Rochelle Weinstein, THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS

Rochelle Weinstein, THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS

Zibby Owens: Rochelle Weinstein is the USA Today best-selling author of What We Leave Behind, The Mourning After, Where We Fall, Somebody’s Daughter, and her latest novel, This Is Not How It Ends. A former entertainment industry executive, Rochelle eventually became a full-time writer and a mom of twins. She currently lives with her husband in Miami where she was born and raised.

Welcome, Rochelle. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Rochelle Weinstein: Hi, Zibby. Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

Zibby: It’s my pleasure. Can you please tell listeners what This Is Not How It Ends is about? What inspired you to write it?

Rochelle: This Is Not How It Ends is a love story based in the Florida Keys. That’s the short answer. The long answer is it is a story of love, forgiveness, family, friendship, and the sacrifices we make for all of them.

Zibby: Is that all?

Rochelle: That’s all. What inspired me, to be honest, this is my fifth book and I really wanted to revert back to — my first novel was What We Leave Behind. It was the quintessential love story. What was my little elevator pitch for that? For any woman who has loved and lost and wondering what could’ve been, which I feel is all of us. That book was actually my first self-published book. That was my book that became a USA Today best seller. That book has stayed in so many of my reader’s hearts. They’ve contacted me. They’re like, “Are you going to write a follow-up?” I really didn’t feel that I could do the characters justice by doing a series, but I knew that I needed to tap into those emotions again. That was the inspiration, wanting to write another beautiful romance story.

Zibby: Wait, go back a minute. You self-published your first book?

Rochelle: I did. What’s funny is I speak a lot at schools. I mentor a lot of authors. I love what I do as a writer, but one of my most favorite things about this profession is being able to give back to the book community. It’s inspiring and motivating. When I tell this story, I feel like sometimes it’s better than my books. My first book, it sat under the bed, a hundred thousand words. I tried to get it published. Can you hear that?

Zibby: Yeah. We’re going to invite Rochelle’s dogs into this interview. Welcome, dogs. We’ll see what they have to say.

Rochelle: They’re very far away. Anyway, I’m going to make a very long story short. I ended up getting rejected by agents across the board. I decided I was going to self-publish. I dealt with the stigma and the lack of credibility that was associated with self-publishing. I made a decision and what my goals were for my writing and what I wanted to do with my writing. I put the book out there. It hit the USA Today best-seller list, not right away. It built traction. My second book, I self-published as well. Then I parlayed that into a book deal. Some authors, it’s really easy and it’s a straight shoot. I’m here to tell you that it’s not that way for a lot of authors. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of effort. It’s a lot of thick skin and being resilient. That’s the message that I give to all aspiring authors. I just probably fast-forwarded to your last question.

Zibby: That’s okay. We can just get off the phone now. It’s fine. You said you were trying to get past the stigma and everything of self-publishing. Do you really feel like there’s such a stigma anymore? I feel like in the olden days, like when it first was invented, people looked down on it maybe a little. I’m not so sure there’s even that anymore. I don’t know. What do you think?

Rochelle: I don’t think there is anymore. This was probably 2012. We’ve seen it evolve substantially since then. I think it is a very viable option for a lot of authors. There’s articles you can google about many books that have been self-published. Amanda Hocking, there’s authors that have hit best-seller lists. I don’t think that there is as much of a stigma, but I do believe that a lot of authors have that dream inside of them, that “I’m going to get a traditional deal. Then I’m going to hit the New York Times best-seller list.” Again, it’s not a straight shoot for every author. One of the nice things about self-publishing is it just goes to show you how in today’s digital era there’s so many ways in which to get your books into print.

Zibby: You said when you decided to self-publish that you were keeping in mind your own goals for your writing. What were those?

Rochelle: To be honest, at that point I wanted a tangible piece of evidence to leave to my family and my friends. I really wasn’t thinking of anything grander. I was just thinking I put in all this hard work. I wrote what I thought was an amazing book. I just wanted there to be evidence out in the world that I had done this. I tell authors all the time that they have to really manage their expectation for their work. That’s the key also to being successful, is managing those expectations.

Zibby: Now that you have gotten a book deal, would you ever go back to self-publishing? Now you’re firmly entrenched? You feel like crossed the line? How do you feel? Some people feel like self-publishing can actually be more lucrative in a way.

