Author Interview: Christina Consolino

Meet Christina, author of Rewrite the Stars, released March 2021!

Christina Consolino is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in multiple online and print outlets. Her debut novel, Rewrite the Stars, was named one of ten finalists for the Ohio Writers’ Association Great Novel Contest 2020, and she is the co-author of Historic Photos of University of Michigan. She serves as senior editor at the online journal Literary Mama, freelance edits both fiction and nonfiction, and teaches writing classes at Word’s Worth Writing Center. Christina lives in Kettering, Ohio, with her family and pets.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book (s).
The description at the top of my website reads, “Mother, Dreamer, Author, Editor, Teacher,” and for the most part, that’s who I am. “Runner” should be added to that lineup since I’ve been running since January 1992, when I decided I needed to stay physically and mentally healthy. More specifically I am a forty-something former college anatomy and physiology instructor who loves to spend time with family, read, and write and who cares very much about social justice, equality, education for all, and good physical and mental health. Overall, I write “fiction about families like yours,” which simply means I write about complicated families who might be like your own or like a family you know.

At present, I have one published novel, Rewrite the Stars, which explores the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a Midwestern family. More specifically, it’s the story of Sadie Rollins-Lancaster. Disillusioned about her broken marriage and her husband’s PTSD, the mom of three heads to the grocery store for Father’s Day fixings. But after a charged interaction with the man behind her in line, she brings home more than just vegetables and milk: the man’s voice and smile linger in her mind for weeks. When Sadie formally meets him months later, she’s challenged by emotions and feelings she never expected to feel again. But life is complicated. Sadie’s husband, Theo, the one to instigate the divorce, now refuses to sign the papers. And Sadie has to ask herself: What do I want? The book is an authentic and heart-touching novel about being brave enough to acknowledge the difficulties we face and having the strength to actively shape our own futures.

Tell us about the genre you like to write, and how is it similar / different from other women fiction genres?
My work is considered women’s fiction with romantic elements. Almost everything I write explores the emotional journey of the character, and usually a love story lingers as a subplot. Families of all sorts take center stage in many of my stories, and conflict almost always arises in the form of physical or mental health issues. Because I live in the Midwest, I tend to set my stories there (usually in Ohio or Michigan), but I’m happy to go where my characters lead. Finally, due in part to where I am in my own life—creeping up on fifty (how did that happen?) with a few adult children of my own—I rarely write stories about those who are young and single. But that’s not to say that I won’t someday!

What are some of the biggest challenges hen lit authors face today?
Ageism can be an issue, but good writing is good writing, and I’ve read that thanks to many who are publishing later in life, publishers and agents aren’t concerned about how old you are. In my opinion, what hen lit authors often face is lack of writing time or energy. For example, right now, I’m responsible for my four children (two college-age adults and two teenagers), but I also serve as point person for my aging parents, one who has Alzheimer’s and the other diabetes. My time to write and revise has withered considerably, since much of my time revolves around someone else. Some of the other hen-lit authors I know are grappling with their full-time jobs or major health issues for themselves. And self-doubt. That’s the worst, and the older we get, the more ingrained in ourselves it seems to be The thing is, just like there’s no good time to plan a wedding or have children, there’s no good time to write and publish. Something will always try to get in the way and self-doubt will always be there. So just sit down and write, and have faith that with perseverance, your story will find a place in this world.

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I learned how to read, maybe even before. Spending time in another world or inside my head has always appealed to me, and I often hear characters in my mind, holding their own conversations, prodding me to write them down (which is why I always have something to write with on me). However, I grew up in a time where practical was valued more than creative (and maybe it still is?), which pushed me to pursue a doctorate in physiology instead of an MFA or other creative writing degree. But even in graduate school, I was a writer. I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be one.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer?

For more than fifteen years I taught anatomy and physiology to community college students, all while dreaming of writing a novel (and editing on the side). A few years ago, I stepped away from teaching science to focus on freelance editing and novel writing. In addition to those jobs, I teach writing classes in the Dayton area, and sometimes, I substitute teach or home instruct for our local school district. It’s hard to let go of the teacher side of me since I find the profession so rewarding!

