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It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Joan. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
I like how the author portrayed me as a hero sometimes, out to save my brother, who was developmentally disabled, from a cruel world full of ignorant kids who were willing to bully him for a laugh or two (and in one case, for a heck of a lot of money). But I hate that she had to also talk about how ashamed I felt sometimes to have a brother like him. Yes, it’s true, there were times I went out of my way to pretend I didn’t know him, but so what? Most kids would have done the same.
The author went and told a story about when I was thirteen and a boy who liked me (thank God I wasn’t crazy about him) told me he cared a lot for me, in spite of the fact that his best friend’s mother said I had no personality! Now, there was no reason for that—no reason for his friend’s mother to say that and no reason for the author to repeat that story. You see, I was painfully shy at age 13, and as I had not one but two special needs siblings (my sister was just a baby then, with her circumstances yet to be revealed), oddball parents, a grandmother who was a successful kleptomaniac, and as we all lived more or less in the middle of a parking lot, I tried to keep as low a profile as I could. So yeah, it probably looked to some mothers like I didn’t have much of a personality, but really I was only protecting myself by trying to become invisible.
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
I’m good at making things up.
Sometimes I lie.
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?
I like that feisty girl in Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
You could say I am in love with love in this book. I expect love to save me (and I don’t want to give away the ending, but in fact it does.)
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
Geez, I wouldn’t change places with any of them. If you think I suffered having to be the middle kid between two special needs siblings, think about what it was like for my brother and sister. Think about what it was like for my parents, poor, uneducated people who didn’t know didn’t know how to work the system to provide for my siblings as well as they would have liked. No thanks. If I have to be in the book, I’m happy to be a characterization of the author’s younger self.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?
Well, the author really wanted to tell two stories here, one about me growing up, or “coming of age” as she likes to say, and one about what it was like for her as an adult when she became caretaker for our siblings. So, she did something that some critics are going to complain about. She wrote the book in two parts, the longer part being the part that I’m in, which I think is the better part because it’s pretty funny in places and it reads more like fiction, and the second part, which is really a longish epilogue, describing the last few years of her life with flashbacks to incidents that are important to the story. Basically, she wrote a memoir that leaves out the middle years of her life. She says she doesn’t care. That’s the way she wanted to do it. She’s says the middle years were boring and no one would want to read about them anyway. She thinks because she’s had several novels published and she writes for a living she can break the rules. I don’t know. Maybe she can.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?
She’s a pretty good fiction writer. I think she should go back to fiction now that she got this memoir out of her system.
Thank you for this interview, Joan. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
Oh, I’ll be out there, in one form or another, forced to breathe life into various fictional characters. No rest for the weary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joan Heartwell makes her living as a pen for hire, writing, editing and ghostwriting for a variety of private and corporate clients. She has had four novels published under another name and has a fifth one due out later in 2014.
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In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence.
Venturing Out of Songais
When my alarm sounded at 6:30, I leapt out of bed, eager for another opportunity to attend a course at the Université François-Rabelais. I wanted to make a good impression on my professors and peers, so I spent a bit more time on my appearance, brushing some blush on my cheekbones and curling my eyelashes before applying mascara. The result prompted a grin from my mirror image. Pulling on a sweater, I grabbed my purse and ran downstairs.
After I completed my usual morning routine with the children, Madame Dubois rattled off a list of chores, my pulse accelerating with concern as I listened. Has she forgotten that I’m going to Tours today?
“Wash up the dishes in the sink, change the sheets on my bed, and sweep the entranceway.”
“I have to catch the ten o’clock train, or I’ll be late for my class,” I reminded her.
“Well then, you had better get started.”
Rushing out the door an hour later, mumbling angry words, I half-jogged the road to Songais and barely arrived at the train in time.
Oooh . . . she makes me so mad!
Out of breath, I boarded the coach and found a place to sit down. Unclenching my jaw, stretching my neck right, and then left, I willed myself to relax. I was determined not to let Madame Dubois ruin my day.
As the train pulled out of Tours, the attendant, a young man about my age, sauntered down the aisle, his gaze darting back and forth as he identified new passengers. I watched him, admiring his masculine features, until he reached me. Our eyes locked, his sky blue on my moss green, and my stomach lurched.
“Vous visitez Songais?” he asked.
“Non, je suis arrivée récemment,” I said handing him my rail pass. No, I arrived recently.
He glanced at my document and leaned in closer. So close, in fact, that I smelled his cologne, musk with a hint of citrus. “Linda . . . d’où êtes-vous?” Where are you from?
“Je viens des Etats-Unis.”
He smiled and my heart fluttered. “Enchanté,” he said, and added, “Je m’appelle Renaud.”
“Enchantée,” I responded, feeling tongue-tied.
Renaud tried out his English. “How long you visiting?”
“Many months,” I muttered.
“It is wonderful!” he exclaimed, and heads turned to look at us. I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. “I go now, Linda, but I hope to see you again.”
Picking up his pace, he moved down the aisle and exited into the next coach. A few of the passengers glared at me, but I ignored them. I had enjoyed my interchange with Renaud and felt flattered to receive so much attention from such an attractive Frenchman. From now on, my rides to and from Tours might be the highlight of my day.
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Dina Kucera was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After completing a project to collect and identify fifty insects, she graduated from the ninth grade and left school for good. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Her first job was a paper route, and she has worked as a maid, bartender, waitress, and grocery store checker. Dina has also been a stand-up comic for twenty years, for which she receives payment ranging from a small amount of money to a very, very small amount of money. When it comes to awards and recognition, she was once nominated for a Girl Scout sugar cookie award, but she never actually received the award because her father decided to stop at a bar instead of going to the award ceremony. Dina waited on the curb outside the bar, repeatedly saying to panhandlers, “Sorry. I don’t have any money. I’m seven.” Dina is married with three daughters, one stepson, and one grandson. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Everything I Never Wanted to Be is the true story of a family’s battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Dina’s grandfather and father were alcoholics. Her grandmother was a pill addict. Dina is an alcoholic and pill addict, and all three of her daughters struggle with alcohol and drug addiction—including her youngest daughter, who started using heroin at age fourteen. Dina’s household also includes her husband and his unemployed identical twin, her mother who has Parkinson’s Disease, and her grandson who has cerebral palsy. On top of all that, Dina is trying to make it as a stand-up comic and author so she can quit her crummy job as a grocery store clerk. Through it all, Dina does her best to hold her family together, keep her faith, and maintain her sense of humor.
Everything I Never Wanted to Be includes a number of horrific events. But in the end, it is an uplifting story with valuable lessons for parents and teens alike, and a strong message about the need to address the epidemic of teen drug addiction in our nation.
It’s a book that can change behavior and save lives—and make you laugh along the way.
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Join us for Dina Kucera’s Everything I Never Wanted to Be Virtual Book Tour ‘10!
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