Interview: Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of THE BAR HARBOR RETIREMENT HOME FOR FAMOUS WRITERS

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I write in several genres–literary/contemporary fiction, fantasy fiction, romance, and women’s fiction. I even wrote an original fairy tale. I write in the genres that interest me. As far as I’m concerned, there are no lines that can’t be crossed. All my romance/women’s fiction have “ghosts” in them. My fantasy has a literary bend. My contemporary has a bit of whimsy in it. Anything goes.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?  What was least useful or most destructive? The most useful thing for me was honesty. Complete, brutal, ultimately kind honesty. No matter how innate your knowledge, how lovely your natural voice, no one comes into this writing thing an expert. And no one learns anything about this craft by having one’s ego stroked. Back in the beginning, I had plenty of friends, family, and critique partners telling me what a good writer I was. Nice? Yes and no. I was blind to my own shortcomings–until a pro who’d gotten one cringe-worthy manuscript too many opened my eyes to all I was doing wrong. He shredded the fifty pages I sent, pointed out every single mistake, and explained why it was oh-so-wrong. He didn’t have to do that. A form rejection would have sufficed. Whether he’d finally snapped or saw something worth his time, he was brutal. It hurt like hell. I’m grateful to him to this day. The least helpful for me, as you might guess, was the praise. It got in the way of learning. There was no room for my ego in this process. I let it go, and whew! Was it liberating. My motto in life is “Modesty is for suckers,” largely because of that literary ass-kicking. I know what I’m good at–show me what I’m doing wrong.

What do you like to read in your free time?
Mostly Women’s Fiction, Literary/Contemporary Fiction. I do love dystopia, and fantasy of all kinds. I’ll read anything by Sarah Addison Allen, Fredrik Backman, and Patricia McKillip. Anything.

What projects are you working on at the present?
Currently, I’m working on Thirty Days Dancing on the Edge of the World. It has a dual timeline, 2009 and 1947 (and continues through the 1990s.) After the financial crisis of 2008, Mallory, a fifty-two year old Financial Advisor, has lost everything. After two suicide attempts, she winds up at Seaside, a mental rehabilitation facility (a once-upon-a-time beach resort) in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Seaside is nothing like the psychiatric ward; it’s a place to land, and to launch. There, Mallory meets others in need of a safe place to regain their balance, including Vonnie, the old woman who owns the place. Her past is the 1947-1990 part of the novel, showing the then and now differences between how mental health–and women–was viewed and treated.

What do your plans for future projects include? Since finishing The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) I’ve completed three novels. I’m hoping one (or more!) of these will be on my publishing horizon. I write nine to four, every day, five days a week, and have no plans to change that. Once Thirty Days is finished, there are several more sitting in files waiting for their turns. I’m leaning towards one about dragons in New York City–real or imagined? That’s what the reader gets to decide.

FUN STUFF

What is your go-to method for getting rid of hiccups?
Sugar on the tip of my tongue. Works every time.

If I gave you a pencil and piece of paper and told you to draw something funny, what would you draw?
There’s a little character I’ve drawn on restaurant placemats since my kids were little–a hillbilly guy with a big nose, looking over a fence. You only see his eyes, nose and straw hat. He’s always saying, “yo-ho!” like a pirate. I have no idea why I do that, who the hillbilly is, or why he’s my go-to doodle. Maybe a past life experience trying to express itself.

How many friendships have you ruined because you refused to play a game of Monopoly mercifully?
0. I’m the least competitive person of all time. I’d rather you win than upset you. Unless it’s Scrabble. Then, I will annihilate you if I can.

Do you have a favorite Girl Scout Cookie? Tagalongs!

Finally, and this one is important, so please pay attention What do you think cats dream about?
World domination. At least, household domination. They whisper in our ears as we sleep. No, really! I’ve caught them doing it. They pretend they were innocently cuddling close, but I’m savvy to their wily ways.

This or That? 

Dogs or Cats? Cats (my furry overlords are not making me say that. Send help. Please!)

Marvel or DC Comics? Marvel!

Winter or Summer? Winter

TexMex or Italian? Italian! As if there is any other rational answer.

Vintage or New? Vintage

 

Aboutthebook

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Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

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abouttheauthor

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Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut where she still lives with her husband, and her cats. If you knock on her door, she’ll invite you in and feed you. That’s what Jersey Italian women do, because you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl. She is the author of the Bitterly Suite romance series published by Kensington Lyrical.

 

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