and finding your moxie
I had such a lovely chat with Nancy Christie to talk about all things Reinventing Rita and baked goodies. Enjoy!
I’m thrilled to have you visit! I’ve so many questions for you. Make yourself comfy while I bring out the coffee, tea, and fresh-baked goodies.
Nancy: You are speaking to a woman who loves baked goods. And coffee! I’ll just kick off my shoes, settle back in this rocker, and enjoy our chat.
Here you are – please help yourself. I hope I have your favorite cookie in this assortment!
Nancy: Honey, I have yet to meet a cookie I didn’t like. That’s what was so much fun when working on Reinventing Rita: road-testing recipes for the book!
Oh, you bought a gift! It smells divine – whatever is in there?
Nancy: This is a small selection from the classes that Rita taught—Apple Tarte Tatin, Irish Soda Bread, Hungarian Torte and Raisin Scones—plus a new one she developed just for the book launch: Spicy Ginger-Chocolate Cookies.
I’ll just put those right in front of me to enjoy the aroma. Let’s peek into this box of goodies… Wow! And they are gluten-free! I’ll just have one…
So tell me what is the most unusual item sitting on your desk this very minute.
Nancy: A little glass elephant. It was given to me by my gentleman friend—another one of those “six impossible things”—and it has a special meaning between the two of us.
Let’s get to know Rita. What three words best describe Rita?
Nancy: Caring, self-doubting, stuck-in-a-rut
If you could take Rita to the movies—any movie from the past ten years—what would she choose?
Nancy: Knowing Rita, it would have to be a comedy, because she doesn’t like scary or deeply introspective movies. My guess? 80 for Brady—not because she is into football but because she loves movies that showcase female friendships, especially when the characters are older than her! (She is feeling a little sensitive about turning fifty.) She’s also a huge fan of all four actresses: Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, Rita Moreno, and Jane Fonda.
There are a lot of character voices in the story. What technique did you use to differentiate their rhythms, word choices, and speech patterns?
Nancy: I’d love to say that I have a perfected a technique that I plan to trademark, but… Really, I just let ‘er rip. I have to admit that sometimes I channel certain friends and relatives when I’m doing dialogue to help from making them all sound the same. That being said, when I’m in the revising/editing stage, I look for words and phrases that crop up and try to keep from using them for more than one character. Mostly I just try to actually hear them, just as if they are in the room with me talking to each other. If I can hear their voices, their intonations, then I stand a better chance of keeping them distinct from each other.
I’ll get your more coffee… I’ll take this box of treats into the kitchen before they disappear. …
Did you have a technique for incorporating exposition into your story?
Nancy: I tend to lean heavily on dialogue to introduce the characters. You can tell so much about a person by the way he or she talks—even if they are only talking to themselves. And then I have them do something, like Rita spilling the paint. How the characters respond to setbacks provides additional insights.
Let me get you more sugar for your coffee. (Returns with powdered sugar on her cheeks and shirt.) Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Nancy: There’s probably some of me in most of them (except Ann, I hope!), and maybe some of them are the people I want to be. For instance, Rita’s mother—I hope when I get to be her age, I am that perky and energetic! I definitely drew on how I felt when my son went away to culinary school for how Rita felt about her son being gone, although I already had a full-time job and a business I was building from scratch by then.
Reinventing Rita… finding her moxie.
Rita is pretty honest about her difficulties letting go of Zack and coming face-to-face with change. Any advice for the author who is starting out at a later age?
Nancy: Honey, you have come to the right person! I am definitely a late bloomer! My first short story was published in 1994 when I was forty, my first book, The Gifts of Change, was published ten years later, and my first short fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, was published ten years after that (2014) at age sixty. Realizing that I didn’t have that many decades left for all the books I wanted to write if I only did one every ten years, I got moving and released three more books between 2014 and 2020: Rut-Busting Book for Writers, Rut-Bustine Book for Authors, and Peripheral Visions. On to this year: I published my first novel, Reinventing Rita, at age sixty-nine, and it will be followed by Mistletoe Magic and Other Holiday Tales later this year. In 2024, I’ll be releasing Finding Fran (the second book in my Midlife Moxie Novel Series)—I’ll be seventy (!) by then, followed by The Language of Love and Other Stories and Moving Maggie in 2025.
So—advice: whatever age you are, start now. You aren’t going to get any younger. And don’t worry if you can’t write about whatever seems to be the hot topic of the year. By the time you finish writing your book, it probably won’t be all that hot of a topic anyway. Write about what matters to you. Write the story you want to tell. Or, more accurately, write the kind of story you want to read.
What challenges you the most about editing or proofreading?
