Tuesday 4 April 2017

Interview: Vivian Probst

Today I have an interview with the author Vivian Probst to share with you. Read on to find out all about her writing, the writing process, and her latest book Death by Roses.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

The older I get, the more there is to tell. I am a national consultant to the affordable housing industry which doesn’t mean much to others unless I explain it. I’ve been travelling and teaching housing program regulations for over 30 years and at the same time communicating the message that ‘You Make a Difference!’ everywhere I go.

My post-high-school education was in culture, language, and anthropology and I have lived overseas briefly.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I always loved to read as a child. In my teenage years, I had an English teacher who encouraged me to use my writing skills so my parents enrolled me in a correspondence writing course (that can tell you I’m old enough to know what those are).

I have written and been a columnist for the affordable housing industry for many years but it wasn’t until March 10th, 2000, that my true writing life began when I woke up from a dream that I knew had to become a story. Most of my written works are not yet published, but they will be.

Tell me about Death By Roses.

Ooh la la! Like all of my writing, this story showed up as an idea that begged to be written. It was shortly after my older sister had passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease and I was grieving. Except that over the course of the five years that I worked on the story, it turned into a romantic comedy.

A couple who have been married thirty years end up in an argument due to the wife’s over-reaction and jumping to conclusions (I have never done that myself, of course). She is so outraged she dies. In heaven, she learns that she could have had a wonderful life with her husband so she decides she needs to let him know, which is okay except for the divine ‘no meddling’ rule which she ignores. This leads to consequences, including being returned to earth inside the body of another woman.

How do you get inspiration?

It’s a good question. Mostly, I listen to what’s going on inside my mind. All of my work comes through that process and most of it is fiction. I have no outline; I don’t know the story content until it shows up.

What’s your writing process?

I write out of curiosity because there’s usually a lot going on in my mind - characters talking, scenes developing, and I can’t wait to know what happens next so I write in a sort of download style. Then another piece shows up, not always in an orderly fashion, so eventually, the story will have to piece itself together. I love letting my imagination run wild.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Being true to the story. Sometimes I don’t particularly like what’s showing up - or the way a character is behaving - but I’ve learned to go with it. There’s always a reason even if I can’t see it while I write.

Death by Roses has some sex scenes in it - not my forte (I mean the scenes - it’s not a commentary about my personal sex life), and I tell people I turned 50 shades of red while writing.

What do you love most about writing?

What I learn in the process. It’s always magical. There are life lessons buried in the character interaction so I feel like I’m growing through the stories I write. It’s creative fun and a perfect balance for my otherwise ‘follow the rules’ consulting life.

Which authors inspire you?

John Irving, Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Jackie Collins, Phillipa Gregory, Kate Morton, Deborah Harkness.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

If you’re serious about writing, life will find you and give you a story. Watch the world around you. Begin by writing about something you know in order to find your own voice. Don’t imitate anyone and for Pete’s sake, don’t let others read what you write until you’re finished writing it. Taking suggestions during the writing process affects the development of your own voice, in my humblest opinion. I think Stephen King is of the same mind if you’ve read his fabulous book, On Writing.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Unfair question! But it would have to be A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

My writing study, at home. There’s a window in front of the desk that my husband bought me to write at. I can write and watch what’s going on in the rural area where we live. Next is our cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. However, I’ve learned to write just about anywhere. When the story wants to be written, I simply sit down with my computer and let it happen.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

To uplift others - to make them laugh and feel good about life. To have my books become movies which means pretty much that my books have to become bestsellers or I have to talk my husband into starting our own movie production company. I’ll do what it takes.

What are your interests outside of writing?

Unfair question! Is there life outside of the plots that are swirling in my head? I love speaking in public, especially if I’m teaching; I love spending time with our growing family - eleven going on twelve grandchildren; I love sharing a bottle of wine with my husband and/or a small group of friends. Tom and I are in the early stages of developing a wine import business. For me, personal growth is a big deal. I’m a voracious reader of non-fiction and I work on life issues so that I can enjoy a wonderful life.

What are you currently working on?

I am just completing a non-fiction memoir titled I Was a Yo-Yo Wife about what I learned as I wrote Death by Roses that helped to enrich my second marriage.

We hope to be releasing a five-volume series in 2017 titled The Woman Who Forgot Who She Was.

The sequel to Death by Roses, titled Death by Violets, is also in the writing stages and should be ready in time for Halloween 2017 - it’s the scariest book I’ve ever written.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers - see how serious I am? Before that, I absorbed Paulo Coelho’s book, Adultery.

Death by Roses is available to buy now. To find out more about Vivian, visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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