Marianne Sciucco is another of the authors with whom I’ve come together to create more awareness that June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. We hope to accomplish this through a joint promotion of our books about dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. She has agreed to join me today in the “Limelight” to share her thoughts regarding writing, reading, and tips for aspiring writers.
I found her novel Blue Hydrangeas to be more than a story of dementia. It is also a tender love story, in which she describes the plight of an older couple grappling with aging and its many foibles. As readers, we watch as the wife descends further and further into the rabbit hole of dementia, while her husband is doing his very best to honor his commitment to stand by her side, at any cost, to the point of near disaster. If you’ve ever had a loved one with dementia, you’ll find this poignant story rings quite true to the challenges, heartbreak and turbulent emotions that often go hand-in-hand with this devastating disease.
Marianne, thank you for joining us today! Can you share with our reading audience what inspires you?
Life itself inspires me. The world is beautiful. People are fascinating.
Who would you say was/is your biggest influence?
My dad, a cabinetmaker, was a book lover and filled our home with books. We had a beautiful bookcase in our living room, built right into the wall, and he stocked it with all kinds of books, most of which I was too young to read. He made up for it by bringing me to the library every week and letting me check out as many books as they’d allow. This inspired me at an early age to someday write my own book.
How much do you read? Which genres?
I’m an eclectic reader. I read every day: the newspaper, blogs, newsletters, and something on my Kindle, audiobook player, or bedside table. I like most fiction, including romance, YA, mysteries, and literary; memoir and biographies.
What advice do you have for beginning authors?
Don’t give up. Understand that this is a difficult undertaking and may offer little to no reward at the end, other than the fact that you completed it.
Describe your writing routine.
I don’t have a regular writing routine because of repetitive strain injuries. This includes carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, chronic headaches, and musculoskeletal and nerve pain. If time permits and my pain issues are managed, I may be able to write a few hundred words on my work-in-progress, or a blog post, or an interview. I manage my social media daily via my iPhone and Kindle, which are easier to handle. I use Tweetdeck and Hoot Suite to ease the load. A great day for me is to write 2000 words on my novel. To read more about this, please visit MyTOSLife or The Balanced Writer.
Where did you get the idea for Blue Hydrangeas?
While at work as a nurse case manager in a rehabilitation unit, I met an elderly couple who inspired my characters Jack and Sara in Blue Hydrangeas. She had Alzheimer’s and he was physically frail. The amazing thing about them was that they’d driven from Florida to New York by themselves without any incident. Unfortunately, once home she fell and broke her pelvis and landed in the hospital. That’s where I came in, to assist with the discharge plan. She was supposed to go to a local nursing home for continued rehab and her son planned to drive her and her husband there on discharge day. I completed their plans and said goodbye, but couldn’t stop thinking about them, wondering what would happen if they somehow left the hospital without their son and did not go to the rehab. Where would they go? What would they do? My wild imagination took off, and the seeds for the novel took root.
Could you share a passage from your novel with us?
Yes, of course! Here’s an excerpt from Blue Hydrangeas:
Jack closed his eyes in frustration and counted to ten.
Sara had emerged from the bedroom in an outfit made for raking autumn leaves. A knitted cap that had seen better days sat lopsided over her uncombed hair. She wore one of his old sweaters, frayed at the wrists and coming apart under one arm. She clomped through the house in a heavy pair of work boots. Where did she find these ridiculous garments? He thought he’d sent that sweater to the Goodwill long ago.
He glanced at the clock and sighed with exasperation. They had errands to run: the pharmacy, the post office, the market. “Come on, Sara. I can’t take you out dressed like that,” he said.
“What’s wrong with it? This sweater will keep me warm, and these boots are good for walking.”
“It’s summer, that’s what’s wrong with it. Today’s a scorcher. It’s eighty degrees and only half-past nine. Put on a pair of shorts and a blouse and let’s go.” He reached for her cap. “And get rid of this.”
She blocked his arm, grabbed the other, and gave him a nasty pinch. “I can’t go anywhere without my cap,” she cried, darting away.
Jack yelped in pain. Clutching his aching forearm, he chased after her through the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, and back again, before facing off at the single step leading into the family room. Again, he reached for the cap. She lunged forward to deliver another pinch and they lost their balance, falling over the step. Sara landed on her right hip with a terrific bang. Jack landed on top of her.
That’s it, he thought, afraid she’d broken a leg, hip, or worse. He pulled himself upright, groaning as his stiff joints protested. He tried to stand her, a tiny, wiry woman, but she felt like dead weight and resisted his efforts, howling like a wounded dog. He bent over her, and with his strong but gentle hands grasped her right leg and cautiously checked its range of motion.
She clawed at him and screamed, “Let go of me, you old fool, I’ve hurt my leg.”
He removed his hands and tried to stand up but she pulled him back down on to the floor.
“I’ve hurt my leg,” she cried. “I can’t get up.”
“I know,” he grunted, breathless from his exertions. “I’m trying to help you.”
She wouldn’t let him go, but he needed to call for help. He struggled to pull himself free and wrenched his own back, sending a violent spasm up from his lower spine to between his shoulders.
“Good God,” he cried, and she released him.
He staggered to the phone and called the paramedics. Then he dropped down on the floor beside her and spoke to her with soothing words.
“It’s all right,” he said. “Everything’s going to be all right.” He stroked her face, her hair, and repeated this mantra until she settled down. When she had quieted, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a tiny vial of medicine, and placed a little pill under his tongue to quell the ache in his chest.
Thank you! That certainly captures a bit of the drama that this disease can drop into our lives when caring for a loved one with dementia.
Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?
My current WIP is Swim Season, the story of Aerin Keane, who is determined to leave her troubles behind as she starts twelfth grade in her third high school. Senior year is supposed to be fun, right? Friends. Parties. Boys. She wants to be like every other girl at Two Rivers. Except Aerin has two secrets: She is not an average varsity swimmer, and her mom is not a nurse serving in Afghanistan. Ready to give up her dreams of a college swimming scholarship and a shot at the Olympics, Aerin decides she doesn’t want to win anymore, she wants to swim for fun, it’s her “therapy.” But when her desire to be just one of the girls on the team collides with her desire to be the best this school has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to challenge a long-standing school record attached to a $50,000 scholarship? I hope to publish later this year. Here’s a preview.
Marianne, that sounds so intriguing. We’ll all be watching for its release later this year! Thank you so much for joining us today. And, readers, be sure and scroll to the bottom of this post to enter a contest for a free book!
Thank you for inviting me to speak to your readers, Vicki!
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 debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a BookWorks featured book, winner of IndieReCon’s Best Indie Novel Award, 2014, and a Library Journal Self-e Selection. A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at SUNY Orange.