while living in 
Cambridge or some other small town in Canada?

NR: Fayette is based largly (the downtown anyway) on the town I grew up in, Elora Ontario. In fact, the original cover is an artist's rendition of the downtown core.  I did make some changes, which probably occur only in my head. But the Ryan house is my parent's house, no question.  I'd like to think that Fayette could be equated to any small town with that charm and appeal though, in Canada or in the US.

SPRH: Have you any professional baking experience to draw on for Moira's Cakery descriptions?
If not, did you have to do a lot of yummy research to describe her craft? (Because I'd never
even heard of icing like you described for the Bakker wedding cake.)

NR: When I was a stay-at-home-mom with my kids for 13 years, I ran a few businesses from the house on the side.  One of them was cake decorating.  I was completely self-taught and as I did more, I learned more techniques.  During those years I went from making birthday cakes and specialty cakes to wedding cakes.  I have made the wedding cakes of all of my siblings except one, and for several other people, as well.  Interesting fact is now my oldest son is so enthralled by the process that being a pastry chef is now his career path.  He makes all the fancy cakes now.

SPRH: The strong ties between Moira and Sloane are so elegantly laid out for the reader that it is
apparent that you have sisters. The entire love-hate, "want to strangle her but would strangle
others for her" relationship was something I immediately related to.  Was it difficult to capture
the essence of the jealous-proud/endearing-irritated nature of their relationship that we the
readers infer?

NR: It was, at times.  I have three sisters. I am the oldest of them, so I am sure there are moments when that definitely comes across.  There is a delicate balance that happens in strong female relationships, especially those of family. So I spent quite a bit of time trying to ensure that their relationship was both honest and realistic.

SPRH: Further to that, I've read other novels where sister characters were quite obviously written by 
an author who is either a man or a woman who doesn't have sisters. Your portrayal of the 
true nature of sisterhood was so spot on that I actually relived several awkward memories of
my sisters and me. Was Sloane molded out of anyone in particular? Or was she a combination 
of your own sisters? Or just completely made up altogether?

NR: Sloane is definitely a combination of the traits of my sisters and of other women who were strong influences on me as I grew up.  My family has pointed out that Sloane certainly has many of the characteristics of one of my sisters in particular. But I think that is purely coincidental.  At the time that I wrote the book, I did have a sister getting married and so some of the conversations between them are loosely based on our shared experiences. Although my sister was not nearly as, shall we say, headstrong, as Sloane.  Sloane is, I think, that one perfect girl we all knew and maybe we wanted to dislike her because she seemed so perfect. But it's hard to ignore her innate charm. 

SPRH: Siobhan and Angela are both such strong role models for Moira and Sloane. One picks up 
that Moira learned how to set goals and achieve them from her mother and grandmother and 
seems to still lack all the confidence that Sloane is overflowing with. How challenging was it 
to give the sisters the right balance of character qualities and defects inherited from the elder
Ryan women to make them seem so real?

NR: I'm so glad you picked up on this.  Again, the ladies are combinations of various women in my life, this time more role models of mine than friends. When looking at my own children, I find it incredible the hybrid of qualities that they have, which are not the same in any two children, but which can be absolutely attributed to their dad and myself.

SPRH: Siobhan's character made me laugh quite a bit due to her less than diplomatic, deadpan 
nature of her words. Does she reflect "future you" in anyway? (Because I can totally see you
being THIS grandmother.)

NR: I would hope that she is a foreshadowing of the future me.  Siobhan is a mixture of myself and what I remember of my own Irish Nana, Lucy, who passed away just before I got married.

SPRH: It's obvious that Jack and Kevin only have each other in the world and as much as each one
worries about the other, their relationship is still felt to be strained. Was it Kevin's cancer 
diagnosis that drew them together? 

NR: The relationship between these two was both challenging and a pleasure to write. As a woman, I can't ever truly know the intimate parts of male relationships, but I talked my ideas for these two over with many male friends and with my husband.  I think it's clear (at least I hope it is) that they both had very difficult demons to deal with that impacted their relationship during a very formative time and that is why it was strained. However, I think when we are faced with the mortality of a loved one, those old differences seem to peel away and leave a very real, very raw centre that is both painful and beautiful. It was a pleasure to explore this with Jack and Kevin.

SPRH: What was it about Moira that helped Jack push past his "man-whore" ways? Was it more than
just the  green eye connection?  Did his father's nagging about settling down finally wear him

NR: I have had the connection with someone (my husband) that happens out of the blue and rocks what you think you know about yourself, even though it is rare.  I think in Jack's case this is true. However, I also felt for him that there was a combination of the pressure from his father, with a need to please him as well as it was just time for him. It's hard to be a hounddog forever when you are, at your core, lonely.

