Hi Marianne, many thanks for coming to Author 911 today to talk about your book.
I know you are a writer and nurse but you describe yourself as a writer who became a nurse. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Thanks for inviting me to speak to your readers, Judith. It’s always a pleasure to share space with another author. All my life I've dreamed of being a writer. As a young girl, I fell in love with books and yearned to create my own, to one day see my name on its cover as author, to find it on a library shelf or in a book store, to catch someone reading it. In high school I dreamed of becoming a reporter – a foreign correspondent, at that! In college, I worked as a reporter for my college newspaper at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and as a stringer for several local dailies. I thought that with hard work, determination, skill, and talent I would see my dream come true. That did not happen. Fresh out of school with an English degree, I was unable to secure any type of stable employment as a reporter. I struggled for a couple of years, but eventually grew desperate because I was broke and had to support myself and pay off student loans. I then took a job with a national non-profit health agency and freelanced as a reporter and as a production assistant for some smaller papers. This proved unsatisfying and I drifted into other jobs and finally gave up writing and reporting for good. This was the early 90’s, and the country was in the midst of a nursing crisis. I’d never dreamed of becoming a nurse, in fact, I balked at the idea when it was suggested in high school, but as an adult, I realized this might be an opportunity for me to gain stable. After working in a hospital for a few years, one of the nurse managers started a newsletter for the nursing department. I volunteered to help and soon I was running the whole thing! This reignited my desire to write and I started penning articles, one of which was published in a nursing journal. Encouraged, I embarked on my first novel. It took 11 years, but I self-published that book and am now working on another. I’ve also published three short stories. So, although I love being a nurse and it has been a rewarding career for me on many levels, I am at heart a writer. This will always be how I define myself.
Please tell me about your background.
I grew up in the suburbs of Boston with three younger brothers. We were fortunate in that we had parents who loved us and gave us a good home. Sadly, my father passed away at the young age of 45, forcing me to grow up overnight. I was just 15 and the oldest. My mother depended on me to help care for my brothers after school while she worked. This was difficult, in that I had my own agenda – what teenage girl doesn’t? My mother is a strong woman who raised me to be strong as well. She insisted that I pursue my dreams and has supported me at every step, whether I was writing, selling Tupperware (what a great way to get through school), establishing myself as a resident of Cape Cod (what a great place to live), or going to nursing school in New York. She’s my best friend and number one fan. My only wish is that we lived close to each other so I could see her more often.
Tell me about your book and the inspiration for that book.
Blue Hydrangeas is the story of a pair of elderly Cape Cod innkeepers struggling with the wife’s Alzheimer’s. A couple I met in my work as a hospital case manager, a fascinating couple in their 80’s, was my inspiration. She was a lovely woman, so pretty, and had Alzheimer’s. I’d ask her a question and she’d try to answer, but then say, “Oh, I’m so mixed up,” and laugh. Her husband was frail, an amiable sort of guy, and devoted to her. My job was to assist with the discharge plan, which was for her to go to a local nursing home for rehab (she’d broken her pelvis) the next day. I discussed the arrangements with her, her husband, and their son, who asked me to make sure his parents didn’t leave the hospital without him; he planned to drive them to the nursing home and assist with the admissions process. Later on, I couldn’t stop thinking about that couple, wondering what would happen if they left the hospital without their son. Where would they go? What would they do? Thus, the seeds of Blue Hydrangeas were sown, my wild writer’s imagination took off, and the story began to grow.
I worked on this book eleven years. It sounds crazy, I know, but after I finished what I thought was the final draft and sent it out into the literary market place with no takers, I continued to tweak it, cutting scenes, adding others. In the midst of all this, I developed repetitive strain injuries from an inappropriate computer workstation at my job, and everything just stopped. I could no longer write. I put everything aside for a couple of years. But the story haunted me, and when I was able to I continued to revise and rework the manuscript. Two years ago a friend suggested I publish on Kindle and I figured I had nothing to lose. It took me a year to prepare and publish the book. My book is unique because there aren’t many novels about Alzheimer’s, although 5.5 million people are suffering from it right now.
Do you have a regular writing routine?
No, I don’t have a regular writing routine because of the repetitive strain injuries I mentioned earlier. This includes carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, chronic headaches, and musculoskeletal and nerve pain. If time permits and my pain issues are managed, I may be able to write a few hundred words on my work-in-progress, or a blog post, or an interview. I manage my social media daily via my iPhone and Kindle which are easier to handle. I use Tweetdeck and Buffer to ease the load. A great day for me is to write 2000 words on my novel. To read more about this please visit MyTOSLife or The Balanced Writer.
Do you have a WIP? If so, would you like to share?
Like so many writers, I wear many hats, one of which is called “Swim Mom.” I’ve shuttled my daughter to swim meets and swim practice for years, and now follow her across state lines during her college swimming career. All those hours sitting on cold, metal bleachers waiting to watch her swim for a minute or two gave me more than a sore you-know-what: It inspired me to write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming.
In my current work-in-process Swim Season, the new girl on the team challenges a longstanding school record attached to a $50,000 scholarship. My goal was to write a story about the whole high school swimming experience, to show others who may not be as familiar with the sport how much fun it is and how hard these kids work. I started it four years ago and will soon have a completed manuscript. The plan is to publish sometime this year.
This story is about more than swimming as my young heroine, Aerin, deals with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, a stepmother and two stepsisters she doesn't want, her mother's PTSD and drug addiction after two tours of duty in the Middle East as an Army nurse, and her best friend's cute twin brother. Oh, and she's just started senior year in her third high school. Aerin is a girl you will definitely cheer for.
What do you think is the hardest thing about writing?
Having time to write is most difficult. I work in spurts so I don’t always start and complete a project at one sitting. My mind is always working but my hands and arms can’t keep up and it becomes frustrating. Another difficulty is trying not to edit until I’ve completed the first draft. My inner editor is always screaming, but I find it’s better to get the writing out before I start perfecting it.
What in life inspires you?
Life itself inspires me. The world is beautiful. People are fascinating.
If I could, I’d wave my magic wand over the world and fill each person’s heart with joy and a desire for peace, ending all wars and violence against other people, so each individual person has the ability to thrive and meet his or her potential without fear or want.
About the Author
A lover of words and books, Marianne Sciucco dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her debut novel, “Blue Hydrangeas,” an Alzheimer’s love story, is rated 4.7 stars on Amazon and has more than 70 5-star reviews. A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. You can follow Marianne’s Adventures in Publishing on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and on MarianneSciucco.blogspot.com
Blue Hydrangeas is available in paperback, audiobook and ebook at these and other online booksellers.
Barnes and Noble