What is your latest book about?
My most recent release is a novella, Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas, a prequel to my novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story. So many readers told me they wanted to return to Blue Hydrangeas, a Cape Cod bed and breakfast, after reading BH that I had to revisit the Harmon family and write another story. The book was inspired by The Great Blizzard of 1978 and takes place decades before Sara’s Alzheimer’s. It’s a heartwarming holiday read fans love. Description: It’s Christmas Eve, and, as Sara waits for her husband and son to arrive home to Blue Hydrangeas, a blizzard threatens to close the bridges, stranding all travelers to and from the Cape. As she prepares for the holiday, unexpected visitors arrive, all sharing the common bond of grief. Sara is determined the storm and sadness will not spoil Christmas, and ensures Santa will find his way to two fatherless children far from home. A sweet slice-of-life story about loved ones and strangers coming together to share the spirit of Christmas.
You write in various genres. Can you tell us a little more about that.
I consider myself a storyteller, and my stories sprout from real-life experiences and events. For instance, Blue Hydrangeas was born not only from my witnessing the Alzheimer’s and dementia several family members encountered, but also from my work as a registered nurse caring for patients and families living with these diseases. My Young Adult novel Swim Season was inspired by my daughter’s 10-year varsity swimming career. And the short stories in my Daisy Hunter series are reflections on pivotal events in my childhood. I’m not married to any particular genre. I market my work as Contemporary, Women’s, and Young Adult fiction, but collectively they are all heartwarming, family stories that appeal to a variety of readers.
Tell us more about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a panster?
Is one method better than the other? If you asked a hundred writers you’d get a hundred different answers. For me, a more hybrid approach seems to work. When I start a new story I have to feel comfortable with what I’m writing, and actually have something to write. I’m not one to sit in front of a blank page and wait for inspiration. The inspiration has to be eating at me for a while before I start typing. I need at least a working title, a theme, the setting, a few well-thought out characters, and a series of scenes in mind that will drive the story from beginning to end. Sometimes I write this stuff down on random slips of paper or in designated notebooks. For the most part it’s locked in a special vault in my writer’s mind. Yet I don’t like feeling confined and am willing to explore new directions and plot twists as they arise.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?
It may seem odd but I enjoy the often dreaded rewriting process the most. I love ripping apart a story, adding illumination, “killing my darlings” to make the story stronger, and running it through a variety of checks to make sure it’s the best it can be. I use a tool called Autocrit as well as a few other tricks to do this. The part of the writing process I like the least is the chronic pain I live with due to repetitive strain injuries caused by an inappropriate computer work station. This has tormented me since 2006, and slows my writing down to almost a crawl, if I’m able to write at all. You can read more about this here.
When did you begin writing?
My dream of being a writer started when I first realized writers make books, and I’ve loved books since I was a small child. In grade school, I often wrote “books,” which were scraps of paper covered in prose and stapled together. In high school, I discovered journalism and decided I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. In college, I majored in English and learned how to write. I worked for several newspapers as a freelancer and was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. After graduation, I struggled to find a full-time news job and failed, so I took a detour and went into nursing. I didn’t write for years, but then the nursing department at my hospital started a newsletter and I volunteered to take over as editor. This reignited my desire to write, and I soon held the first draft of my first novel, Blue Hydrangeas, in my hands. I haven’t stopped writing, and since 2013 have published three novels and three short stories. My work is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Any tips for new writers?
New writers need to understand that it’s exceedingly difficult to land a literary agent or to succeed in traditional publishing. The self-publishing boom has allowed millions of aspiring authors to publish their work, so the marketplace is flooded. It’s a challenge to find footing in this market. You will most likely not become rich or be able to quit your day job to be a full-time writer. If money is your motivation, find something else to do. If you truly desire to write and find a few readers, proceed with care. There is much to learn, know, and do, but it is not impossible to publish your own work and find an audience.
A growing number of authors listen to music as they write. Apparently, it can induce creativity. Do you listen to music or do you prefer silence?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I listen to music but it can be distracting. I also find silence distracting because breakthrough noise – street sounds, my cats racing around the house – interrupts my concentration. I often have the TV on in the background, turned to something I don’t want to watch, but the voices keep me company. When I do listen to music it’s usually while plotting, thinking deeply about my story, often when driving. For instance, when writing Swim Season I came up with a playlist to inspire me. Many of the songs ran through my head as I composed important scenes. That was very motivational.
What are you reading now?
I belong to four book clubs (manage two!) so I’m usually reading something for one of them. I don’t attend or read for all four each month, I don’t have time for that, it depends on what we’re reading. I like to travel in my reading, so this month I’m going to Africa in Homegoing, written by Yaa Gyasi, an epic novel that, from the jacket, “traces 300 years In Ghana and along the way becomes a truly great American novel.” I’m always reading something on my Kindle too, and my current read, Nantucket White Christmas by Pamela Kelley, takes me to one of my favorite spots, Nantucket Island. I just finished Let it Snow, a highly recommended read from my favorite Nantucket author Nancy Thayer. This one just may be her best. February kicks off with the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a book club selection for Black History Month. So, you can see I’m an eclectic reader and travel far and wide geographically and throughout time via books. You’ll never find me not in the middle of at least two or three.
What are you working on at the moment?