SPRH: When Kevin finally died, did you feel a sense of loss in your real life? (I went through half a box
of tissue, thanks a lot!) 

NR: Absolutely I did.  I knew that this would be the way Kevin would exit the story. Nonetheless, it was heartbreaking to write. It brought up for me memories of anyone I have lost in my life.  Ironically, shortly after I wrote this, the father of a very dear friend of mine passed away from cancer. I was fortunate enough to be there with the family when it happened. It was a moment (I reflected several weeks later) that made me feel like I had really been true to how a life can end. 

SPRH: The least explored character seemed to be Jaye, Moira's best friend and business partner. She
had so many great and strong qualities about her and seemed to be a huge influence on Moira.
But I was left with so many questions, like "What's with the blue hair?" and "Where does she
disappear to each night after closing The Cakery?" She's so mysterious. (I sort of pictured her
wearing black Adam Ant concert t-shirts with a tiny diamond nose piercing but still wearing pink
lip gloss and high-end perfumes.) Did any of her personality or physical description come from 
any of your own kids or any friends from high school?  Do you relate more to Moira or Jaye as a 

NR: Jaye is amazing and a character I truly loved. She is a mixture of attributes between myself and my oldest and dearest friend Sarah, with a lot of artistic license, of course.  You aren't the first one to make this comment on her.  When my friend, Kelly, read the book, she told me that Jaye needed her own story.  That is how I birthed the idea for Winter Jasmine, and really, for the whole series.  Jaye is the ballsy-est version of what I feel myself to be. She is a pleasure to write and a force to be reckoned with.

SPRH: What inspired the series titles? Are you an avid gardener? I know that AUTUMN VIOLETS and 
WINTER JASMINE are out now. When can we expect the third and fourth books in the series to
be released and what are their titles? 

NR: I am a terrible gardener.  I have a black thumb, unless it's vegetables. Those I can grow almost too well and then never seem to be able to handle.  I chose the flowers for their meanings, and the seasons because of the line "to everything, there is a season" which is I believe a Bible quote but I always remember as the song by The Byrds.  The next two books that will be released in this series are titled SPRING DAISIES which follows Sloane and SUMMER POPPIES which will focus on Angela and Siobhan, and the family at large. 
I am also now planning a second series of four to follow four men, and I hope I can do them the same justice I did to Kevin and Jack. 

SPRH: Thank you, Nuala Reilly, for this glimpse inside of the characters of your novel. I can't wait to read
the rest of the series.

If anyone is interested in checking out these amazing stories, you can find her books at and  and Barnes and Noble and Alibris.  You can also follow her blog, A Writer's Journey, at .

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Blog Audience

A lot of bloggers get into this venue to let off steam or be heard.  Some are wannabe authors trying to practice and perfect their craft while building up a reader base for once they get published. Some of us are trying to save money that would go toward therapy if we didn't have a place to vent...and then there's me...a combination of all of the above. Also, there are several attention whores, who like myself, love to hog the spotlight. That said, I have to admit a little secret about blogger.....they track your stats. This includes some of the URLs that visited my site. And guess what.  I'm being read by someone who works at herbal erectile dysfunction company. I always figured that since I'm writing about mostly women's issues, girly bits, periods and SAHM stuff that people who work for tampon, bra, and PMS medicine companies would be checking out my blog. I guess I was wrong and those dedicated to helping perpetually flaccid men are following my blog...secretly...or they're signing up as my cult followers under 'chick pseudonyms.'   I'm sorry. I shouldn't make fun of erectile dysfunction. It is a serious medical issue. And I'm just grateful that ANYONE reads my blog. So, welcome and keep reading.

Just found it interesting. That is all.

Monday, March 12, 2012

You KNOW You're Addicted to Facebook/Twitter When....

I need a 12-step NOW. I have blown off making dinner two nights in a row, taken a three and a half week hiatus from writing and now am "holding it" until either I complete answering these last two notifications or my bladder explodes, whichever comes first.

I've reached rock bottom. I know that I'm pounding out this blog post as quickly as possible (because I have to pee really badly and I know that as soon as I get up from this chair, my 15 yr old daughter is going to hijack the computer from me and I'll never get to finish.) Apparently, social networking to this degree is a really bad thing. I managed to exhaust myself the last three days in an attempt to be the world's greatest and broke-est (is that a word?) literary agent with no access to t.v. or radio talk show hosts to the point that I managed to NOT send my kids to school today as I slept until noon. Wow. It's getting bad. DAMN YOU TWITTER! DAMN YOU, TOO, FACEBOOK! (Not really. I love you, both.)