What are some things that inspire you to write?
Everything inspires me to write! Or maybe I should say anything. A memory. A sound. An image. The scent of lilacs in the spring, a whiff of laundry detergent, the aroma of baking bread, the sizzle of scrambled eggs in the pan. My children, my parents, my husband, my pets. The past, the present, the future. Always, I write, even if I’m not putting words on the page and only holding them in my head. If I had a nickel for how many times I’ve said, “I wonder if I can put that into a story,” well, you know the rest of that expression!

What is your typical writing routine like?
In the last year, my typical writing routine has fallen apart because I have been spending more time managing my parents’ health (not to mention that having six people in the house almost all day was pretty disruptive). But the routine I hope to get back to soon is to wake between five and five-thirty, grab my cup of coffee, and write for an hour. Then, once I’ve gotten a good bit of editing accomplished for my clients, I’ll go back and get another thirty to sixty minutes in before my teenagers come home from school. (Two of my kids will be away at college, so I’m confident that with some discipline, this routine will fall back into place.)

Part of my writing routine also involves interviewing other authors, which means I craft questions according to information I find on author websites and social media or in their books. Time after dinner but before bed is spent researching these authors and crafting questions.

What kind of message do your book (s) convey to readers?
Two messages come to mind with respect to Rewrite the Stars. First, personal happiness is important. We cannot be so intent on making other people happy that we do not place any priority on our own happiness. Second, if you need help—with anything, but especially when it comes to health issues—don’t be afraid to ask. And if you cannot ask or don’t have the strength to ask, be open to accepting help if someone offers it. Those are “easier said than done” at times, but with time and attention, a person can be successful at both.

But in general, I want my readers to understand they are not alone, hope can be found even in unlikely places, and with time and wisdom comes some understanding. I want my readers to learn to empathize with those they’ve never met and to spread kindness whenever possible. With respect to physical and mental health, I’d love for readers to know that not every ailment is recognizable, and sometimes those wounds we can’t see are the most detrimental to someone’s soul.

Does your book (s) incorporate certain aspects of your own life (and / or that of others)?
Most of my work incorporates certain aspects of my life or that of people I know. My debut novel, Rewrite the Stars, began after a conversation I had in a grocery store checkout line and grew from there. And some of the details—the connection to the University of Michigan and Walloon Lake, how Sadie and Theo met, their son Charlie’s interests—are lifted from my own past. My next book, The Chocolate Garden, blossomed from the experiences that took place the summer my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And another manuscript, The Marriage Debt, formed in my mind when a few friends and I were chatting about our experiences with life, love, and marriage. As much as I enjoy researching a new topic (and I do research any of the mental or physical health issues featured in my books), I also love to “write what I know.”

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
This is such a tough question for me because I have so many favorite authors! And all for different reasons. Generally, though, I’ll say this: I learn something different from each of my favorite authors, whether it be something about the craft of writing, social media, the book’s topic, generosity, literary citizenship, etc. (I haven’t met an author I can’t learn something from!) These authors come to the forefront of my mind, though (not all are hen lit authors): James Baldwin, John Green, Crystal Wilkinson, Ann Garvin, Dorothy Koomson, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Erin Flanagan, Jennifer Bardsley, Lori Nelson Spielman, Toni Morrison, Jennifer Niven, Sharon Creech, Sharon Draper . . . I could probably go on, but there’s only so much space!

Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers at this stage in life?
First: be patient with yourself. I thought that as my children grew up, I’d find more time to write. But teenagers require more work than toddlers and babies or at least it’s a different sort of work. My kids are self-sufficient and so inspiring but meeting their needs (both physical and emotional) can be exhausting. And now I have my parents’ health crises added to the mix. Many women in this stage of life have a plethora of responsibilities that can become overwhelming. It’s good to step back, take a moment, and breathe. Remember that writing and publishing is a marathon and when life calms down, the story will be there. Having said that, it’s very important to take care of yourself, too, so setting aside even ten minutes a day for writing or some other creative practice is a good idea.

Second: if I can do it, you can too!

Get to Know More about Christina Here!

Twitter: @cmconsolino

Instagram: @cmconsolino

Facebook: @AuthorChristinaConsolino

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