Rochelle: I see a lot of authors that they go both ways. They have a book deal with a publishing house. Then sometimes the publishing house, it’s a couple years until your next book, and they will self-publish something in between so that there’s that traction. There’s the visibility. Is it something I would do? I’ve actually had moments where I didn’t know if my next book was going to be bought. Absolutely, it’s been a consideration for me. It was very good to me. I have a great experience. Also, it’s a little different when you’re an established author and you have a following, to go back to self-publishing. You have a foundation in place. I think that helps.

Zibby: Let’s talk more about This Is Not How It Ends, your most recent novel which was fantastic. I know you said it was about falling in love in the Florida Keys, but it’s really based on a woman who is getting married and her relationship where she happens to meet a father and son during a food allergy attack and what ensues afterwards. Let’s say that. As a mother of two children who have food allergies, two who don’t, I was super interested in your basing one of the main characters and one of the main events of the book around a food allergy attack to nuts. Do you have a child with food allergies? How did you decide to put this as a central part of the story?

Rochelle: Here’s the authenticity piece. I actually had a late-in-life reaction to almonds which is exactly what one of the characters in the book — writers write what they know. They embellish. It was about three years ago. I all of a sudden had a very bad reaction to almonds. I wasn’t anaphylactic, but I had a very, very uncomfortable reaction. I had allergy testing. They told me I was highly allergic to almonds. From that day forward, I had to walk around with an EpiPen. For somebody was who forty-six, forty-seven at the time, it was really difficult. I was very frustrated. I was very annoyed. I was scared. A friend of mine had done NAET therapy, which is an alternative, more natural approach to allergy treatment. Some of the doctors were like, “I can give you shots. I could do this.” I didn’t really want to change my lifestyle so much. I thought maybe I could get this quick fix. I went into NAET therapy. My girlfriend had some terrible allergies. Her son had some terrible allergies. They had a lot of success with it. I was intrigued by it. I come from a family of medical doctors. They were adamantly opposed to it. I’m all about a holistic approach. I like to try out new techniques and different ways of modern medicine, combining a little bit of east and west. I went and I actually did NAET therapy myself.

Zibby: Did it work?

Rochelle: It worked, like the character in the book, for a lot of my allergies, but not all of them.

Zibby: You really tapped into the fear that parents have of when their children have allergies. You must have friends. Did you do any research? Did you just imagine what it would feel like as a mom yourself?

Rochelle: I do have friends that their children have serious life-threatening allergies. I have to tell you, the reactions that I was having, I was imagining not being with my child in those moments. I can’t even imagine what a parent goes through sending your child to school, sending your child to sleepaway camp. Is that even an option? As moms, most of us are very controlling to begin with. Then you add this component of a factor where you don’t have any control of what’s going into your child’s mouth. It terrified the life out of me. I’m a little jittery even talking about it. I admire any mother who has a child with life-threatening allergies because it is extremely scary.

Zibby: I’ve been in the emergency room many times. My kids, especially my son — the most recent was a really bad reaction. I was sitting there being like, why do we even have nuts on Earth? Really? Do we need these? I wish I could go around and throw them all out and not have to worry because you just don’t know.

Rochelle: It’s funny because — it’s not funny. I was on a plane recently with my husband. It’s amazing to me that this airline still even gives out peanuts. I said to my husband, “You can’t eat those.” He’s like, “What do you mean I can’t eat those?” He had them and they were on his little table. I was like, “What if a child comes in here and is highly allergic and touches –” I became literally the mother of a child with a major peanut allergy. I took the peanuts from him. I put them in my bag. I wouldn’t let him eat them because you’re in this small space.

Zibby: I agree. I can’t believe airlines allow it either. Often when I go on with my kids, they’ll make some announcement like, “There’s a child with food allergies. Please put away your nuts,” or something like that. I feel like that’s all they’re doing, is catch as catch can.

Rochelle: I will tell you that — I’m sure you’ve heard this. This is a subject for another time, but there is that whole program at Stanford.

Zibby: Yes, I’m aware of all the — yeah, conversation for another time. Back to your book, Charlie who’s the main character tells Philip when she first meets him, which is on an airplane, that she is also a world traveler like he is for work. She is referring to books in this instance. She says, “The stories that kept me alive and took me all over the world, their destinations only rivaled by the depth of what I’d come to understand about living, about life.” She tells him, “You don’t always have to physically go somewhere to experience something magical.” I totally agree about that feeling that reading can take you so many places. I was wondering for you in particular, where have books taken you? How has reading saved you or helped you through life?

