Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
Wolf: Welcome to Wolf Notes, Stephanie. Tell us a little about yourself.
Stephanie: WITH ANGEL’S WINGS, along with the epilogue and blog included on the book’s website, pretty much sum up who I am. I am a mother of four. Catherine (“Emily” in the book), 25, has high-functioning autism with mild to moderate cognitive delay. Sarah (“Hannah” in the book), 22, has a rare genetic disorder, Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome (history of 7 heart defects, non-verbal, non-ambulatory, incontinent, exclusively G-tube fed, seizure disorder, cognitively approximately 6-9 months old). Will, 15, has severe ADHD and dyslexia, and Ellie, 11, – who I described for years as my [finally!] “typical” child [albeit with something of a princess complex] – was diagnosed in third grade 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 ten 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 four 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.
Wolf: If you had to pick a weapon, what would it be and why?
Stephanie: A pen. I’m not a violent person (unless someone messes up my clean house, and in that case I have the lethal mom glare ever at the ready). I do, however, enjoy working my frustrations out on the page, and some people can definitely get burned by that. It’s the very reason I changed all the names in With Angel’s Wings – fear of retaliation from those who ARE violent people!
Wolf: What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Stephanie: Well, given that I’ve only written a memoir, I suppose the meanest thing I’ve ever done to a “character” is to be honest about his/her poor behavior. As the reviews to With Angel’s Wings will testify to, my ex-husband’s behavior allowed me to be VERY mean…very, very mean…
Wolf: Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Stephanie: I’ve had dogs and I love dogs. My sheltie and I did agility for years and I loved it. Now that I’m older, though, and lack the enthusiasm and energy often required for dog ownership, I’m enjoying cats much more. Potty training, racket when someone knocks on the door…not an issue, yet you can still enjoy the warm cuddles.
Wolf: I do agility with my dog. We love it. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Stephanie: If it were possible, I would have the power to read the minds of those unable to communicate with us. I would choose that super power ANY time over any other, ever. One of the biggest challenges of special needs parenting is the constant second-guessing and chronic guilt trips. If I could ask questions like, “What’s hurting?”, “What would you like?”, “Are you happy?”, “Do you understand?”, without having to completely guess at the answers, I would have hope of a life weighed down by far less guilt as a special needs mom.
Wolf: The world is about to end. What is the first thing you do?
Stephanie: Clean the house. I’d be desperate for SOMETHING I can control, and if I’m going out, I don’t want any random person or zombie who might survive the apocalypse to think I kept a messy house!
Wolf: What story are you working on now?
Stephanie: I am helping my (11-year-old) daughter with a middle grade series. It started almost by accident late last summer. I was nagging at her to get off electronics, and she said, “Well, what should I DO, then?!” I said, “I don’t know; write me a story!” I half expected her to ignore my suggestion and go back to trying to negotiate more screen time. Instead, she started with a story idea, formulated a plot, did some character development and wrote an outline to her chapters. We worked on it throughout the fall, and her first book, Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is now with the editor, due back in the next week or so. We hope to publish on April 1st, and we’re super-excited! 😊
Wolf: That’s fantastic. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Stephanie: I like to go out in the neighborhood on either long, brisk walks or runs. I feel refreshed when I get back home, and a great and interesting side effect is that I do my best “writer thinking” when I’m out pounding the pavement. There’s something about the exercise that gets the creative juices flowing!
Wolf: How did you come to write With Angel’s Wings?
Stephanie: 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 “I 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, 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, while simultaneously preparing myself for the very real possibility of her passing…oh, and also “mourning the death of the healthy child I thought I had” before receiving her diagnosis just weeks earlier). Then it would hit me that 3 other things were happening at the same time (for instance, a 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!
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.
Social Media Links:
Trailer: http://youtu.be/d1feuCdh8dc (English)
Facebook: (Book) https://www.facebook.com/withangelswings