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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Story Behind Author, Carole McKee-Spalino, and Her Books


Carole, tell us a little about yourself first, and then about your writing.

I am a native of Pittsburgh. Although that will always be considered home for me, I have lived other places. In 1969 I moved to Germany and spent a year there as a military wife.  When we returned to Pittsburgh we were a family of three—having our daughter, Terra born in Germany in 1970. My husband resumed a position with his old company, but in Philadelphia instead of Pittsburgh. We moved to New Jersey and then to Delaware where we remained until after our son, Eric was born in 1971.

Things change, people change, and so did our marriage. After our divorce I remarried but it didn’t last long. We had moved to North Carolina and I returned home to file for divorce number two. The kids were glad to get back home to Pittsburgh and to reunite with their father. In 1984 their father disappeared. We searched and searched for him but he was never found, and has not been found to this day. He is officially on the missing persons list.
            From the point of my second divorce, I knew that I was done with marriage, so at age 41 I enrolled in college and earned an Associate’s degree in Nuclear medicine. I moved to Erie, PA to work in a local hospital there. The money was great but I was not happy.

Terra and Eric
It was in 1992 that I learned that my son was sick—very sick. He had been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and the prognosis was not good. I’ll never forget the day I heard the news. I felt my insides crumble and my throat constrict. Eric—my wonderful, beautiful son did not have a future. It isn’t supposed to happen like that! Through experimentation and treatments Eric lived another 10 years. He achieved his Bachelor’s and then his Master’s in Physical Therapy and began working in a hospital near Philadelphia—not too far from where he was conceived, actually.  He married in 2000. We had all but forgotten about his illness—well not forgotten about it, but it seemed that his illness had taken a backseat to his achievements. When his illness suddenly got into the driver’s seat it was like a punch in the gut. Eric died in 2002 from what is called PNH, a serious bone marrow and blood disorder, and my life has never been the same.

Although I want to, I cannot write his story. Even after 10 years the wound is still open and raw. Just before he died, Eric asked two things of me: Please quit smoking, and please finish my degree. I quit smoking just after his passing and then, after moving to Florida I got my Bachelor’s and then went on to get my Master’s in school counseling. I know Eric would approve. My daughter, who I love so much, is still having a hard time with Eric’s death. Last year she left her home and walked away from me, and the rest of the family. All I know is that she is living in Utah, but she will not contact anyone. I believe she suffers from survivor’s guilt.

One major gift that Eric left for me was his son, Eric. He was born five months after his death. He is nine now and just such a reminder of his wonderful father. Lately he has been asking about his daddy, so I made up an album of pictures for him. If I eventually write Eric’s story, it will be dedicated to my grandson.

Why and when did you begin writing?

I don’t know when I decided to try my hand at writing. I know when my dog died I wrote a tribute to him (enclosed) and it appeared as an article in a vet’s newsletter. When I was in college, most of my professors old me I had a real flair for writing. A Sociology professor scrawled across the bottom of my term paper that I either have had an exciting life or I have one hell of an imagination, and that I should consider a career in writing. I know I’ve always had an imagination. In my mind I could act out stories. One day I decided to write down what was running through my mind, and “Perfect,” my first novel, was born. I entered the book in a self-published novel contest and it received an honorable mention, with a good critique. The judge who critiqued it said that I write from the heart and that my writing shows a lot of passion. This was the encouragement I needed. The birth of “Choices,” then “The Bushes are Red,” followed by “The Full Nelson”—all three making up a trilogy—came from my mind to print faster than even I expected.

Why did you choose this genre? How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?

I don’t know why I chose to write in the contemporary romance genre either. I think it chose me. I once made a statement that since I couldn’t find the perfect man I create one in all my stories. I think that’s probably true. The critic who sent feedback on “Perfect” classified my work as mainstream, so that’s probably a closer description. All of my characters are believable and the places are real. The events that take place in my novels are also believable, if sometimes tragic or frightening. I’m not good with science fiction and gruesome stories give me goose bumps. So romance it is.
Can you tell us more about your books and how we can find them?
“A Tribute to Jackson” was a heart-rending short story of my love for my dog who died with kidney disease. Nobody has been able to read it without crying.

