How did you get started writing?
What do you like most about writing?
Why do you enjoy writing lesfic?
How did your novel, “Devoted”, come about?
What’s your favorite genre to read?
What writers do you look up to and why?
If you were a character in a book, what genre would you want it to be?
What’s your favorite character you’ve written so far?
What’s up next?
Any tips for new writers?
How do you work through writer’s block?
I’ve never had it. I have far more ideas than I have time to write them, so it’s more a case of how do I find the time to write, rather than how to come up with ideas.
It’s raining when they arrest me. Not a light New England drizzle, but a heavy, Florida- summer downpour, the kind that creates puddles in seconds, and floods in minutes. As the two police officers hurry me out of the front door and down the drenched, flagstone path, I have to keep myself from slipping on the wet ferns and sodden, scarlet hibiscus scattered in the storm. Barker looks like she is in shock. She keeps repeating in a low voice, “I’ll get you out of there,” like a Buddhist mantra. Poor Barker, she must be beside herself with worry.
It all happens so quickly. One minute we are sitting in the living room, watching a re-run of one of our favorite episodes of Friends (the one where Ross finds his red sweater); the next, Barker answers the door to two uniformed police officers who tell her they need to take Wynn Larimer down to the station for questioning. I don’t know who was more shocked—her or me. I could understand being arrested if I had committed a crime, or if I knew someone who had, or if I were connected in any way to any kind of criminal activity; I could comprehend it if I had a hidden past that had finally caught up with me; but I have been a model citizen, from the time I was a straight-acting kindergarten teacher in my twenties to my current status as a middle-aged, suburban, jewelry-making, lesbian.
“She’s on Aricept,” Barker yells at the officers as one of them pushes down on my head, shoving me into the patrol car, “it’s very important she doesn’t miss a dose.” She thrusts a prescription bottle at the male cop but he holds his hand up and says he isn’t allowed to take it. The young, female one tells her to put it in my pocket. “She won’t be able to keep it, but when they take her property, they’ll have an accurate record of the dosage. If they keep her, they’ll make sure she gets some, eventually.”
My memory medication is the least of my worries right now.
The A/C blows harshly on my wet legs and arms as I shiver in the back of the car, shaking out my dripping, lanky, curls. I try to get the attention of the cops, but there is a metal grille separating us and they have no intention of turning around. When we arrive at the police station, and they bundle me out of the cruiser, I ask what I’m being charged with. The mean cop mumbles contemptuously, “like you don’t know,” while the younger one says, with almost a hint of sadness in her tone, “we’re just arresting you; we don’t have to bring any charges yet. But if we do, it will most likely be for false imprisonment.” False imprisonment? Isn’t that what you’re doing to me? I want to ask, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea. When I used to visit Mom in the nursing home, half the ladies there would tell me they’d been kidnapped and were now falsely imprisoned. I hardly want to sound like one of them. But I’ve never imprisoned anyone in my life. Why would they think I have? Who did I imprison?
The next part is a blur but I know it involves being photographed and fingerprinted and repeating my name and address several times. Then they tell me I’m going to a holding cell. I can barely bring my feet to move as a large-boned officer walks me down the corridor. We pass cells that have no doors, just metal grates from top to bottom, where you can see everything the women in the cells are doing – slouching on their cots, shitting on the toilet. A young woman in a red bustier, black leather shorts, and boots that come up to her thighs, yells, “what did the old lady do? Rob Medicare?” I’m offended that she thinks I’m old, but I feel grateful for my age when we stop at a cell that has a proper door, with just a small metal grate in it, where they can pass food through.
After the door clangs shut, I look around me. Mom would have described this cell as barely having room to swing a cat, and although I detest that expression, it’s true. Two steps in one direction, three in the other and I’m at the perimeter of the cell. A foot away from me is the lower of two concrete slabs, each with a mattress so slim it would be more accurate to call it a gym mat. The slabs are attached to the wall and narrow enough to preclude two cellmates lying together should they be so inclined. I ought to claim one of the bunks as mine, since it appears I may be here for a while, but my choice is between a rock and a hard place. The upper bunk involves climbing up a little ladder, but lately my balance is so bad, I don’t think I should risk this. However, if I lower myself onto the other one, which is about knee-high, I may not be able to stand up again. So for now, I perch on the stainless steel toilet, which is awkward and extremely uncomfortable, as it has no lid and the rim is cold and hard.
Sitting on the edge of this metal toilet, my whole body aches. I can feel the arthritis in my hips starting up and if I really have to sleep on that yoga mat, I won’t be able to move by tomorrow morning. I want Barker. I want a lawyer. Nobody comes to get me, nobody interacts with me. As the hours wear on, I feel like I may go crazy in this cell, all by myself, with no one to talk to. It must be late evening by now. I thought they’d have had a detective ready to talk to me as soon as I got here, but perhaps they’re trying to psych me out by making me wait. They want me to confess to something I didn’t do. I’ve read about upright citizens who committed crimes with the Black Panthers or the Symbionese Liberation Army in their youth, who finally get caught when they’re middle-aged, but I’m not one of them. (And yes, I get that Ms. Bustier and Black Boots might not categorize me as middle-aged, but when she gets to be my age, I guarantee she will no longer think of fifty-nine as old.)
I wonder what Barker’s doing now. Did she walk the dogs? Of course she did. I’m the one who sometimes forgets, until I see them standing in front of me, their mournful eyes begging me to give their bladders some release. Did she heat up the curried vegetables I cooked earlier today for our dinner? Probably not. If she had any appetite she probably took a hot dog from the freezer, microwaved it, and slapped it on a bun with some ketchup. Hopefully, she’s frantically calling anyone she can think of to get me out of this mess. She knows enough people in her line of work. One of them has to be able to help me.
