She was raised in the New York metropolitan area, received her undergraduate degree (B. A., Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Delaware, and her law degree (J. D.) from the Georgetown University Law Center. She honed her writing skills in her law practice, presenting complex factual and legal matters in clear, compelling and persuasive writings. Since her “early retirement” from the practice of law, she has filled her days taking care of a busy household and family, supporting numerous charitable and community causes and writing fiction. Long Hill Home is her debut novel, and another novel and a collection of short stories are in the works. When she is not engaged in all of the above, she enjoys running, biking, traveling, watching her sons compete in sports and spending her summers with friends and family at the Jersey Shore.
(If you want to read about her contribution towards charitable and community causes please see footnote at the end of this Q & A).
Long Hill Home [Koehler Books, February 15 2015] is currently available via Amazon and Barne
s & Noble, and in select brick-and-mortar bookstores throughout the U.S.
Q. Please share some of the best memories from your childhood
A. I was the youngest of six children, in a big Irish family. We lived in an idyllic bedroom community, with abundant green space and woods, newly developed neighborhoods where we could roam freely and safely, a cute downtown shopping district, and a 15 mile commute into Manhattan by car, bus or train. I am happy to say that I have too many good memories to recount specifically, but highlights are:
(1) Most nights, after my father returned from his workday in Manhattan, we gathered around our large kitchen table, with three kids on each side seated on a bench, and my mother and father seated at the ends, and we would all talk about our day. We did not eat out very much, since we were a large family, although I recall being very excited when we had a special “take-in” night of Chinese Food or McDonalds.
(2) I was a tomboy, along with my sister Megan, and we played outside with our brothers and all the kids in our neighborhood. We played basketball in our driveway (shooting games like “H-O-R-S-E” or “two-on-two”), softball games and touch football in the cul-de-sac at the end of our road, swimming games in our backyard pool like “Marco-Polo” and “sharks and minnows,” and bicycle and foot races around our block. We also gathered at night to play with our neighbors, games such as “flashlight tag” and “kick-the-can” (i.e., one poor soul is “it” and he or she has to find the other players who are hiding within the designated property and tag them--putting them in “prison”-- all the while guarding a tin can, because if a player who is not in prison manages to get to the can and kick it before being tagged, all of the prisoners are freed again and may run and hide).
(3) We took family vacations for one week in the summer (usually renting a home at the New Jersey Shore, but sometimes in New Hampshire at Twin Lakes Village and once on the Maine coastline); and one week in the winter (always to Florida). My favorite was the time my parents packed us all into a rented RV, which they drove from Northern New Jersey to Orlando Florida, where we camped in the Walt Disney World Campgrounds. In hindsight (and now that I am a parent) I truly appreciate that my hardworking parents used their “vacation” to drive six children to and from Florida in an RV, all the while feeding us, cleaning up after us, and somehow keeping track of us in the vast expanse of Disney World.
(4) In my high school years, my favorite memories involve trips into New York City, by bus or by car, without parents, to see concerts by the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Squeeze, the Kinks and many more—as well as trips in to just roam around the different neighborhoods and enjoy nightclubs (like Studio 54) long before we were of legal age.
Q. What career did you plan on in your education days?
A. When I was in middle school I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, and when I was in high school I thought I would become a physician. I loved most science courses (except Chemistry) and I wanted to help animals or people. My oldest sister was a medical student when I was in high school and I began to realize that I was not cut out for the emotional aspects of medicine. Before I was halfway through college, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I loved solving or preventing problems, resolving disputes and remedying injustices, and I particularly liked learning about a different subject every time I worked on a new case or legal matter.
Q. What languages you can speak and write?
Q. What languages you can speak and write?
A. Sadly, English is it. I studied French in middle school and high school, and somehow earned good grades in that subject, but I was never even close to fluent, and now it is even worse, because I never speak French. I have been to France twice, and to Switzerland once, and each time I loved the experience except I was frustrated with my inability to understand or speak to people in their country.
Q. What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?
A. I am inspired by many people and many things. If I have to identify one source of inspiration as the biggest one in my life, it would be my parents.
My father’s parents came to the United States from Ireland by themselves as teenagers, and they literally had nothing. According to his birth certificate, my grandfather, Patrick Kelly, was one of eleven children of a “sheep herder” from the small town of Tuam, Ireland--which means his father was barely able to feed his children. When they arrived in the United States, my grandparents worked many difficult and menial jobs, slept in inexpensive boarding houses, and worked and worked until they had enough to get married and have a family. In addition to these challenges, my father recalls sharing a bedroom with two brothers and lacking indoor plumbing in one childhood home. My father was the first one in his family to go to college, by working construction and joining the Army ROTC, he obtained his degree from Fordham University and (after completing his military service) he got a job at a New York Bank and earned a MBA from New York University while he was working. He continued to climb up the ladder at his employer throughout his career, despite a long commute to and from our home in the suburbs and despite the fact that he invested many hours into enlarging, renovating and repairing our home, coaching our numerous sports teams and being an involved father of six children.