My current work-in-progress is about a wedding. It’s another prequel to Blue Hydrangeas aptly entitled A Wedding at Blue Hydrangeas. I started it during Christmas week, 2018, shortly after publication of Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas. Ironically, my daughter became engaged in March, 2019, and I put aside my manuscript to focus on planning a real wedding, held December 29th, which was very different from the fictional wedding I conjured for my novella. In AW@BH, our heroine Sara is planning an outdoor, July reception for her son David and his bride Anne at their beautiful bed and breakfast, Blue Hydrangeas. They’re hosting a traditional Cape Cod clambake for 60 guests after a church ceremony. Unfortunately, a series of unforeseen events threaten to disrupt Sara’s careful planning. WIll the wedding go on? You’ll have to read the book, but first, I have to finish writing it.
An Excerpt from Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas
Sara peered out of the window and noted another inch of fresh snow on the ground. Time to get out the shovel.
She bundled up in an old parka and headed outside. The snow was light, and she cleared it with ease. She enjoyed working in the frigid weather, the cold air stinging her cheeks, her body made warm by her efforts. While she worked, she hummed a medley of Christmas carols.
The wind whipped the snow around her, and she remembered the empty bird feeders. She cleared an additional path to them and filled each with seed. She couldn’t bear to see her birds suffer. Satisfied, she moved on to the front of the house and was almost finished clearing the front walk and stairs when the sound of an approaching motor vehicle broke the silence. Seconds later, a pickup truck carrying a load of Christmas trees made its way up the drive.
She finished removing the last of the snow from the entrance to the house. “Come on in,” she called to the truck’s occupants as they exited the vehicle.
Minutes later, two burly men carried a magnificent Colorado Blue Spruce, ordered direct from the tree farm, up her front walk and into the house. She guided them into her formal living room and indicated the space in front of the window, a tree stand in place.
“Right there will be fine, Kenny,” she told the man in charge. His partner, Tom, was younger and smaller and never said much. She shed her parka and gloves, dropping snow onto the hardwood floor, and made a mental note to mop it up as soon as the men left.
“Do you want us to set it up for you?” Kenny took a small saw out of his pocket.
She nodded, and the men proceeded to cut an inch or so off the tree’s trunk. They stood the tree to its full height and inserted it into its sturdy metal stand. While she gave instructions, they positioned it to its best advantage.
“A little more to the left. Now back a bit. Not that far back. OK, that’s good. Leave it there.”
Pleased with the positioning of the tree, she waited while they secured it. They stood when finished and stepped back to appraise it with her.
“It’s a nice tree,” Kenny said. “We cut it down just yesterday morning.” He took a deep breath. “The room already smells like pine.”
She inhaled, closing her eyes. “It’s wonderful.”
“Anything else we can do for you before we hit the road? The snow’s getting heavy. The town’s plows can’t keep up with it.”
“How bad are the roads?”
“Getting worse by the minute.
Her hopes plummeted. “But the weatherman on the radio said the heavy snow will end later this morning.
“Haven’t you heard?” Kenny raised his bushy eyebrows. “Old news. The storm’s taken a new path. Most recent report says it’s supposed to get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.”
“What are you saying?” She’d turned off the radio after the weather report to enjoy the silence and hadn’t kept up with the news.
“A blizzard is on its way, the second big one this year. Seventy-eight will go down in history as one of the snowiest years ever.
“But it’s Christmas Eve,” she cried, and immediately felt silly. Mother Nature didn’t care about Christmas Eve
“That look on your face tells me David and Jack aren’t home yet.”
“No,” she revealed, even more disheartened. The thought of another blizzard to rival last February’s Great Blizzard of 1978 terrified her. The power had gone out. No heat. No stove. They were snowed in for days. But they were together, camped out in front of the fireplace, keeping warm, able to heat up cans of soup and brew coffee. It was a miserable welcome their first winter as full-time Cape Cod residents. During those long, cold days she considered going back to New York, but remembered the winters there were also wretched. She bucked up and soldiered on.
And now this.
Her debut novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a Library Journal Self-e Selection, and a BookWorks featured book. It’s also available in paperback and audiobook on Amazon. A prequel to that novel, Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas, is available on Kindle and in paperback and audiobook. It was New Apple Literary’s Solo Medalist Winner in the 2019 Summer E-Book Awards for Short Story.
Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up, but became a nurse to avoid poverty. she later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her stories are considered “clean,” meaning free of overt sexuality, graphic violence, and offensive language.
Her Young Adult novel Swim Season is the fast-paced drama driven story of Olympic hopeful Aerin Keane, starting senior year in her third high school and trying NOT to win. But can she hide her natural talent and competitive streak? Especially with a 50,000-dollar scholarship on the line? Swim Season was an Official Selection in the 2017 New Apple Book Awards: Young Adult General Fiction, and is a 5-star Readers’ Favorite and a BookWorks Featured Book of the Week. Available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook on Amazon.
She’s also published three short stories in Kindle and audio: Ino’s Love, Collection, Daisy Hunter Story No. 1, and Birthday Party, Daisy Hunter Story No. 2.
Marianne’s writing and publishing career led her to become a founding member of AlzAuthors, the blog for authors writing about the dementias. Their goal is to raise awareness of these diseases and to spotlight carefully vetted books and blogs recommended for caregivers and others looking for knowledge and support. Each week they feature a new author/blogger.
A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at a community college. Everything she knows about publishing she learned on her own by reading books and blogs, joining writers’ groups, and attending writers’ conferences. This led her to share her knowledge both online via her blog and Facebook and Twitter account, and she also teaches classes in self-publishing at three colleges.
She loves books, the beach, and craft beer, and especially enjoys the three of them together.
Discover more about Marianne here:
Amazon Author page