I keep going back to that idea of false imprisonment. Who could I have imprisoned? The only people I know of who are kept somewhere against their will are either spouses—and clearly Barker’s at home, so that’s not it—or girls who go missing and are forced into sex work. Barker has two clients who are missing right now, fifteen-year-old foster kids who disappeared when they were being transferred from a foster home over a week ago. She’s voiced her fear several times that they were abducted and are being kept somewhere. Could it be them? Do the police think I had something to do with their disappearance? That makes absolutely no sense.
Which brings me back to the thought that went round and round in my head while I was shivering in the police cruiser.
Someone has set me up.
This is an excerpt from the end of the 1st chapter of Devoted. Ashley, a devout Christian, is shocked when her sister’s wife, JP calls to tell her that Lizzie, her sister, is dying from what they thought was a non-threatening illness. Ash immediately flies to Philadelphia where JP picks her up and takes her to the hospital. JP goes to park her truck while Ash rushes to her sister’s side.
Inside Lizzie’s room, it’s hard to believe the woman propped up in the hospital bed is my sister. Her skin is yellow and she’s so bloated she reminds me of one of those blimps that hover in the sky, encouraging me to buy their brand of beer or insurance. An oxygen mask covers her nose and mouth and an IV snakes itself around her arm. Her eyes are closed.
I tiptoe over and stand at the bedside.
“Lizzie?” I whisper and stroke her swollen fingers. “Lizzie?”
I don’t know if she can hear me, so I take a chance and say loudly, “It’s me, Ash, your sister.”
Her lids flutter and for a moment she opens her eyes. Her gaze is blank, and she closes them again. Through the plastic of the oxygen mask, the corner of her mouth turns upward as if she’s trying to smile. I squeeze her hand and she grimaces.
“I love you,” I say, “darling, darling sister. I love you so much.” I clench my throat tight to hold back a sob trying to make its way out.
My hand is in hers and she tries to lift it. The effort is too much and her hand falls back. I lean forward and kiss her forehead. Maybe she wants to say something. I move the oxygen mask away from her face. She opens her mouth, but no sound comes out. She swallows and tries again, gasping for air. I lean forward to replace the mask, but she shakes her head.
“JP,” she whispers, and I feel my heart constrict. I thought she’d be happy to see me. Apparently, the only person she wants next to her is her wife.
“She’s coming. She’s parking the truck.”
She shakes her head with surprising vehemence and opens her eyes. They’re no longer glazed or blank, only full of agitation. She’s trying to get a sentence out, but it’s barely a mumble and there are only a couple of words I can catch. “JP…affair…Jim…”
“JP had an affair with a guy called Jim?” It’s about the most unlikely thing she could tell me, and I wonder what drugs they have her on. I stroke her hand, her forehead, any part of her I can touch. “Whatever happened, we don’t need to talk about that now, honey, it doesn’t matter.”
“No…me.” She gasps, then continues. “JP…mad.”
Is this a deathbed confession? While I can’t believe JP would have an affair with a guy, it’s hard to imagine loyal, dependable Lizzie having an affair with anyone, female or male.
“Sweetheart, none of it matters. We’re both here for you. We love you. She’s parking the truck, she’s not mad at you.”
“Not now, then…she…” She sucks in all the air she can then forces out a string of words, mumbling and incoherent. “I told her…Hell and…in the water…no energy…drink…Jim…but I wasn’t…”
“Lizzie, honey, I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me. I’m sure it doesn’t matter now.” She’s clearly exhausted, fighting for breath. I put the oxygen mask back over her nose and mouth.
Did I hear her say the word Hell? Is she saying she’s going to Hell? I know she gave up her faith, but now that she’s dying, is she clinging to it?
“Shall we pray together?” I stroke her hand.
With a strength I would never have expected, she rips the mask off her face
“JP!” Her eyes, so empty a few moments ago, are burning fiercely.
I turn, thinking JP is by the door or has come in. She hasn’t. Lizzie’s eyes grow wide and frantic. “Jim…” Again, something I can’t make out, and then a word that sounds like prison.
“Jim is in prison?”
She shakes her head and pushes out the word one more time. It still sounds like she’s saying prison, yet I know it’s not quite that. Her mouth moves but nothing happens. All of a sudden she slumps. Her eyes roll backwards, and all the machines she’s attached to start beeping frantically.
A nurse yells, “Code blue!” and there’s a flurry of activity. I know it’s too late. I’ve watched enough TV to know what it means when the machines show flat lines. Lizzie’s chest is no longer rising and falling, and I can feel death in the air.
“Lizzie!” I spin around. JP stands in the doorway, stunned. She rushes into the room but Lizzie is now surrounded by medical professionals pumping on her chest, blowing some sort of balloon into her mouth, and JP can’t get near her.
There is silence while the medical team works on Lizzie, and I hear the words, “Time of death…”
JP looks around in bewilderment, chokes up, and bursts into tears. She slides down onto the floor and I slide next to her. How can this have happened? How can my beloved sister, so healthy until last month, be dead?
Lizzie’s last words echo over and over in my brain: Jim. Prison. All of a sudden, in the midst of my grief, the word comes unbidden into the forefront of my brain.
She wasn’t saying that Jim was in prison. With her dying breath, my sister was trying to tell me that someone named Jim had poisoned her.