A woman who tells it like it is, author and journalist Mary Lou Weisman

Author and Journalist Mary Lou Weisman

Author and Journalist Mary Lou Weisman

Putting a pen to words is an art, indeed a gift.  Especially when those words have the power to change lives.   Mary Lou Weisman was born in 1937 in Fairfield, Connecticut to a mother who believed that writing thank you notes was a high art, and to a father who was convinced that one of the great joys in life was the pursuit of the right word.   According to Mary Lou, he was right and so was her mother.   Mary Lou became a writer at the age of seven, mainly due to her father’s influence.  Although initially she protested writing anything at all, she ultimately came to learn about gratitude and enjoyed searching for the right words to put on the notes.  She couldn’t  just write “Thank you, love Mary-Lou” when she received gifts.  She felt compelled to both acknowledge it and graciously go on to tell the person who gave it to her exactly how she was going to use or enjoy their gift.

Later in life, unlike many of her classmates, she found she enjoyed writing term papers.   She recalls two college literature teachers who complimented her on her writing ability.  They were instrumental in helping Mary Lou take herself seriously as a writer.  She feels she owes them a lot.  Mary Lou obtained a solid liberal arts education, married, and secured a position as “clerk typist” in what was called, laughably, “a job in publishing.” The salary at that time during the 60s was a whopping  $62.50 a week.   She believed she was on her way to a career in journalism.

To this day, Mary Lou laughs at her unlikely success.  She believes she’s still a work in progress, despite having published numerous books, articles, and journalistic works.   At first she wasn’t sure she had the stamina for writing.  Every single writing job involved an initial anxiety attack, but once she delved into the project, she found she loved the process.  She describes the culmination of a writing project and the ultimate payoff as a thrilling sense of resolution and accomplishment.   For Mary Lou, writing has become not only her career, but a passion.   When she first began, she had no other ambition than merely to write.  But over the years, she has fallen in love with the process.   Of course Mary Lou still gets disappointed if her writing project gets rejected, but she never regrets having written.

Mary Lou is inspired still by her parents. Even though they had no intention of making a writer out of her, inadvertently through her mother’s interest in basic writing skills and good manners, and her father’s love of words, they did so. Later on, the professionals in her life, helped her to do her best. Mary Lou’s first newspaper editor, Paul Good, remarked, “You don’t write bad for a housewife, kiddo.”   Some women might have taken offense to that, but for Mary Lou, it made her day. He was no feminist, but, hey, she was happy for the compliment. Further into her career, the editor of Woman’s Day, Ellen Levine, would invariably return her work back two or three times. Saying it could be better, without giving details, Levine never revealed what about the work she didn’t like. Ultimately, Mary Lou realized that there wasn’t anything specific Levine didn’t like. What she was trying to teach her was the life lesson that everything can always be better.

Despite working during the sixties, pre-women’s lib, Mary Lou remained naïve of any ways in which she’d ever been discriminated against as a woman.  She believes this largely to be because she normally worked alone or among other women and did not compete with men directly in the marketplace.  Although she’s never experienced a male writer, for instance, being chosen over her, Mary Lou constantly runs into a prejudice against women writers.  She believes, that tendency is reflective of a lingering prejudice against women in general.  If someone, male or female, asks her what she“does,” Mary Lou answers that she’s a writer. Often their next question is, “Have you been published?”  She suspects that if she were a man, they wouldn’t ask her that question.

Mary Lou has written five books and scads of newspaper and magazine articles, all of which she considers to have been very rewarding. One of the books, MY MIDDLE-AGED BABY BOOK was a bestseller. Despite that commercial success, the book INTENSIVE CARE has given her the greatest sense of accomplishment.   Not just because the book is about her beloved son Peter, who died at the young age of sixteen from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, although that was enough to make it her most rewarding experience.  -and not because it received high praise from literary critics, although she is humbled and rewarded by that, too. It is because so many mothers and fathers of children with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy and other life-threatening diseases have written to Mary Lou, including myself, to thank her for writing an honest, unsentimental  book.  Mary Lou’s description of the painful saga is frank and unforgiving.  From the very first chapter, she tells it like it is.  Organizations like The Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy recommend that all families read this valuable life lesson.  These families thank her for acknowledging how difficult their journey is, for inspiring them and for giving them the courage to go on.

Mary Lou Weisman Intensive Care

An intense look at demanding care.

Mary Lou is humbled that she was named a Belle of Steel.  For her, writing is her passion.  According the Mary Lou, “As anyone who has had a passion for anything – caring for the elderly, rearing children, playing the violin, fixing cars, teaching, — knows, passion is a strong driving force. If that passion is reinforced by talent, discipline, and a determination to persist in the face of rejection, you are likely to succeed.”

My Middle Aged Baby Book Mary Lou Weisman

Best Seller!

When asked what she hoped to be doing five years from now, again she was frank and honest.   First and foremost, she’d like to be 81 and alive. Given that gift, she’d still like to be writing, teaching writing, enjoying her husband, grandchildren and friends, and traveling.  But she supposes she won’t be riding her bike by then.

For her courage in writing the truth about an unpopular and devastating disease, and the book that has changed the lives of so many families, including mine, who face the battle of Duchenne’s, AgeView Press is proud to name Mary Lou Weisman its eleventh Belle of Steel.

Contact Mary Lou Weisman at www.marylouweisman.com

 

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Dan McNeil rocks his way into writing!

Okay readers, I was so elated to snag this interview with sexy, Canadian rocker-writer Dan McNeil!  Can you say score?   Not only is he adorable, but talented with a pen.   Dan hails from Canada and was able to take some time away from his busy schedule for an author interview.  Enjoy!  Ladies, please show your admiration not by salivating but by placing your comments below!  

