Carole Brody Fleet – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow is a self-help book for widows; particularly those widowed at a younger age. Unlike other books of its ilk, Widows Wear Stilettos offers both practical and emotional guidance and includes advice relating to financial and emotional transition; raising children who have lost a parent; how to cope with the opinions and observations of those surrounding the widow; re-entering the world of dating and love after loss; beauty, fashion, diet and exercise and most importantly, returning to a fulfilling and abundant life after loss – and does so with compassion and where appropriate, a wry sense of humor.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a native Southern Californian; where I still live – and I love it. Although I have always nurtured a passion and an aptitude for writing, and even though my previous career as a certified paralegal and settlement negotiator allowed me to write extensively (in the legal world anyway), it was not until 2005 that I began writing in earnest. I wrote Widows Wear Stilettos in four months and was fortunate enough to have been signed by a literary agency forty-five days after I began the query process.

What inspired you to write this book?

I became widowed at the age of 40 years after caring for my husband through his over-two-year battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Like millions of other women who have experienced the loss of a spouse, I was left with an 11 year old daughter to raise (now 20 years of age), a “mountain” of bills to pay…and absolutely no direction or instruction on how to accomplish any of it. Worse, I could find no one with whom I could talk that truly understood my situation – my contemporaries were either happily married and raising families or single by choice. Imagine how it feels to have people physically back away from you when you tell them that you are widowed (and apparently “contagious”) or to have to endure the seemingly insensitive opinions and observations of those around you; or try to figure out how the bills are going to be paid; how to raise young children who are themselves grieving; what the banks and creditors need to effect changes on accounts, mortgages, titles and credit cards; the “pros and pitfalls” of re-entering the “World of Dating”…and so much more. After years had passed, and after having sufficiently recovered in all respects from what can only be described as the “journey” of a lifetime, I then decided that if you can’t find it…you create it.

Because of the emotional, practical and financial issues that I had faced as a younger widow and with the goals of educating, supporting and creating a network among the millions of others in similar situations, it became my life’s mission to bring support, education, hope and promise to those who have been touched by the challenge of widowhood, regardless of age. The glaring lack of education and support for younger widows in particular; as well as a desire to use my experiences to ease others’ pain, enhance lives and coach widows of all ages were the motivations leading to the inception of Widows Wear Stilettos in its entirety.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

The book was sold to a publisher by my agent and we decided on that publisher because of their immediate grasp of and support of the material. Loss is an admittedly uncomfortable subject that not everyone wants to tackle and it is a great feeling when an agent and a publisher looks at you and in more words, basically says, “This is vital information that we need to get to the audience to needs to see it. We ‘get it’ “.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I was always the student who loved essay questions on exams, because it gave me an opportunity to “run free” with writing. At the age of 12 years, I wrote poetry that wound up getting published in my junior high school yearbook. Seeing my “work” in print was a huge deal and at that moment, I was hooked. One of the very few regrets that I’ve had in my life was not pursuing writing as a vocation earlier; however, in back in those days, the opportunities for women in the writing / journalism genre were not nearly as plentiful as we are thankfully seeing today.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

While legitimate “critics” and the media at large have been nothing short of fantastic; both with their reviews and support of Widows Wear Stilettos in general, it’s the mean-spirited, self-appointed “critics” that are very difficult to cope with. They are everywhere and it takes awhile to grow the “skin” that it requires to stomach petty criticism that has nothing whatsoever to do with the work itself.

How do you do research for your books?

The small amount of research that I’ve done is mostly statistical and is readily available through previously published articles or on the Internet

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

I always learn from writing and this was one of the most gratifying and humbling experiences that I’ll ever have. I hear from tens of thousands of women; all with stories to tell, ideas to share and one common goal – to recover from overwhelming grief. I am also constantly reminded that no matter how bad or how hard we think we have it, someone out there always has it a little bit worse and it’s incumbent upon us to help those people.

What are you reading now?

“Living Life as a Thank You” by Mary Beth Sammons and Nina Lesowitz (Viva Editions/Cleis Press); a wonderful book on how to live life with an “attitude of gratitude”; no matter what is going on in your life at the moment.

