Saturday, July 16, 2022

Lee Bukowski Interview - A Week of Warm Weather

Photo Content from Lee Bukowski

Lee Bukowski lives with her husband in Reading, Pennsylvania. When she’s not teaching or writing, she loves reading and traveling, especially visiting her grown daughters in Boston and Fort Lauderdale. She’s also a self-proclaimed Billy Joel superfan with a live concert count of forty-two shows. A Week of Warm Weather is her debut novel.

Greatest thing you learned at school.
It’s so important to listen to different points of view, especially those with which you vehemently disagree. Only through dialogue and debate can we open our minds.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I needed to go through difficult times and experiences in order to write my book. As a young person, my life lacked the layers necessary to create a novel. After my divorce, I did a lot of soul-searching and realized I had a story to tell.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Definitely hearing from readers. The greatest reward is when readers tell me they connected with a character or that my story touched something in them. That’s everything to a writer.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I teach freshman writing at a local university. My class schedule is flexible, but the grading is time-consuming. I think I’m going to have to give up teaching after next semester to work on my second book. Grading takes up too much time!

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling allows us to enter another world. We lose ourselves in books and connect with the characters because they give voice to our own unspoken feelings. Through stories, we navigate experiences along with the characters. As they evolve, we make discoveries about ourselves.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
After raising my two daughters and teaching seventh grade English and writing for fifteen years, I simply decided it was finally time to write that novel.

I had an idea for a women’s fiction story, but I knew I lacked the proper training and skill set to turn it into a manuscript. I researched master’s degree programs in fiction writing. I applied to online institutions offering accredited distance-learning programs for non-traditional students, in my case, a middle-aged woman taking a leap of faith! I was accepted to Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA in English/Creative Writing program, and it was off to the races.

What I loved most about SNHU’s program was that the thesis at the end of twelve courses was to write the first 30,000 words of a novel. I resigned from my teaching job and devoted all my time to completing my thesis and then finishing my manuscript.

In writing Tessa, I learned a lot about myself. She gave voice to the feelings I’d buried in my own life. She forced me to uncover and face the motives behind my own choices and behaviors. She took shape. She grew. And I evolved right along with her. Her challenges led her to self-discovery, and she led me to mine. Our characters have a way of doing that.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from A WEEK OF WARM WEATHER
  • Pg. 51: She wished she could tell him that. She wished she could tell him that she was just trying to help. She heard the shower running in the next room, and a reality hit her hard: She may not know her husband at all. And if he thought she would eventually come around and accept what he was doing, he didn’t know her either.
  • Pg. 64: Tessa held her daughter close. She’d worked so hard to repair the smoldering wound Caroline had left in the pit of her stomach. Now Ken’s actions threatened to reignite the flame. She couldn’t fight the feeling that the tighter she held on to the people she loved, the easier it seemed for them to let her go.
  • Pg. 87: Staring at the high buildings, it occurred to her there were many ways to fall. You could climb to the roof in broad daylight and move dramatically to the edge, garnering attention from horrified onlookers below, before gracefully swan diving—back arched, arms in a perfect V—through the air. Or you could stumble onto the roof in the dark of night, unbeknownst to anyone, hurl yourself over the side, and plummet rapidly, turning clumsily end over end.
    It really didn’t matter.
    The outcome when you hit the pavement below was the same.
  • Pg. 114: Tessa was struck by the vast distance between what she felt and what she was able to say. “I worry sometimes that it’s too much. That there’s too much wrong in our marriage.”
    “Oh, Tess.” Ken gave her a look of pity. “You’ll find something wrong in every marriage if that’s all you look for.”
  • Pg. 223: She listened to the night sounds outside. Cupping the screen with the side of her hand and peering out, she saw the cold light of fireflies dancing in the air just off the deck. Their intermittent glow teased her, now lit, now dark, as if they were trying to speak to her in code.
    Tessa envied them though, because they weren’t trying to speak at all. They had nothing to say, no secrets to keep and none to reveal.
  • Pg. 268: A flock of birds flew overhead, on their way to a warmer climate. They’d be back again next spring, right on schedule, building nests under Tessa’s deck, Ronnie standing on her tiptoes, hoping to see the fuzzy heads of the newborns. Tessa envied them the luxury of knowing exactly where they’d be a full year from now.
  • Pg 289: As she stepped off the ferry onto the dock, the water slapping against the boat, a crew member reached for her hand. She stumbled at first, but his fingers lightly gripped her forearm. “You’re okay, I won’t let you fall,” he assured her, and she believed him.
Your Journey to Publication
After finishing my MS, I queried agents at traditional publishing houses for over a year. I got a few bites and some positive feedback, but ultimately none of them wanted to publish A Week of Warm Weather. A family friend in the publicity business told me about something I’d never heard of—independent publishing. I investigated it, and I found I liked this publishing model. I queried some independent publishers and a few expressed interest. One publishing company that was interested is SheWrites/SparkPress. I liked their process, so I went with them.

