EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SWEET HEART
AND THEN SOME
How do you feel now that you've published the rest of the story?
I feel relieved and incredibly grateful to Solstice Publishing for bringing Deirdre and Lee's entire story to life.
Was it as exciting to publish Sweet Heart as it was to publish Dear Heart?
There was a lot of hoopla surrounding the publication of Dear Heart which wasn't there for Sweet Heart, but I'm responsible for that. I didn't lose my mind and call everyone I knew, screaming, when Sweet Heart was accepted for publication or when it launched. I posted the news on social media and sent out emails to close friends and family, which was much more low-key. And I didn't have a big launch party for Sweet Heart, although I have something in the works that may allow for a small celebration to mark the occasion next month. Aside from that, it has been business as usual.
How does Sweet Heart differ from Dear Heart?
Dear Heart is told from Deirdre's point of view and Sweet Heart is told from Lee's perspective, so right away, the voices of the narrators are different. Plus, Lee's story is much more soulful and melancholy. That's not to say that it's sad or depressing, but Lee's life without Deirdre is harder than hers without him, and you get a good sense of that in the book.
What was the hardest part about writing Sweet Heart?
Ensuring that I didn't rehash what was already covered in Dear Heart and deciding how much more of their physical relationship I wanted to describe. I had to cover some of the same ground because I wanted my readers to know what was going through Lee's mind when he met Deirdre and when he was with her, but those passages are shorter and less descriptive than they were in Dear Heart. As for the physical side of their relationship, there are fewer references to it and they are much less graphic than they were in Dear Heart, which felt right since Lee is more conservative than Deirdre.
You've said that Lee is your favorite character. Did your readers feel the same way?
The reviews on Lee were mixed. Everyone loved his devotion to Deirdre, but some of my readers thought he came across as weak. I can understand that because Lee is very emotional, but in his defense I would point out that Lee has a lot more to cry about than Deirdre does, and I think there's strength in the fact that he's willing to be vulnerable.
If Deirdre had agreed to leave Bill, would Lee have chosen to stay with her?
That's a good question and the honest answer is I don't know. He would have wanted to but, in the final analysis, I don't think he would have abandoned his daughters.
What was the most surprising thing about Sweet Heart?
That the whole hydrangeas and daylilies and Shasta daisies thing originated with Florentina.
Did you always know how the story would end?
I knew what would happen with Deirdre and Lee, but I didn't want the story to end on a sad note. Luckily, it occurred to me early on to give Frank the last word, and that enabled me to write an uplifting ending.
Let's talk about Bill and Jean. They couldn't be more different.
That was deliberate. I always knew that Jean would be ambitious and more than a little ruthless, and that Bill would be a doting father and husband. I wanted that contrast -- to coincide with the other contrasts in the books: Deirdre and Lee, for sure, but also Deirdre and Denise, Frank and Kris Ann and the overarching theme exploring the difference between romantic love and the kind of love it turns into over a long period of time.
You didn't mention the differences between Bill and Lee.
Because, except for the fact that Lee is more sexual, there are none. Both men are devoted to Deirdre, and to their children, and both make enormous sacrifices for Frank. Both men are content with their station in life, but are hard workers and good providers. Both can be silly -- Bill with Frank as a baby and Lee at the cabin, and although it may seem like Lee is more emotional, don't forget how Bill reacts when Frank is being operated on.
Frank seems a little priggish at the end when he finds out about Deirdre and Lee. Was that intentional?
Oh, hell no, and I'm sorry to hear it came across that way. Frank was in shock, as any child would be after finding out that his mother was a sexual being and had cheated on his father. Add to that the fact that he'd just discovered his true paternity, and there's more than sufficient reason to throw Frank off balance. I think Frank has every right to be angry but, with a little nudge from Kris Ann, he's able to put it all into perspective. Plus, Frank says one of the most profound things in the books: "love is love, no matter what form it takes."
One of the most moving parts of Sweet Heart is when we see Lee in the shadows watching Frank's life unfold. Was that planned from the beginning?
No. When I first completed Sweet Heart it was about 18,000 words. When I signed with Solstice for Dear Heart, I discovered that only books with more than 100 pages would be available in paperback. Since I definitely wanted a paperback of Sweet Heart, I added 4,000 words while I was waiting for Dear Heart to be launched.
Interesting. What else was added after the fact?
Most of the new material elaborated on the relationship between Lee and Frank and Lee's struggle to come to grips with the fact that another man raised his son.
Was it hard to insert that material into an already-completed book?
Surprisingly, no. When I re-read the book just before I sat down to expand the plot, it was apparent that I had neglected that aspect of Lee's life away from Deirdre, so I knew what had to be added. And luckily, there were already-written passages where the new material could be inserted without having to create new venues to accommodate it.
The ring plays a prominent role in both books: when Deirdre loses it in Dear Heart and when Lee finds it in Sweet Heart. Aside from the fact that it symbolizes their commitment to each other, why is the ring given so much ink?
Because I have that ring, and have had it for more than thirty years. I found it in a little curio shop that has long since gone out of business and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. It's hand-made, and as far as I know, one of a kind. And since it perfectly symbolizes an everlasting relationship, I knew I was going to include the ring as part of the story when I started writing Dear Heart.
Now that you've told both sides of the story, what's next for you?
First and foremost I have to get better at promoting the books. There are days when I drive myself nuts trying to figure out the best way to get the story in front of the widest possible audience. At first I thought personal appearances was the way to go, so I geared up for that, but ultimately I realized that unless I could get booked on Good Morning, America, personal appearances wasn't going to give me the bang I wanted for my buck. I'm still going to do them, but I'm going to concentrate on trying to tap into mailing lists of romance readers and expand my social media reach.
I'm also working on the screenplay for Dear Heart and when I tire of that, I work on my next novel, Interoffice Romance.