OMG. I've got to stop. If you would like to become my sponsor and have managed to detach yourself from social networking websites for longer than one year, please contact me in the comments section below. I need help now....before I have to join another site. Thank you.

Ooooh, look Pinterest has some..................

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blood Typing Information I Didn't Know Before

One day last month I was cleaning out my purse for the first time in about 10 lbs of collected crap or more and I ran across one of my husband's "dog tags" from his days in the army.  I noted that his blood type was A+ on the tag and thought about how I was B+ and how maybe one of our five kids may indeed have AB+ blood type.  I tried to do the whole matrix thingy like they taught us back in 9th grade Biology but I couldn't remember all the rules for dominant and recessive alleles and all that.  So I mentioned to my husband that maybe we ought to get the kids blood typed and he said that it seemed a logical idea. Imagine that! ME...logical. (Yeah, I never thought I'd see that in the same sentence either.)

So he left yesterday on a business trip abroad and I was worried because I hadn't heard from him yet so I thought I'd take my mind off of things and took the two youngest on an errand and we happened to pass by the medical lab.  Samiya noticed and said, "Mom, can we go get my blood tested to see what I am?"

Aiman, of course, thought this was a fantastic idea, too.  How often is it that the youngest boy gets to do something before his two older brothers get to do it? "Me, too! Me, too!"  I checked to make sure I had the money for such a frivolously logical endeavor and I I said okay.

We went in and Samiya hopped in the chair.  The phlebotomist poked her finger and smeared 3 drops of blood onto 2 slides.  Aiman began to have second thoughts about this whole blood thing and I told him to park it.  If we're going to do one, we're going to do them all. So, Samiya came out O+.  I thought that this was weird. Maybe my husband's "dog tags" were wrong. It wouldn't have been the first time that the Egyptian army had made a mistake in paperwork, right?  I mean, I've always had B+ blood.  I typed it myself in that same 9th grade Biology class AND I had donated blood religiously all my life until some idiot decided that I might be spreading Mad Cow Disease because I lived and ate meat in Germany back in the 80's.  Whatever.  Then Aiman's test came back A+.  WHAT???!!

So, I told the woman, "Uhm, they have the same father and I'm B+. How can I have and A and and O baby?"

She said, "Are you sure?"

I said, "Of COURSE, I'm sure! Are you suggesting I CHEATED on him???!!"

"Uhm, no, ma'am," she said.  "Are you sure you are B+?"  Oh.

"Yes, of course, I'm sure," I replied.  But then she'd put that little tiny iota of doubt in me so I shelled out another 12 pounds and had mine tested.  And as sure as peanut butter is special food group all its own, I was B+ just like I said.  The phlebotomist scratched her head and seemed perplexed.  I told her I'd look into it and she promised to do the same and we'd meet back at the lab the next night.

So much for getting my mind off of worrying and my husband!  Crap!  I got on the computer as soon as I could (this morning at 6a.m. because that rotten Randa wouldn't let me have a turn!) and searched Google.
I FOUND it!  It actually IS possible for me to have ANY blood type child.  Check out this cool chart I
found on

      A and A   A, O   B, AB
      A and B   A, B, AB, O   no
      A and AB   A, B, AB   O
      A and O   A, O   B, AB
      B and B   B, O   A, AB
      B and AB   A, B, AB   O
      B and O   B, O   A, AB
      AB and AB   A, B, AB   O
      AB and O   A, B   AB, O
      O and O   O   A, B, AB

See? A and B parents' blood types equals a possible A, B, AB, or O child.  (I'm guessing that the word no means that it's not possible for us to have children with no blood type....I'm kidding.)
SO, there you have it.  The internets have provided information where a health professional could not. I'm guessing that it may be due to the fumes of all the stool samples she has to work with so I don't blame her, really. But I'll give her my chart and maybe she won't cause any more future divorces because she'll be in the know.  

Can't wait to find out what the rest of them type as.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Possible New Careers for Me

I'm looking for a new job. Something less stressful than being a Stay-at-home-Mom (SAHM.)  See, being a SAHM requires me to work between 18 and 23 hours a day, eat cold meals, and drink so much coffee that I am not only jittery but usually constipated for days at a time, unless I accidentally take my cholesterol medicine twice in the same day and then....LAWD!  Don't block the path to the bathroom.