What types of books do you like to read?

I’m truly all over the place when it comes to reading and this is such a difficult question because there are so many wonderful works out there. I am quite partial to “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman as it really impacted the way that I approach the different relationships in my life – and any book that creates a life change or attitude will always rank high on my “favorites” list. Another one of my very favorite books is, “Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs” by the wonderful humorist, Dave Barry. I have owned that book for over ten years and to this day, if I pick it up and open it, I’m laughing hysterically. I literally cannot read the book in public because it makes me laugh so hard.

Who are your favorite authors?

That depends entirely on the genre. In fiction, I am an admirer of Jackie Collins, who develops her characters in such a way that you find yourself getting truly attached to them. She also typically has several storylines going on at the same time and then brings them all together in the last few pages – this is writing that I could never do myself and have nothing but admiration for those who can. When it comes to non-fiction, there is wonderful talent out there – Lee Woodruff, Lenore Skenazy and Marci Shimoff to name a few. I am also partial to humor and enjoy the writings of the late George Carlin as well as Dave Barry.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

My next book is already completed (books three and four are “on deck”) and is tentatively entitled, “Widows Wear Stilettos: The ‘Answer Book’ – The ULTIMATE Question, Answer and Reference Guide for Widows”). It is the first and only book of its kind; answering the most common and pressing questions that widows generally have; both immediately following her husband’s death as well as months and even years thereafter. These questions are excerpted from thousands of actual letters and message board postings that I have received; along with my actual responses and additional observation and commentary. These questions range from the practical (concerning matters of employment, finance and legality) to the emotional (dealing with guilt, anger and despair); from the seemingly simple (the appropriate prefix to use when addressing a widow after a husband’s death; what to do with wedding rings; when is it “appropriate” to begin dating again) to the heartbreakingly difficult (the deterioration of familial relationships over money or property; explaining a father’s death to the very young child). Whether utilized as a “stand-alone” volume or as a companion to the first book, “The ‘Answer’ Book” is a unique and comprehensive guide; answering many of the questions that widowsl have and proposing solutions to many of the challenges that they will face along the way.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Develop a solid pitch; one that is to-the-point and will intrigue without giving away too much. Keep it brief – tough to do for authors, but keep it brief anyway…when you truly “intrigue”, the person hearing your pitch will ask to hear more.

You will hear the word “no” more often than you hear the word “yes”. That’s OK. Step over the “no’s” and keep going – every “no” that you receive takes you that much closer to the “yes” that we all want to hear. Also remember that “no” can also mean “No, not right now”; rather than “No, never” – in other words, there is always hope. Be careful with whom you share your dream – there are a lot of “dreamsnatchers” out there. Surround yourself with people who will support and reinforce what you are trying to accomplish and combine support with learning from those who have already succeeded in doing what you are trying to do.

One of the wisest things that I learned early on is that agents and publishers want to represent “careers” not just “books”. Do you have an idea for your next book? How about the one after that? Could your book / idea be turned into a movie (theatrical or made-for-TV), a miniseries or a television series? What about a CD or DVD series? You will be asked about subsequent books and multimedia possibilities – have answers ready when the question is asked.

Building and maintaining a strong platform is paramount to a book’s success. Too many authors make the mistake of writing a book, typing, “The End” and then sit back; either waiting for the royalties to start rolling in or expecting their agent and / or publisher to do all of the marketing and promotion. It simply does not work that way. The author must take responsibility for and be proactive with their own promotion because no one else will ever be quite as passionate about your work as you are.

My agent once told me that, “You are never finished until you quit writing”. Choose never to be “finished”.

Lastly, ALWAYS choose to be “teachable and trainable”. The minute that you think you know it all and / or start believing your own “press notices”…you’re finished.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

I appear regularly in all areas of the media since 2006, which is wonderful – any time you are quoted, interviewed, make a personal appearance or otherwise lend your name, it will always be followed by what you have authored. In other words, the promotion is “baked right in”.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Our website: www.widowswearstilettos.com

At Amazon

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Widows-Wear-Stilettos/288578268860?ref=ts