Q: What would you tell your 20-year-old self if you could talk to her now at 35+?
A: I would tell her that "It's OK if [gasp!] not everyone likes you." This is a hard lesson that I'm still learning, but I think a very valuable one. As long as you like you (and the people you love like you) that's really all that matters. So, stop trying to please everyone and stop being so nice. With women, I think niceness can sometimes be misinterpreted as a weakness.
The second thing I'd say is "stop complaining about your body." Just wait until you have two kids - then you'll have something to complain about. Believe me, "no boobs" is better than "low boobs."
Q: What is one thing you've done that you are very proud of?
A: I think giving birth pretty much tops my list. And raising two healthy, smart, kind, and beautiful children with my supportive husband. Balancing wifehood, motherhood, and work in all its various forms is a constant challenge. I am pretty proud of myself for averting a complete nervous breakdown, actually.
Q: If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world (or a research trip), where would it be and why?
A: I am a closet Francophile. My husband and I lived in Strasbourg, France for a month (we were ridiculously lucky) while he did a study abroad trip for law school a few years back. We would go back there to relive those romantic, carefree pre-baby days. And, as a side trip, we'd take the train to Paris to go on a "Midnight in Paris" tour (one of our favorite Woody Allen movies!)
And then, if we could take it to the next level, we would time-travel back to attend one of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's fabulous cocktail parties.
Q: What do you think you bring to writing, now, with some experience and 35+ years behind you, that you could not have brought with you, say, as a teen writer? Or a writer in your twenties?
A: When I graduated from college with a BA in English, everyone asked me why I wasn't going to be an English teacher (what else are English degrees for!?!). But I didn't feel like I could transfer knowledge if I didn't have much to give. I think most of what we learn in life is on-the-job training. I am fascinated by relationships, how we relate and interact, how relationships can change, and people can grow over time. I felt like I needed to have some life experiences under my belt before I could have something to give back to others, and - specifically with writing - something to say.
For my writing to be meaningful, I need to have something to say. I have a lot more to say now that I've lived 37 years than 17. And twenty years from now, I'll hope to have more to say.
Q:I'm interested in your path to publication, starting with the children's books? And then getting an agent? What do you hope your writing career will look like in the future?
A: On the fiction writing side, I began freelance writing kids' picture books and early readers for an ESL (English-as-a second-language) company when I was right out of college. I answered a blind ad. I got lucky. Nearly 15 years later, I am still writing for them and on my fourth series of books. It's been awesome - and, at this point in my life, it's perfect because I don't have a lot of time to devote to fiction writing.
When I was modeling, I would jot down ideas and notes for Catwalk. I was really inspired by the chick lit that I was reading at the time, mainly Helen Fielding and Sophie Kinsella. I thought "Hey! I can do that!" It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I actually gathered all my notes together and started writing the book. Before that, I'd attending some writing conferences, and worked in newspapers with other aspiring fiction writers and we would talk almost nonstop about writing - so I felt like I knew a bit about the industry and what the "traditional" steps were for getting published back then.
I revised the book quite a few times with help from my husband and writing friends. I also hired a developmental editor who helped me flesh out some sections. Then, I spent over a year finding an agent. I probably sent out close to 100 queries. A few weeks before I was to give birth to my first son, I landed an agent. She was a very established agent at a successful New York agency. [Prefer not to say which one]. She was excited about the book and sent it out to positive feedback, but no bites. I did speak with a few editors she queried who liked my writing style. But at the time, there was another teen modeling book that was out but didn't sell too well, so that didn't help my cause.
She held the book for a few years, waiting, she said, for the market to be more in favor of this type of work. But ultimately, she suggested that I self-pub. I was busy working and having my second son by this point, so I was OK taking a break. But now that my kids are a bit older, I'm ready for round #2. A writer friend told me about Wattpad, and I was hooked. It's such an amazing idea - a great place to build a readership, see what my audience likes, and learn from other writers. I wish I'd gotten here sooner!
In terms of the future, I just want to keep doing what I love, in whatever form that takes. As my kids get older, I hope to have more time to write longer works (right now, the baby is up at 5 am, without fail!).
Q: How do you balance your family life, career life, and writing life? These are realities many of us have to juggle.
A: Um. . . I haven't figured that out yet. I wrote must of the novel before my oldest was born. I got an agent a few weeks before I gave birth to him, and spent time revising the story when I was on maternity leave (with my agent's guidance.) While my agent was trying to sell the book, I had my second son. He's 21 months now, and I've really spent the last few years doing more researching on the industry and self-pubbing and less on actual novel-type writing, although during this time I started getting more assignments for writing kids' books. I can write a picture book or early reader at night (after kids are in bed, around now) and spend an hour or so on it, and then I revise at night as well when changes need to be made.
Q: This is just a funny question. What kind of old lady do you see yourself becoming MANY decades from now?
A: Well, I'm not sure, but my husband is pretty convinced that I will be one of those wrinkled old ladies who wears too much rouge and mascara and looks like a clown. He's probably right. I don't think I've ever left the house without make-up on. I definitely take after my grandmother there, who always had to "put on her face."
Oh, the vanity!
Nicole and I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and learning more about her novel CATWALK and her writing life. If you want to leave comments or questions, that would be amazing! Please make sure you tag Nicole as @nngabor within the body of the comment so she can also see and respond to the question or comment. Thank you so much for reading. Check in soon for the next Ladies on Life interview. -Shelley:)
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Join us in learning more about the women who are regulars on the Ladies on Life-Aged 35+ chat group here on Wattpad. We'll be talking careers, families, dating, children, and writing--and how we manage to juggle all that while continuing to pursue...