Tell me a little about why you started writing.

A rocker with a story!

A rocker with a story!

 Honestly, the reason why I began writing was to see if I could actually pull it off. Writing a book (could I really do that?) was not something that clawed at me, to tell the truth. I’d always loved reading and it seemed to me that I had a book idea or two bouncing around inside waiting to come out but the thought of writing a book just seemed like a whole lot of work! What I really wanted to be was a songwriter. My cousin and I had a band and we wrote and recorded two CDs of original music (I maintain that there are some hits on some of them!) but somehow we never could capitalize on it. When that fizzled, I redirected my creative outlet from music to novels so I decided to give the book thing a shot, in spite of the fact that I knew that diving into something like this would no doubt, kick my ass. (Can I say ass?)

 Why is historical fiction a favorite genre?

 I love history and I’ve always loved novels with historical settings. They’re just so much more appealing to me. They transport you to a different time and place and isn’t that what a good book is supposed to do? I find that the heroes of these stories usually have to work a little harder and use their wits more. There’s no cell phones, no GPS, no internet, etc. Something as simple as say, getting a message to someone can become a pretty big obstacle that needs to be surmounted, and for me, things like that make for an exciting read. Although I do read contemporary stories, the historical genre is my go-to genre. (I think that I’m a bit of a Luddite at heart…)

Tell me about your writing as it relates to the Beatles.

 I’d had the idea for “Can’t Buy Me Love” for many, many years. I’d read somewhere that while the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964, not a major crime was committed in New York City. Not even a hubcap was stolen. Everyone was glued to their television sets to watch this phenomenon from Liverpool. I remember reading that and thinking “what a great time to rob a bank.” Of course, I love music and I am a huge Beatle fan and the idea of this bank heist set during one of the most important eras in the history of rock and roll (and including the Beatles – it’s a natural!) appealed to me in a big way.

 Do you think your interest comes from your talent in music?

 Oh, no doubt. The funny thing is, when I was writing songs, I was always more interested in creating the music rather than the words.  I love interesting chord structures and melodies and that’s what drew me to creating music in the first place. You can draw a parallel between a great piece of music and a novel – just as a great book draws the reader in, so can a great song. Towards the end of my songwriting phase though, I was contributing more lyrics and so I guess the natural progression from that was to writing books.

 Who would you say were your greatest author influences?

 As a kid, I read “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger. It’s cliché I know, but what teenage guy doesn’t identify with a screw-up like Holden Caulfield? I also loved the casual way Salinger wrote so it was certainly a major influence to me when I started writing.  I re-read it about once a year – still my favourite book. Another influence to me was Caleb Carr and his book “The Alienist.” It’s a historical novel that takes place in 1896 New York City. Carr peppered his story with real life characters of the time and that really made the book come alive. Both of my books have real life characters in them too, so you could definitely say that Caleb Carr was a pretty big influence. I’m also a big fan of Jeffery Deaver’s work too.

What was your most flattering moment after writing the book?

 There were two, actually. One was as I was writing it and the other when I finished it. After I’d written the first one (“The Judas Apocalypse”) and spent a crapload of time and energy trying to get it published, I wasn’t really sure if I was all that interested in writing another book. The first one took four years so the thought of doing another one was less than appealing than a root canal. I have a great friend that I used to work with who loved my first book and when I told her I was thinking of attempting a second book, she became so excited about the prospect of it, that it spurred me on. The fact that she really wanted me to do this was very flattering. When I finished it, I let her read it. She took it home and over the next few days she read it 3 times. She also told me that she cried at the end. The fact that it affected her like that was also very flattering. I dedicated the book to her.

Why would readers want to choose this book?

 Because it’s a lot of fun! It takes place during a seminal moment in rock history, it’s got loveable characters, a great plot line, a ton of heart and the Beatles. Seriously, what else could you possibly want?

 What are you working on next?

 Right now, I’m trying to promote this one, but I do have a couple of ideas I’m toying with. One is a Western murder mystery and the other a crime story set in the sixties – both historical ideas (surprise, surprise!)

 Where can my readers get your books?Can't Buy Me Love Sept 2012 for poster[1]

 Right now you can get the Kindle version of CAN’T BUY ME LOVE from Amazon http://tinyurl.com/9z8zquc , Nook for Barnes & Noble http://tinyurl.com/a5qllk4 or directly from the Pulse, the publisher http://www.shop.pulsepub.net/. Print is available from the publisher as well, although should be up on Amazon very soon. You can also get the audio book from Audible and iTunes.

 Can we be groupies at your next concert? 

 Sure…can never have too many groupies although Ottawa is pretty far away to catch a gig.

A little bit about Dan McNeil

You can follow him on twitter @DanMcNeil888

Dan McNeil was born in Toronto, Ontario Canada in October of 1962. He grew up in a home surrounded by books and music, ensuring that he would have a love for both. When he got older, his love of all things trivial led him to make an appearance when he was 16 years old on the CBC television show “Trivia” where his team managed to make it all the way to the finals. He spent much of the 80’s playing in bands around Ottawa, later writing and recording two albums of original pop rock with his cousin and song-writing partner Steve Casey. The two had some success, winning a number of song-writing contests including the prestigious NSAI (National Songwriters Association International) competition in 2002. Dan spent 24 years at CHRO TV in Ottawa as a camera operator and later as senior editor for the station, often composing much of the music for many of their local productions. It was during this time that he decided to try penning a novel. His first book, “The Judas Apocalypse” was published in 2008. He fully enjoyed the experience and decided to write another. His latest offering is “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a light hearted romp about a heist during the Beatle’s first visit to the United States in 1964, which was released September 2012.