My mother lost her father when she was only three years old. He died in the line of duty as a New York fireman and my grandmother had to enter the workforce. So my mother grew up without a father and with a mother who went to work each day –which was uncommon in the 1930’s. My mother was a very strong student, and yet she never had the opportunity to go to college. She worked after high school and married my father at the age of nineteen, eventually having six children in a span of eight years. She managed to stretch my father’s paycheck to meet our needs, and she did it in a way that we never felt deprived (casseroles for dinner were delicious and hand-me-downs worn to school were acceptable). My mother always managed a busy household with a smile, weathered the drama and daily crises six children may bring with an unlimited reservoir of patience, and every day showed us that we were blessed and should be quite happy with everything we had, including each other, our health, and our home. Despite raising six children, my mother found time to deliver Meals-on-Wheels to seniors, sponsor a Laotian refugee family, welcome two inner-city boys into our home each summer as family, and even rescue an array of wild and domestic animals in need of rescuing. Today at the age of 80, she volunteers along with my father regularly for Habitat For Humanity of Bluffton, South Carolina—building and working in the Habitat Store.
My parents inspired me by how they: (i) embraced challenges, (ii) worked hard, took pride in their work and found fulfillment in a job well done, (iii) appreciated and were grateful for the important things in life (such as health, love, security, family), and (iv) helped others because it was not just the right thing to do, it is the only way to live a fulfilling life.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?
A. The characters in my debut novel, Long Hill Home, all endure tremendous challenges (one endures a rape and its terrible after-effects, another is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned with dangerous felons, and the other is at risk of being deported immediately after giving birth to her baby). While I was writing Long Hill Home I reflected on the many people I have known, or have read about who have suffered through (or ultimately succumbed to) challenges unlike anything I have had to deal with, like chronic or debilitating illness or injury, premature death of a family member or loved one, violent crime, hunger, hatred, abuse, war, poverty, homelessness, etc.
With that caveat, probably the most important “challenge” I have ever “overcome” was becoming part of a blended family. At the age of twenty-eight, I unexpectedly fell in love with a man who was eleven years older than me, divorced, and had two beautiful children ages 6 and 9. Coming from a big family, I loved the idea of children, and I wanted to just blend in seamlessly, like their new best friend. But I did not know anything about children, or divorce, and the reality was I needed to give them room and time and move things along in a more cautious manner than I would have if I was in a relationship with a young single person. I also learned that I had to be thick-skinned and try not to take it personally when they did not want me around. I learned to see the situation from their perspective—and I realized I would be the same way if my parents got a divorce and found new partners when I was a child. So, patience, consistency, forgiveness, and love got us all through it. I am happy to say that next September we will have been together for twenty-one years, married for eighteen years, and we have added two more sons to the mix. We had plenty of rough patches, especially in the beginning, but we have a wonderful family of six now, we all love each other and we laugh a lot when we are together.
Q. What is your favorite genre and why?
A. I love a book with: (i) vividly depicted and engaging characters that I can relate to, route for or against, empathize with, or even detest; (ii) a plot or storylines that are interesting, exciting and/or intriguing--and do not drag; and (iii) settings that are vividly and realistically depicted so I can easily visualize them, and even experience them vicariously.
If I have to choose a favorite genre, I would choose the thriller genre—but only the thrillers that have the characteristics that I just described. My favorite genre is the thriller because: (i) it has suspense and intrigue to keep it interesting; (ii) it generally involves a crime and a legal process—which relates to my professional background and interest as an attorney; and (iii) it ultimately has lessons about good and moral behavior prevailing over evil and immoral behavior.
Q. When did you start writing?
A. From 1991 through 2005 I was a full-time attorney practicing corporate, commercial and employment law and litigation. A significant part of my responsibilities in that role involved writing complex legal documents such as briefs, position statements and other work product. I loved that part of my job, i.e., compiling a factual record through discovery, researching the relevant law, and weaving the factual record and the law together into compelling arguments to persuade a judge or arbitrator to decide the dispute in favor of my client. It is essentially the telling of a story—but within the framework of certain facts and law.
