When I was twelve-years old, my brother was struck by lightening and died instantly. So much more died that rainy May evening. A little piece of all of us went with him; we remain forever fractured by his absence. What was born was this need to seek out families and situations more tragic than my own. But no family’s plight resonated with me as mine did.
So, I retreated to my imagination and created them. In those stories while no one was ever perfect, there was always a happy ending; the one my beloved brother, my parents, my sister, and maybe even I deserved.
All these years later, we have found our place in the world. We are writing our own chapters, healing the broken bits of ourselves, one day at a time.
I still reside in the Philadelphia neighborhood I grew up in with my high school sweetheart, now husband, and thirteen year old daughter...happily ever after.
Meet Me in Jersey is a work of Commercial Fiction with Strong Romantic Elements. It is the first in a series, tentatively titled,Siblings. Here, lost love is found along the Jersey Shore.
Miguel Paloma takes solace along the quiet beaches of Ocean Haven, New Jersey, his childhood home. Never did he imagine at age thirty-two he’d be in the midst of a divorce, left to raise his two-year old son alone. Life couldn’t possibly get any harder, or so he thinks. It seems he’s not the only one seeking comfort in this nothing little beach town. She has returned; his childhood sweetheart, once best friend, and first love. An already broken heart shatters at the sight of her.
Loss seems to be the only constant in Grace McMatthews’ life. At the age of nine her parents died when a drunk driver hit the family car, at twenty-five she gave birth to a still born child, and at thirty-one she’s buried her husband only hours ago. Listening to the pull of the rolling sea, sorrow washes over her. The Jersey Shore was the last place she’d planned on coming but she had nowhere else to go. Just when she thinks her heart cannot bear anymore, he appears. Her childhood friend, the love of her life, and the man she once thought to marry.
During this difficult time, Grace and Miguel find strength in each other, offering the same comfort and support they’ve always known together. Through Grace’s high risk pregnancy and his divorce, they stand firm beside one another. Months pass and with each meeting or family gathering they slip into a familiar, steady rhythm. They’ve found more than the friendship they thought lost and both are weary of the love that swells silently between them. And it pushes them closer to something he wants and she fears.
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Charli: Since childhood I've conjured up stories in my wee noggin. Tales where I saved the day or was saved by true love's first kiss. In the eighth grade when I read S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, it changed me. I knew then I wanted to tell a story just as profound. I wanted to leave readers breathless, so immersed in a world I created, they do not want the story to end. Years later-after contemplating being a professional dancer (not the pole kind), Supreme Court Justice, and teacher- I finally started writing the story that had been in my head for ages.
Deirdra: Are you planning on self-publishing, finding and agent or going with a small press? And why?
Charli: At the present time I am looking for a literary agent for my first completed manuscript. Most of the authors I admire did not get published with their first novel. Since I only have one completed work I'd like to see if this gets any bites while working on my second.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
Charli: As the Philadelphia Representative for the Pennwriters Association, I organize writing events for Philly area writers. I am a former eighth grade English and Social Studies teacher who now works for a super secret government agency. Recently, I became a contributing blogger for Macmillan Publishing’s Community Network, Heroes & Heartbreakers, http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
Charli: What doesn't? Creating worlds and characters, molding them, that gets me typing everyday. When someone reads my work and compliments it, it reminds why I do this. Touching people with words is the single best high I've ever experienced besides having my daughter and oh yeah, and marrying my sexy hubby.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents do you have?
Charli: Um, I am told I make people laugh. Hence, the clown nose. I have some serious Poppin-n-lockin' skills that go along with some dope rhymes I can spew. But, don't ask the hubby or kid if that's true. They're just jealous. The isn't a dance floor I've met that I didn't like but I am not sure if the feeling is mutual.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Charli: In the mornings before work and after taking the teen to school are my best hours. I grab the ol' laptop when the need strikes otherwise. Whether I am working on an MS or blogging or reading, I make sure to get that hour in before my going to the job that pays my bills.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it? Charli: The idea for my character Grace came from a song actually. Dave Matthew's Band's Grey Street absolutely moved me. It's upbeat tempo but haunting lyrics kept coming back as I rode on the train to work. All I kept thinking was, that is one sad girl. I thought, "What's her story?" Since I don't have Dave's personal cell phone number I couldn't call and ask him so I made up a story about a sad girl who didn't want to be sad anymore. It morphed into this novel. Music inspires me the most. I listen while trucking to work everyday on the EL-train to downtown Philly.
Deirdra: When did the idea of writing a book first come to you?