Rochelle: Reading has had a huge impact on me. I’ve been an avid reader since I was probably four or five years old. I used to steal my mother’s books and sit in the closet with the flashlight when I was supposed to be in bed. My parents were divorced. My mother worked. My father really wasn’t around. In hindsight, I believe I channeled all of my emotions and all my feelings into those books. The things that I couldn’t allow myself to feel, I felt through reading. Books took me away from a lot of pain. Books helped me feel less alone. Books taught me about love, a lot about relationships. I often joke that Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steel and Judy Blume raised me. My mother was a wonderful mother. Again, she was working. My father wasn’t around all the time. Books were my escape. Books were my savior. I could sit here and tell you that yes, they take you to different locations. They take you to beautiful countries and cities. You see the magic of the world. For me, it was an emotional outlet. I think that’s also why I tend to write emotionally driven books. Now it’s my way of channeling those emotions, getting them on the page.

Zibby: Do you feel like making people feel less alone is part of your goal as a writer too?

Rochelle: Probably one. I think my fiction is relatable because of the real emotions it’s tapping. Listen, it’s not for everybody. I feel like tapping into those real emotions is what makes people connect with your work and say, “Wow, that sounds really familiar. I feel that way. I get that.”

Zibby: There was one line in your book that particularly spoke to me. It was particularly great. Charlie says to Philip, “You should know that being alone doesn’t make a person lonely. It’s being around the wrong people.” Talk to me more about that.

Rochelle: I think that as we mature, and I’m approaching fifty, you see that more and more. We fill our lives. We collect things. We collect people because we want to feel good about ourselves. We want to feel less alone. I think the older you get, and the more in touch with yourself, you realize that it’s better to be alone than reforming and changing who you are to please somebody else, somebody that’s not particularly making you happy. I’ve seen that evolution in my own life. It is something that I like to impart on readers and people who read my stories, that I’d much rather at this point in time — I don’t think it’s an easy thing to understand when you’re twenty and your teens. You want to have a bunch of friends. You want to have a boyfriend. You want to feel good. Sometimes those same things, they make you feel worse.

Zibby: Getting older and trying to evaluate toxic relationships, even friendships, what does this person need from me? Can I give this person that?

Rochelle: I’m all about authenticity at this point in my life. I need real connections. I can honestly say that I don’t feel alone in any of my relationships today.

Zibby: That’s great. Do you think your characters feel alone? I know that Charlie started off feeling very alone.

Rochelle: There’s definitely a common theme in my books that channels some of that earlier loneliness that I had felt. My characters do start out lonely. Then their big arch is learning this wonderful lesson about themselves. Usually, there’s forgiveness involved. There’s acceptance involved. There’s an emotional growth. Then they’re not so lonely anymore.

Zibby: Charlie has this great relationship with her dog Sunny. I just had to bring it up. I feel like this might be my first question about a character that’s a dog, which is so appropriate since your dogs were barking in the background. You mentioned Sunny so often, the beautiful moment when she named him and the relationship with her mother and all the times in life when the dog actually had something to do, the dog going to the hospital, all of it. Tell me a little more about that decision in this book.

Rochelle: Who knew the dog was going to become the protagonist here? To be honest, I lost my mom in 2012. My dog got me through it. Don’t tell my husband that. I would come home. I’d get into bed. She’d be downstairs. I’d be crying in bed. She would run up the stairs. She would get on the bed. She would lay on me. She’d lick away my tears. I feel that there’s such an unconditional love between humans and dogs. That’s why there’s so many of them out there and all of us love our dogs. I do believe that they can mine our emotions. I think they feel our emotions. They can tell when we’re having a good day and when we’re having a bad day. They never say no. They’re usually so cooperative. They’re sound asleep on the bed and you’re like, “C’mon, let’s go for a walk.” As humans, we’d be dragging our feet. They just want to be with us. They just want to love us. They just want to comfort us. I wanted to portray, in This Is Not How It Ends, how my dog helped me and how this dog helped — I just forgot my character’s name.

Zibby: Charlie.

Rochelle: I’m writing a new book right now.

Zibby: I can tell you more about what your book’s about if you want, if that would help.

Rochelle: Please do.

Zibby: Wait, tell me, what’s your new book about?