In 2005, I quit the practice of law to provide better care for a busy household with two teenagers and two elementary school age children. While I do not regret that decision for one moment, I did miss many aspects of my profession, and most particularly, the process of writing. I began writing the manuscript that became my debut novel, Long Hill Home, over six years ago. At first the story evolved in my head as I went for my daily morning run, and over time I found moments here and there to sit down and write it down. I did this in small pieces over years, because I was extremely busy with family, household and several volunteer positions. As the children got older and my duties and distractions diminished significantly, I became more purposeful at writing, editing and then pitching my manuscript.
Q. What is the purpose of your writing?
A. My writing has two purposes (in addition to the purpose of filling my need to write and tell a story, as I just described). Those two purposes are: (i) to entertain readers with interesting plots and storylines and vividly depicted characters; and (ii) to simultaneously make them think about important contemporary issues in society, such as prejudice, sexual violence, injustice in our criminal and civil legal process, immigration, and many more.
As a related, ancillary purpose, I have tied Long Hill Home to a charity that relates to a theme of the novel (the universal concept of “home”) by donating twenty-five percent of my profits to a local chapter of Habitat For Humanity. My second book will similarly be tied to a charity that relates to a theme in the book (25% of author profits).
Q. Tell us a little bit about Long Hill Home.
A. Kelly Malloy is a wife, a mother and a successful lawyer whose world is shattered when she is brutally attacked while running along the banks of the Brandywine River. Chad McCloskey, a lonely teenage boy from a dysfunctional home, stumbles upon Kelly Malloy’s unconscious body immediately after the assault. He is falsely accused and imprisoned with dangerous felons, only because he tries to help her. Maria Hernandez, a young woman who emigrated illegally from Mexico, is reluctantly thrust into the role of witness to the crime, putting her in jeopardy of deportation only weeks before she is to give birth to her child. Kelly, Chad and Maria all suffer tremendous adversity in the wake of the crime, and they ultimately discover that their lives and their fate are inextricably and permanently connected. Long Hill Home is a suspenseful story of crime and the legal process—but it is also a story about the human condition, and how, regardless of vast differences in background or circumstances, all people strive for the same things—love, security and a fulfilling life.
Q. Do you have any forthcoming books or pieces of writing?
A. I am writing pieces for book blogs currently-I just finished an article called “Inspired to Follow in Harper Lee’s Footsteps,” comparing Long Hill Home to the iconic legal thriller To Kill a Mockingbird. I have started a new novel, provisionally called Partners’ Pact, a thriller that takes place in Washington, D.C. and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
What keeps you motivated to write?
A. I enjoy the process of writing, so that enjoyment keeps me motivated. I do sometimes get frustrated or a little disheartened when I have writer’s block, or if I start to think a part of the story does not work and has to be completely undone. On those occasions I motivate myself by thinking about my work getting better each time I persevere, and by my desire to deliver my best work.
Q. How do you plan, schedule and monitor your writing commitments?
A. I try to plan to work on writing and promoting my writing around my household and family commitments, my daily workout, and any volunteer or social activities. Generally, that means I work at it an average of four to five hours per day. However, when I have a deadline, or many pieces due at the same time, I may write for up to twelve hours a day, and the other commitments or responsibilities fall by the wayside (i.e., I miss my sons’ sporting events, order takeout in stead of cooking dinner and let the laundry pile up a bit).
I have an elaborate and messy system for scheduling my commitments that involves a large calendar with writing and post-it notes and whiteout all over it. It is very old fashioned, but I like to see each day in context and get a glance at the month as a whole. I also seem to remember things better when I physically write them down.
Q. What is generally your preference in reading – paperback or ebook? And why?
Q. What is generally your preference in reading – paperback or ebook? And why?
A. I prefer to read a paperback book over an ebook, because I like the feel of a real book in my hands and I can see the words on the page better—especially in natural sunlight. I find ebooks incredibly convenient however, because I can browse, purchase and instantly download a book to read and I can store many ebooks in my IPad at once. When I travel I always bring one or two paperbacks (for the plane ride and maybe outdoor reading) and I load a few books on my IPad (for bedtime reading or in case I finish the paperbacks I packed).
Q. What are the top four things that you want to express in your writing?
A. When I write I am striving to: (i) entertain; (ii) provoke thought and discussion about important issues in society; (iii) inspire people to act—whether it is to pursue their dreams, overcome a challenge or help others; and (iv) remind readers that every day brings opportunities for love, kindness and compassion.
