Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hello, I’m Lisa Romeo, a writer, freelance manuscript editor, and creative writing teacher. I live in New Jersey, where I grew up; married 31 years to my high school crush. We have two grown sons.
I’d love to introduce you to my book, STARTING WITH GOODBYE, a memoir published by University of Nevada Press. If you’ve ever lost someone close who you didn’t know or understand as well as you’d have liked; if you found grief to be different than what you imagined, filled with unpredictability and surprises; if you struggled with changing family dynamics in the face of loss—then this is a book you may like. The story follows me in the two-plus years after my father’s death, when I tried to “get to know him” better. During that time, we “talked” a lot and I learned that death ends one life, but the relationship goes on and on. My book is set in New Jersey and in Las Vegas, and is at times funny, sad, uplifting, poignant, and full of twists. Just like life.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
When my father died, I was in the middle of everything: marriage, midlife, motherhood, and a master’s degree. A very practical person who had lived 2700 miles away from my parents for 25 years, I didn’t think Dad’s passing would affect me that much. When it knocked me over, I started to question everything. Who was this man, really? Why hadn’t I known him better? We had so much in common, why weren’t we closer in life? That got me curious—and it got me writing!
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Everything I writes begins with observation—of myself, other people, the way humans interact and move through the world. I love to puzzle out the connections between what we think and feel and how we act and react. My over-active brain is always asking, why? The way I try to unravel the answer is through a story.
How do you deal with creative block?
I read what other authors have written, try to learn from the masters. Reading always sends me back to writing, newly invigorated.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Rushing to the finish. Failing to revise, revise, revise.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I absolutely love titles and I’ve presented at writers’ conferences about how to be creative with titles. I love titling my essays (I write dozens each year), even though titles are often edited depending on where it’s published. Also, I’m an editor at a few literary journals, and this is one of my favorite jobs! When the title is up to me, first I look inside the piece itself, for phrasing, word combinations, or themes that resonate and rise right off the page. I also often think of related bits of song lyrics, old movie titles, or other history or cultural references, and then play around with them.
Titling a book though is a collaborative process, with input from publishers, editor, and marketing/sales department. Here’s a post I wrote about how we arrived at the full title for my book, STARTING WITH GOODBYE: A DAUGHTER’S MEMOIR OF LOVE AFTER LOSS.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
My theory is, the book (or article, essay, story), was my turn to have my say. Once it’s published, readers and critics are entitled to their say. I have the thickest skin!
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’m a lot more patient with myself than when I was fresh out of journalism school. I know things take time, that one of the best things I can do for the work is to let it rest out of my sight for a while. Just put it away and stop tinkering with it. Then I return to it with fresh eyes for revision and/or rewriting.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of publishing your book(s)?
Best: having a reputable traditional publisher shepherding the project from manuscript to finished book, in a professional manner that also respected my artistic vision.
Worst: not having enough time (or budget) when the book was first published, to visit more bookstores and libraries in places that were important to me.
Most surprising: how the intricate machinery of the book selling industry works. I had some knowledge of course, but to see it from the author perspective was both fascinating and at times, disheartening. So much must happen to get that book on the right shelves! And there’s so much competition.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Depends. When I write service pieces, interviews, features, or news for media outlets, I must keep the reader in mind. It’s important in that arena to be aware there’s a reader at the other end who is there for a specific purpose—to be informed, educated, entertained.
But when I’m writing my own creative work—essays, long narrative nonfiction stories, memoir—then I’m overwhelmingly interested in telling the story first for myself. Later, when I’m thinking about submitting for publication, I consider if it will be a satisfying reading experience; and edit accordingly.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
I follow my nose a lot, just see where my curiosity and obsessions lead me. Get lost in research until something clicks. Read, read, read. Watch documentaries, great films, plays. And never fool myself into thinking the muse must visit or that I need to be “inspired.” If I decide to write, I write. Even if it’s crappy, at least I have some words on the page/screen to play around with.
What are your plans for future books?
I’m working on an “experiential” memoir—meaning I’ll be doing something over the course of a year and writing about it. I’m returning to a sport/passion I loved as a younger person; we’ll see how it goes as I try to get back in the saddle after 25 years away.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
As a young teen, I played ice hockey on a boys’ team. I sometimes dream that some famous person has died…and then, a day or so later, they do. I made a living in my 20’s writing about horse sports. I can sing the Greek alphabet very fast. I’m an excellent cook but a terrible baker.
Book on Amazon: http://bit.ly/SWG-Amazon
Page with links to multiple purchase options: http://bit.ly/BuySWG
My website: http://Lisaromeo.net
Short excerpt from beginning of book: https://www.nextavenue.org/writing-eulogy-father/
Essay based on chapter 2: http://bit.ly/HP-LR-Dad