The most difficult part was having to learn everything about publishing my book in real time. I thought writing the book was a lot of work! However, everyone at SheWrites and SparkPress was supportive and knowledgeable. They led me through the entire process, and here I am—a published author! The most rewarding part of the journey—besides having my book published!—is the connections I made with other authors. The writing community is so supportive, and I met some wonderful women who helped and guided me.

My family and friends have championed me from day one. There were many times when I thought of quitting, but they reminded me that I had a story to tell.

Writing Behind the Scenes
I’m disciplined and treated writing A Week of Warm Weather as my job. I set regular writing hours and stuck to them. One hard and fast rule I had was never to quit for the day if I was stuck or had writer’s block. Even if what I wrote was complete garbage, I kept going. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at the keyboard in the morning after quitting the day before with no idea what to write next. That’s when I found ANYTHING to do other than writing!

I had a funny method of choosing names. If I was on a roll and needed a name for a secondary character, I grabbed the nearest book, magazine, or newspaper, opened it to a random page, and chose the first name I saw. Sometimes I had to tweak them, but this method helped me to keep going and not lose momenetum.

What is the first job you have had?
I was a dishwasher in a diner when I was fourteen. My fingers were always shriveled like prunes!

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Every day when I wake up, I thank God for another day on this earth and ask Him to help me to be part of something far greater than myself.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
In January 2020, my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the worst day of my life. She is thriving now, and I won’t share the whole journey because it’s hers, not mine, but I view the world completely differently now. That might sound cliché, but it’s true. I think of the things I considered big problems before that day, and I realize how insignificant they are. I remember being upset about a paint color on my foyer walls around that time. News like my daughter’s diagnosis puts trivial things in perspective.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I’d definitely choose true love, even with the guarantee of heartbreak. While you’re in it, there’s nothing better. And even when it ends, with the pain comes learning and growth. We move on and put the pieces back together for the next love. One of my favorite quotes is by Ernest Hemingway: “We’re all a little broken. That’s how the light gets in.”

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
I need my brows waxed!

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
I’m planning my next book, and I think about story lines before I fall asleep at night. If I’m lucky, I remember them the next morning!

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
As much as I loved my teaching career, I wish I had majored in book publishing in college and worked in the “book world” after graduating.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
My dreams almost always have the same horrifying theme: I try and try, but I can’t get where I’m going or accomplish what I’ve set out to do! I wake from them exhausted and frustrated.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Many readers of A Week of Warm Weather say it would make a good movie. Though the book is fiction, some of the events are based on my life experiences. I won’t elaborate so as not to give any spoilers!

Tessa Cordelia appears to have it all—a loving husband who’s just opened a dental practice, a beautiful baby girl, a big house in the suburbs, and a large, supportive family. But when her husband's reckless choices resurrect a trauma from her childhood, she must decide which is more costly: keeping his secrets or revealing them. He manipulates Tessa into believing his career and their happiness depend on her silence. She feels like she’s losing her mind. Is her husband's habit so awful? In many ways, he’s an ideal husband; should she let him have this one thing? Determined to maintain the lie that she’s living the perfect life, Tess lies to everyone she knows—except for CeCe, a woman new to the area whom she’s just befriended. But after confiding in her, Tessa learns that CeCe has an explosive secret of her own, and her world is further upended.

A gripping, nuanced exploration of the havoc addiction can wreak on a family, A Week of Warm Weather is the story of a woman who has to figure out how much she is willing to lose in order to find herself.

You can purchase A Week of Warm Weather at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LEE BUKOWSKI for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Week of Warm Weather by Lee Bukowski.