“Perfect” (ISBN 9781434318909 Author House 2007) was broken into three parts. Part I told of the birth and the life of a beautiful, talented girl named Katrina; Part II was about the young years of Nathan, and Part III was Katrina and Nathan’s meeting and their short life together. The book ended in tragedy. I don’t know of any person yet who has been able to read those last couple of chapters without tears.

“Choices” (ISBN 9781434369642 Author House 2008) is about young love. Lindy and Ricky are teenage sweethearts who go up against many adversities to be together. Events lead up to their young marriage at 18 after they run away to get Lindy away from her foster father who raped her. Theirs is a happy ending, promising a beginning that leads to….

“The Bushes are Red.” (ISBN 9781438960760 Author House 2009)   Ricky and Lindy are married for 15 years when they face every parent’s worst nightmare. Their child vanishes from her room in the middle of the night. Their nightmare worsens when they discover that the person who kidnapped their daughter was the same man who raped Lindy when she was a teen. The excitement builds when Lindy and Ricky defy the FBI and go after the man themselves. It is a race to get to her before the kidnapper boards a plane to leave the country with their daughter, taking her away forever.

“The Full Nelson” (ISBN 9781438989846 Author House, 2009) is an about-face. The kidnapper speaks out and tells his story. He tells about his sad unhappy life growing up on a farm, and then he justifies all of his actions, making himself seem like a prince….until the end, when the light finally dawns on him.

Readers didn’t want this saga to end so I have written a fourth book about these characters, but it is not published yet. This one is entitled “Consequences.” I plan on publishing this one sometime this year.

“Kisses from the Heart.” (ISBN 9781618428318 BookBaby.com, 2011) It is the story of Mindi Adams, a petite, pretty dark haired girl with eyes like quick silver. She is quick witted and sometimes sharp tongued. She operates her own business from her home in the country and she couldn’t be happier or feel more blessed. After catching her boyfriend cheating on her she immediately puts him out of her house and moves on. Life becomes status quo until the night of the storm, when lightning slashes the sky, thunder shakes the earth, and a prison bus overturns in a swollen creek. One of the prisoners gets into Mindi’s house and changes her life forever.

“Maddie’s Garden” (ISBN 978-1-4657-0790-1) has just been released as n eBook. Maddie is a lovely but lonely woman who desperately wants a family. Since she grew up in a loveless violent and dysfunctional home, all she wants is a normal loving family. When she finds the twins in her yard, her heart overflows with love for them. She becomes friends with their widowed father and accommodates him when he needs help. She learns that he is engaged to be married and it is only when he sets the date does she realize that she is in love with him. Maddie is sad but she isn’t the only one. The children are sad because they may never see Maddie again. They resort to drastic measures that only four year olds would think of, but in spite of their efforts he wedding date is set.

All of my books are available at any online bookstore as eBooks. The first four are available as paperbacks as well. Several public libraries carry at least one of my books.

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I have a few others that are being edited. I believe “Second Chances” will be available next month sometime. This story tells of a woman who believes that people sometimes need a boost up in the world and she finds a way to give them a second chance at living. 
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?  

All of the places in my novels do exist, mostly in Pittsburgh or somewhere in Western Pennsylvania. A few new ones that will be coming out actually take place in Florida. The names of my characters just happen, but I notice that the “good guys” (and girls) have pretty names that I like, while the bad characters have either names I don’t like or names of people I don’t like. Usually, it’s just names I don’t like because here are very few people that I don’t like. I get an image of a character in my head and a name just seems to form.