I want a new job with benefits.  Health insurance, you ask?  Pish-posh.  I want  the benefits like the right to a daily shower with hot water, whether I need one or not.  I want to be able to sleep a full 6 hours at night without being awakened 20 minutes before the alarm clock goes off to be asked, "What time is it?"  I want to be able to have a "lunch break" where I can actually get more than one forkful of food into my mouth before someone else asks me to serve them seconds.  I want it all.

I'm thinking that a career in firefighting might be a good choice for me.  I got tons of training in how to get people someplace safely in record speeds by being told 12 minutes before soccer practice starts that I was unknowingly volunteered to drive the carpool.  I'm also pretty good with bandaids and antiseptic, so maybe I could train to be an EMT.  I break up fist fights between teenage boys at least three times a day.  Perhaps an official on a nuclear disarmament team?  Peace talks?  Referee for a football club in Liverpool?  Or maybe rodeo clown...but clowns creep me out.

Leave a suggestion in the comments section.
Oh, and check out my friend, Nuala Reilly's webpage for great reading material at this LINK.  She's awesome.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Did You Know You Can't Flush When the Power's Out?

After 29.5 hours of no electricity, our power has finally been restored. What does this mean? Well, certainly NOT that I can plop down at the desk and start "pinning" like crazy although my left-mouse clicky finger is itching to do just that. Nope. I had to cook three days worth of meat that had thawed in my freezer before it started to rot. This, while a tad exhausting, actually works out quite well for me and my daily quest for "what the hell to cook."

Tomorrow we'll have beef and okra stewed in tomato sauce and the day after tomorrow....or whenever....I'll just thaw the garlic and orange roast that's cooked and in the now operational freezer.  I caught up on the dishes, washed the sheets that were in the washer all day fermenting in that nasty "wet dog" smell because the water was old. I fed my family the Texas-fried steak and convinced my 13 year old that he REALLY needed a nap. (Apparently, teasing and fighting the 11 and 12  year olds is exhausting work, too.)

Because we have such low water pressure out here by the beach, we require electricity to pump the water up to the upper floors of the apartment building. Soooooo, guess what we ALSO didn't have for the last nearly 30 hours? That's right. Water.  I did have water, but not via the faucet. I kept sending the boys downstairs with buckets and empty soda bottles to fill up from the house on the ground floor. Whatever. It worked. And I gave the bathroom a much needed cleaning and flushed a couple of times....just.because.I.could.

So, the next time your power pops off for a couple of hours during an electrical storm, just remember:  It could be worse. You COULD live in the Middle East where some idiot could be digging a foundation for a new apartment building and because he's doing it without the proper licensing or permission, his digger could cut a major grid cable in half and you could be a really long time without internet and the ability to read MY blog. And that would be terrible. Oh, the humanity!

Why My Husband Refuses to Buy Me a Taser

As per my mother's request, here is a post from a few years back:

I've been asking my husband for about 2 years to buy me a Taser...but he won't. He just shakes his head and laughs everytime I try to explain my latest reasons for having one. He says I'm too "reactionary" and "hot-headed" to own one. Humph! Says HIM.

I promised him that I wouldn't shock the big-butted woman in front of me on the bread lines at the bakery and that I wouldn't shock the kids' new principal at the school EVEN if she "has it coming to her." I promised that I would NEVER use it on his siblings or his children and that I'd wait until AFTER his brother's wife has her baby before I used on HER irritating ass. He actually considered this for a brief moment and then shook his head and said that even if he wanted to buy me one they don't sell them in Egypt. I, being the ever problem-solving genius that I am, suggested that he just pick one up for me in Greece or in the US next time he goes on a business trip. He thought that he could out-maneuver me with the ole' "it won't get past customs" trick. But I was one step ahead of him as usual, and I retaliated with the ole' "but they come in leopard print carrying case AND have headphones with 1GB MP3 players now!" Surely he couldn't step past THIS intellectual landmine. But DAMMITMAN! He's been watching me and listening to me sidestep HIS issues with such grace and finesse for so many years that now the grasshopper has become the master....and he blew me away with this: "You are so accident prone that you'd probably plug the headphones into the wrong part and zap your own ears off! And even if that didn't happen, I'd have to leave a power-of-attorney with my lawyer every time I left the country so that someone would be able to bail you out of jail the two or three times a day that you get upset or impatient with someone and try to fry them."
I stopped and thought about it and sulked. I knew he was right. If you think he's wrong, I'll have to ask you to go through my blog archives to see my ramblings on why it is a good thing I don't choose who lives and dies on this planet as I'd be awfully lonely.