Charli: Well, part of that I answered above. This first inkling I had for Miguel and Grace came years ago while I was in college. I just had this image of a woman, who was raised by four smothering older brothers, coming home after a long absence. Instead of finding just her family she walks right into a party. All her family and friends are there and it's a tense reunion. Within their circle is her childhood best friend and first love. Their reunion is bittersweet. Back then, this story was a romantic thriller. It's evolved into a love story about two former lovers coming together as both their marriages end.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Charli: That love is more powerful than loss. That loss doesn't define a person. Who you become in spite of it does.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first? Charli: I see scenes first, situations. Then I usually type it out and stew over what to do with it. Is it a first scene, an ending? I let the characters guide me on their journey. Currently I am doing that with my second MS, Paddy's Well. This is the second novel of theSiblings series. I never thought about writing Paddy's story, Grace's older brother, but the scene just came to me. It's now the opening to his story. It's a look back into the family's past when they lost their parents and Paddy becomes their guardian at twenty-one.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it? Charli: I shut down my laptop and walk away from it. I pop on the music/soundtrack, for the story or scene and see if that helps me along. Mostly I just daydream about the characters and let it play out in my head like a movie.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing? Charli: Well, music has inspired me, as you know. There have been times where I play the same song repeatedly for a scene. There are other times when I need quiet and retreat to my office.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods? Charli: Music. My soundtrack for Meet Me In Jersey is mostly from The Dave Matthews Band. Dave Matthews' song, Stay or Leave, plays big part in my novel.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer? Charli: Finding my cyber writing soul-mate, AJ Wilson. We found each other in a yahoo critique group. Immediately we understood each other's work, personalities, and we are both extremely blunt when critiquing. Together, our writing has evolved. For me personally, I treat writing for what it is, a craft. One that you can never fully master and must respect enough to admit that.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Charli: Pure, raw emotion. For me, that's the human thread, the connection we have to ourselves and every being on this planet. Without it, my writing wouldn't feel so alive, so real. if its not real to me, it can't be real to the reader.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire and why? Charli: Nicholas Sparks, Robert James Waller, Diana Gabaldon, Jeffrey Stepakoff, Luanne Rice, and Kristin Hannah. They write emotional love stories, as do I. I do have another writer I wish I could stalk, Tina Fey. Liz Lemon has to be the funniest character on TV. Her shenanigans mirror my own life, scary as it sounds.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Charli: Coffee. I try not to eat, it gets in my way. I love food as much as I do writing. The obsessions clash.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Charli: Work at it everyday. Learn from it everyday. Read, read, read, read, and read other books in the same genre as what you write. Then, switch it up from time to time with a completely different type of book. You'd be amazed what techniques you'll find once you start reading as an aspiring author, not just a reader. Find a critique group and partner that will challenge you, not coddle. Oh, and get thick skin, you're gonna need it. I have plenty to spare...oops, my bad. That's just back fat.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Charli: This interview, lol. I am querying my MS, Meet Me In Jersey and daydreaming for Paddy's Well. The hard part is other stories keep popping in me wee noggin and it's like having adult ADHD.
Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?
Charli: Patience. I don't have very much of it and I jumped the gun querying when my MS wasn't ready. I needed to listen to all that advice out there and let it sit for a while. A year later I have and am now back out in queryland.
Deirdra: What is the best thing about being an author?
Charli: Having someone be as moved by your words as you were when you wrote them. I've made so many people cry or tear and when they tell me what scenes, my heart sighs. I recall crying as I wrote them.
Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?
Charli: Um, hello? NYT Bestseller of course, lol. If not that at least one or two more novels under my belt. World domination will suffice if the whole being an author thing doesn't work out. Oh, and to have successfully stalked Tina Fey. We're meant to be BFF's, she just doesn't know it yet.
Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write?
Charli: My office. My hubby painted it with my favorite color blue and bought me the most beautiful desk from IKEA. The glass top has the word LOVE written in various languages. I'm currently starting to decorate it. It's my personal place to create.
Deirdra: How do you come up with your character’s names?
Charli: I think about who they are, their background, culture, etc. and I take it from there. Grace came from this idea of a little girl recalling her father as he called her his "lil' Grace Kelly". I thought it to be so cute. Miguel came from someone I know. His nickname is Mickey but for years I thought they were saying Miggy. I loved the nickname Miggy so much I took my oops and turned him into a character.
Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?
Charli: That I inspired them in some way, maybe to write themselves.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share? Charli: Being here, being interviewed as an aspiring author, is pretty awesome. A few years ago, I never thought I'd have the nerve to do this and I am so glad I did. I'd like to give a final shout-out to my homeslice AJ Wilson, "Wurd to Big Bird Sista!". -Lemon out.