I come up with a story line and then I develop a character(s) around it. I know what I want the person or persons to be like.
How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?
As far as villains—most of my villains lean toward insanity or are emotionally disturbed. Most of them have a propensity for bad language. It comes with the territory. Having worked with many people who were emotionally disturbed or mentally damaged in some way, I have a lot of characteristics to choose from.
What’s your favorite thing about your book?
My favorite things about my book(s) are my characters. I often joke that I gave birth to them, but actually I guess I did. If not for me they wouldn’t exist. I sometimes think that the female protagonist is actually who I would want to be instead of who I am. I love the way my readers get emotional when they read my books. While I was at work one night, a girl I worked with was reading one of my books (Perfect). When I came back from break she was crying and she said to me, “Carole, how could you? You killed Jeff.” I said, “Tammy, he wasn’t real.” Her answer was, “He was real to me.” I can’t ask for more than that reaction out of a reader.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
 “Made it” moments: there have been a few. Graduating from college with my Bachelor’s at age 59, and then obtaining my Master’s at age 62 were two of my finest moments. I had fulfilled a dream both times. I received an “Academic Achievement” award, and I felt that that was another great moment.   Seeing every book in print are other “made it” moments. In spite of all these accomplishments, I would have to say that my finest moments were the birth of my children.
What is your writing schedule?
I have a flexible writing schedule. Severe back and leg pain has forced me to step away from the workplace, but I can’t fully retire yet. My day usually begins by going through my emails and then playing a couple of mindless games on the computer, just to get relaxed, and then I begin my writing for the day. I usually give it anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day; sometimes longer; sometimes not as long. 
What do you do when you are not writing? 
When I’m not writing, I like to have a meal out with friends at least once a week. I do some volunteer work for the homeless shelters (great story ideas there) and I enjoy giving some time to the local Humane Society. Of course, the back and leg pain curtails a lot of my activity lately. I am an avid reader, so a lot of my time is spent reading. I also tutor first year Algebra, Biology, English, and English Literature and Composition.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published? Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
If I were to give advice to young writers, it would be simply this:  PROOFREAD. I read so many novels that would be wonderful if there weren’t so many typos, poor spelling, and extra words thrown in or words left out. I know it’s hard to proofread your own, so I would advise a writer to get someone else to do it. I have a great proofreader, who I didn’t start using until my 3rd book. Major difference in my end results! By the way, I’m willing to share her name with any new writer who would be interested. She gave me the go-ahead to do so. She’s reasonable, too.

One other piece of advice I would give a new writer is research your subject. Even if you write fiction, don’t guess at something that you’re not sure of. I have had people come back to me and ask if I checked my facts. The answer is YES. I have had a lot of different jobs in my life that I can use or reference--from Nuclear Medicine Tech to Metal Shop Machinist and plenty in between.  If I am using a field that I haven’t worked in, I research it first. I get facts from the police departments and crime scene investigators or from used car salesmen if that’s the career I’m writing about.

I don’t know that my genre is unique, but many of the details are different from any I have read. Many writers write from the heart, and I am certainly no exception. If a reader tells me that she laughed and then she cried, I really feel as though I have done my job well.

I have a website, but because the company went out of business, I can’t do much with it. I have yet to figure out who is available to maintain it. I just pay for the domain every year until I find out.    www.carolemckee.com

I am also on www.filedby.com which is an author’s community website. I can be found on Facebook under Carole McKee. I answer emails from readers at either carolencats@yahoo.com or mckee.carole@yahoo.com Along with all of the online bookstores, the first 4 books can also be purchased from the book store at www.authorhouse.com



Note from Sylvia: You can visit my other blog at: http://love-faith-and-guts.blogspot.com/that features a preview to my new book released in 2012, Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts.

He found his soulmate and got married  H

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was so good to read about Carole's passion and her drive for writing. I had her as a graduate school student and even her academic writing was definitely several cuts above her peers in every class in which I served as her instructor. Continued success in your writing career.

Carole McKee said...

Thanks, Anonymous, but if I had to guess, I'd believe you are either Dr. White or Dr. Griffin. Whoever your are, thank you.

Sharla L. Shults said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharla L. Shults said...

What a great interview, Sylvia! I have been corresponding with Carole on Google+ but this provided a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Carole and her writing. WOW! I also learned you and I are fellow Georgians. Started following your blog:>) You can visit me at http://www.awakenings2012.blogspot.com/ and http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/. Looking forward to reading more from you. And, CONGRATULATIONS, Carole, on all of your accomplishments!