Q. How much real-life goes into a fiction writing?
A. Long Hill Home is set in the neighborhood that I live in, the trails that I run on, the city park that I frequent, the courthouse that I practiced law in for many years and other buildings and places that I am personally very familiar with. The characters in Long Hill Home are fictional, of course, but they are an amalgamation of physical and behavioral traits of people I have known personally, or observed or read about. Even my real life profession—the practice of law—figures prominently in Long Hill Home. This familiarity and real life experience is essential for me to write vividly and convincingly. I want my readers to be able to see the people and places I describe and feel as if they are in the book—a true vicarious experience. I can’t do that without using my real life experience.
Q. Is a high level of imagination important for an author?
Q. Is a high level of imagination important for an author?
A. Yes. My imagination is what planted the seed of the story of Long Hill Home, and then built the storylines behind each of the three main characters, and the entire plot. If I could use the construction of a house as an analogy, it is as if my imagination drew up the construction drawings for the novel, and then many hours of my sitting at my computer, thinking, typing, re-typing and re-working was the part where the electrical, heating and plumbing systems went in, the walls and flooring were built, and the finishing touches were completed.
Q. What city or country that you've visited has been your very favorite? What in particular did you love about it?
A. Rome is my favorite city of all of the cities I have visited thus far. I love how Rome is in many ways preserved, exactly like it was during the rise of the Roman Empire, and that I can walk where gladiators battled (the Colosseum), where ancient emperors lived, and worked (the Roman Forum) and worshipped (the Pantheon). I also loved the beauty and romance of the city, with beautiful gathering places like Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, or the lush city park of Villa Borghese. Finally, in addition to all of this history and beauty, Rome has wonderful food and residents who are warm and welcoming.
Q. What is the last book you finished reading?
A. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Q. What is the current book you are reading?
A. I just downloaded the following ebooks for a trip I am taking soon: (1) Gray Mountain, by John Grisham and (2) two books on Human Trafficking that I am reading as research for a novel i.e., The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bales & Ron Soodalter, and Human Trafficking, by P. M. Nair
Q. Your favorite book of all time, and why?
Q. Your favorite book of all time, and why?
A. My favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, because it is a sweet coming-of-age story and a suspenseful legal thriller with vividly described characters and settings. To Kill a Mockingbird influenced me in my life and in my writing because it confronts contemporary and troubling issues in society, such as racial prejudice, injustice and intolerance through the trial of falsely accused Tom Robinson and the shunning and mocking of the reclusive Boo Radley. Through the eyes of a child narrator the reader sees these painful truths in society, and also learns the simple cure—to truly see a man, and to walk in his shoes.
Q. State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote.
A. “Long Hill Home is a suspenseful story of crime and the legal process—but it is also a story about the human condition, and how, regardless of vast differences in background or circumstances, all people strive for the same things—love, security and a fulfilling life.”
The title of your autobiography would be…
“Lived, Loved, Laughed, and Left it All Out on the Field”
Pro Bono Legal Work: I have done pro bono legal work for organizations, including Office of Child Advocate-representing a young child removed from the home due to abuse and neglect, Jewish Family Services (a non-profit social services agency serving a large and diverse clientele). I also provide pro bono legal work for people who cannot afford counsel—recent examples include obtaining medically necessary surgery for my client after her insurer denied her repeatedly, and helping people with employment matters that come up. I also became a party to a lawsuit to prevent the commercial development of a property in my neighborhood that was protected by a contractual easement as “historic and open” property and not zoned for commercial use.
School/Community-Related Involvement: I served as a Board member for Jewish Family Services (a nonprofit social services agency that provides counseling to children and adults and provides services to allow seniors to remain in their homes). I served as Co-Chair of the Annual Fund for Wilmington Friends School and Co-Chair of a Capital Campaign for Wilmington Friends School. I was part of a small group of people who raised the money, designed and contracted to build a community playground on the property of the public elementary school in my neighborhood—a school with a majority of its enrollment from challenged neighborhoods in the City of Wilmington. My husband and I support many public-education initiatives in Wilmington, such as Eastside Charter School and Vision to Learn (a mobile unit bringing eye exams and corrective eye care to low-income students).
Other: I have served food on numerous occasions (along with my family) at Wilmington kitchens for homeless people or people who just need help, including the “Breakfast Club” run by Connections, Inc. and lunch and dinner at Emmanuel Dining Room (run by the Ministry of Caring). Our family has supported the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware in a variety of way, including “Wish List” drives (collecting two SUV-loads of items needed for guests at the House, such as toiletries, food, linens and toys), food deliveries and my son is a “House Volunteer” at Ronald McDonald House each Sunday. Through Wilmington Friends School (a Quaker School which emphasizes service at every grade level and in almost every opportunity) and through the local Jewish Community I also get involved in charitable and community work on an ad hoc basis, including serving and preparing food, or collecting clothing, food or items for various organizations.