Rochelle: My new book is about — there’s definitely a common thread here — the quintessential perfect family. There’s a workplace sexual harassment suit, and how it detonates this family and the ripple effect and how nothing is ever what it seems. I’m about sixty thousand words in.

Zibby: Wow, that’s a chunk. How many words did this book have?

Rochelle: You should know the answer to it.

Zibby: I didn’t add them up, c’mon. I could tell you it’s probably 379 pages without looking. Wait, let me see if that’s right.

Rochelle: Ninety-something-thousand words.

Zibby: Say that again.

Rochelle: It must have been ninety-thousand-something, maybe.

Zibby: No, I bet it was more, 363 pages.

Rochelle: You asked words.

Zibby: Words, I know. Regardless, let’s just say you’re more than halfway through your next book.

Rochelle: I’m more than halfway through my next book.

Zibby: I just wanted to know more about your writing process. Where do you do it? Right there? We’re on Skype, so I’m seeing you in your bedroom. Are you writing it on your bed? Where do you write?

Rochelle: You caught me downstairs on my couch. That’s the other thing. My dogs literally plant themselves on each side of me. That’s a reason why, also, that I’ve transported them onto the page. They’re ever so present. I can work anywhere. I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never had coffee in my life, weird fun fact about me, as she’s rolling her eyes.

Zibby: I’m not rolling. I’m shocked. I’m impressed.

Rochelle: The shock. I can write anywhere. I can write with noise of my kids in my house. I’m an empty nester now. My writing has had to adapt to all the different stages. You’re a writer too. You’ll get there. I used to write when they were napping. I used to write when they were in school. Now everybody’s gone. I have no excuse not to be writing. I’ll do a yoga or Pilates class in the morning. Then I’ll be writing all day. Sometimes we’ll go to dinner. I’ll have a glass of wine. The juices are really flowing at that point. I just write whenever.

Zibby: How long does it take for each book?

Rochelle: This Is Not How It Ends took two months, believe it or not.

Zibby: Two months?

Rochelle: Yeah, that was it. Usually, it takes me nine months to a year to write a book. That book just poured right of me. That was how it was with What We Leave Behind also.

Zibby: Wow. You’re working on another book. Do you have plans for all your next books? Are you one book at a time? Do you have other ideas for things coming up?

Rochelle: I always keep a folder with all my ideas. People say, “How do you come up with ideas?” Again, you’re a writer. There’s stories all around us. I go out to dinner and the table next to us, I come up with a story. You read something in the newspaper. I always come up with crazy ideas. I keep them in my idea folder. Sometimes I share them with my agent. She’s like, “Yes. No. Yes. No.” Then sometimes we send them to the editor and she’s like, “Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No.” Then I have to feel it. If I don’t feel it inside, I can’t write it.

Zibby: I know you had started off by telling me some great advice. Now that we’re at the end of our conversation… Although, I had a million more questions to ask you.

Rochelle: I’m so happy that you skipped the question about food. I was going to tell you to skip it. You skipped it.

Zibby: Why did you want me to skip it?

Rochelle: I don’t know. I have no idea. We keep tying in this food thing. I’m not feeling the food connection.

Zibby: It’s okay. You don’t have to. I won’t talk about it. I did think it was funny how Charlie’s trying to cook and blowing up her kitchen, basically. I could relate to that, trying to attempt some sort of feat that I shouldn’t be trying in the kitchen. Parting advice to aspiring authors, go.

Rochelle: Don’t give up. As cliché as it sounds, the best advice I could give is the difference between a successful author and an unsuccessful author is the never giving up. I think back to when my book was rejected across the board and I could wallpaper a bathroom with my rejection letters. That’s how long ago it was. I actually got letters in the mail. Had I just given up and not gone the self-publishing route, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.

Zibby: I love that. I’m really glad you didn’t give up because you’ve provided me with lots of enjoyment. I love this book. I also think you did a really great job, which I didn’t really touch on, in terms of transporting readers to places. I feel like this was a little mini beach vacation for me. I haven’t spent much time in the Florida Keys. I felt like I was there. I was at the restaurant and the beach and the hammock. You really brought me there, which on this gray day in winter up here in New York was very nice.

Rochelle: I could take you to the beach for the day.

Zibby: Yes, thank you. Thanks, Rochelle. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Rochelle: Have a great day. Thanks so much.

Zibby: Thank you.

Rochelle Weinstein, THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS

This Is Not How It Ends
By Weinstein, Rochelle B.

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