Nancy: Aside from all those stupid little things that we don’t see until someone else points them out to us? Hmmm… making sure I have not been repetitive when giving the backstory about a character. I have taken to keeping notes of how many times I refer to something or someone in the novel. I have just finished editing Finding Fran because the backstory about her past relationships is relevant, but I don’t want to bring it up more than necessary.
Rita’s half birthday is on my actual birthday. Great choice! Zack and Angie gifted Rita a book. I’m not sure I’d react as gracefully as Rita did! You have a couple of helpful books out there: Rut-Busting for Authors, Rut-Busting for Writers. What other nonfiction book do you recommend to women in their fifties who are starting over?
Midlife, No Crisis by Lisa Levine is a great book. I reviewed it on my blog and really found it very useful and instructive. But to tell you the truth, I think even reading fiction where the character is in her fifties and starting over can serve a useful purpose. It can inspire you to want to be like her even if she is fictional. And inspiration, from any source, is powerful.
Do you smell something burning? I better check… (Annie returns with strawberry jam on her collar.) The Valentine recipe box Zack gave his mom got me a little teary-eyed. I’ve kept most everything my daughter made for me as a child. What gift have you received that you will cherish forever?
Nancy: Items my parents gave me because they are both gone now. And my son had given me a tiny unicorn on a necklace when he was in grade school and then a glass unicorn years later. And items my daughter gave me… Okay, enough about that or I’ll get teary-eyed too! Here, you need this napkin… right there…
Well, now we need more napkins… (Dashes to the kitchen and returns with napkins while licking chocolate off her hands.) What author or book most impressed you as a child?
Nancy: Hmmm… let me guess. You were trying out the ginger-chocolate cookies, weren’t you? What book? Alice in Wonderland, hands down. I was, and still am, very imaginative. I easily believed that there could be a place that she went to where all the rules and conformities of life were suspended and the unbelievable became believable. On my website, I have a quote from Alice:
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
I have found that sometimes the things we want to do are the very things we tell ourselves are impossible to do. But if we try believing at least one impossible thing each morning, we just might achieve what we think we can’t!
There are some great details in your story. What was your favorite thing to research? Cultural food ideas? Interior design?
Nancy: It was the baking, and it led to something I didn’t expect. My mother used to make the Hungarian torte for my father every now and then, but I had never tried it until I was working on the novel. But then, as I was going through the stack of recipes and cookbooks I received after she died, I also came across a handwritten notebook my father’s mother kept, and in it were several Hungarian torte recipes! That was very unexpected and exciting to hold in my hand, even though, being in Hungarian, I couldn’t read much of it!
Where to find Reinventing Rita
Nancy: The next novel (out June 2024) is Finding Fran—the story of Fran Carter, a once best-selling romance novelist whose slow-but-steady drop in book sales is complicated by the knowledge that her lover, a professional photographer, has been on the wrong side of the camera (so to speak) with his models. So much for her author brand, built on the premise that women in their fifties and beyond can still find love and happiness. Her solution? A week at a northern California bed-and-breakfast, where she plans to lick her wounds and try to overcome a bad case of writer’s block in time to meet her next deadline.
Moving Maggie won’t be out until June 2025 and is about a woman who, as she approaches her sixtieth birthday, is unprepared for the triple whammy that hits her: the loss of her job, the ending of her marriage, and the need to find a new place to live. A change in environment sparks a series of unexpected opportunities along with the start of new friendships and the return of an old love. As Maggie deals with the challenges of moving into a new phase of her life, she realizes that it’s never too late to start again.
I have a newsletter, Nancy’s Book News, for readers and a second one, The Writing Life, for writers—both of which have information about my latest books. And I do social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads), and interviews like this (thank you!) and YouTube videos and my podcast and book events, and basically anything I can think of to make people aware of my books. Marketing is time-consuming, but it must be done!
You can find the newsletter, podcast, and other fun stuff here.
It’s been such a delight having you visit, and the baked goods are extra yummy. Thank you so much!
Nancy: I have so enjoyed being here, chatting about Rita and writing and food (not necessarily in that order!) and my other book projects. Thank you so much for having me as a guest in your lovely home and for the coffee and conversation. It was great fun!
I’d love to know what your followers think about the premise of the Midlife Moxie Novel Series, and, for that matter, how they feel about the midlife stage of life. If that’s the stage they’re in, what dream do they still want to pursue? Or do they believe that it’s too late and they’re too old to do it? And if they aren’t there yet, what do they think midlife will be like for them?
Post a response to Nancy’s question in the comment section below, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a free e-copy of Reinventing Rita!