This week’s featured story is of Novelist, Gen LaGreca
- What/who inspires you?
Usually youngsters are inspired by an adult figure. But I have a different story to tell. I’m a “woman over 40” who finds inspiration in a young lady of 15. Alma Deutscher is a musical prodigy who composed her first piano sonata at age 6 and her first full-length opera, “Cinderella,” at age 10. Alma has performed in the great concert halls of the world, including Carnegie Hall. It’s an inspiration to see her playing the piano or violin, a diminutive figure with braids and a child’s face, performing with a full orchestra. There’s a radiant look on her face as she proudly plays the music she created. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about her titled “A Girl Makes Music Without Irony or Ugliness,” describing her beautiful classical style and how it’s out of favor with today’s critics. The good news is that Alma doesn’t care! That’s what I find inspiring. She’s true to her own voice, with incredible integrity and a happy spirit that doesn’t hear the critics, but only her own original, beautiful melodies. I strive to have that attitude toward my writing and my critics.
- What’s been the most surprising thing that has happened on your journey to Wisdom?
Before I found fiction writing, I was a restaurant consultant writing video scripts for employee training programs. These scripts were getting more and more plot and story oriented. A client finally said to me, “Gen, I can’t have romance in a training program about restaurant sanitation.” When I related that incident to a friend, she suggested I write a novel. That was a major turning point in my life! Since then, I’ve written four novels.
- What’s your typical day like?
I work from my home office. I guess we writers were ahead of the curve on working from home. The most helpful thing to me, which greatly enhanced my concentration and productivity, was to get in the habit of waking up at 5 or 6 AM, grabbing a cup of coffee, and making the 15-second commute to my office on the second floor. Before looking at email, or having breakfast, or showering, or checking the news, I just get right to work on my current project, which could be a a novel, a stage play, or an article. I find that those focused, uninterrupted hours in the morning are the most productive of the day. Then, around 8 or 9 AM, I’m ready for a shower, a little grooming (sometimes very little), and breakfast. Then I’ll continue working on my current writing project, as well as on lighter things like email correspondence, social media, or publishing and marketing tasks. But those hours of concentration in the morning are the creative high point of the day for me.
Around 4 PM, I stop working. I’ll do 3 miles of fast-walking on my treadmill while I watch a TV show on my tablet. I’m a sucker for murder mysteries, such as the original Perry Mason TV series, Law and Order, or the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Hallmark features fascinating female protagonists who have careers and who also solve murders as amateur sleuths. For some of these shows, we can admit that the plots are formulaic. In Perry Mason, for example, the real murderer always confesses on the witness stand, but the plot setups often intrigue me as a writer, and I love the characters and the themes of pursuing justice and of the good side winning in the end.
Also in my typical day, I cook, so that takes up part of my time. I watch my calories, eat healthy, exercise, and stay slim. I enjoy living this way. It makes me feels as if I can trust myself to be a good manager of my life. Of course, that’s not always true. There are weekend “transgressions.” My idea of a world tour would be a quest to sample every piece of cheesecake that’s ever been created.
- What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I studied philosophy, so I love to express and dramatize important ideas and issues in the framework of suspenseful novels. I hope my readers will do a little nail biting and also a little thinking about the topics I raise. And I love creating strong characters who overcome great odds and give us hope. We all need the uplift that treasured novels provide.
Once I discovered fiction writing, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. Writing a novel is very hard work, but also very satisfying. That’s why I call what I do my “sweet torture.”
- What advice would you give a woman over 40?
I’d say, the best is yet to come! Gallup polls, Nielsen studies, and other surveys show that seniors are the happiest demographic group in America. For example, Business Insider reports: “There is scientific evidence that people get happier as they get older.” So that’s really good news for women over 40, as well as life-expectancy charts which show that a woman at age 40 still has half of her life left to live.
I’d also like to add what Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, said: “I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” So let’s not waste any of our heartbeats.
Everyone gives the advice that you should find the thing you love to do. Of course, that’s great advice. Doing what you love is what springs you up out of bed in the morning and brings excitement, challenge, and meaning to your days. But unless you’re retired and financially comfortable, I would add two more components to that advice. I’d say, find something that: a) you love to do, b) you’re talented at, and c) you can make money doing.
This isn’t always possible, such as in my case, when for many years I had to hold a day job for the money, while I wrote fiction—my passion—in my free time. But if you can also make your passion your money-maker, then you’ve really got it made.
- If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
I wish that we would all experience the joy of life as active, not passive, participants. We shouldn’t sit around and wait for things to happen to us. We should be the prime movers of our journey. This would mean that we all happily accept responsibility for our own lives. A former boss I had put it this way: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” That’s the great challenge—and glory—of life: making things happen for yourself.
- What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I love opera. In the world of opera, I find passionate characters, unafraid to express their emotions fully and going to the barricade to fight for their values. In opera, the characters’ lives and values are intensely important to them. So opera gives me everything I want: passionate characters, fabulous singing, great music, opulent settings, and it even gives me plots and storylines to analyze.
- What’s next for you (or what’s left on your “bucket list”)
Plays, plays, plays. I just finished writing the stage play adaptations of two of my novels, Noble Vision and Just the Truth. I hope to see these works on the stage in 2021. I keep finding new paths that I want to take. I hope that I’ll have more to report on this new endeavor in the future.
- What’s your ‘secret’ indulgence?
That’s easy. Martinis! When I go to a restaurant, I want to try every flavor on the martini menu—but of course not in one visit. I love mango, chocolate, lemon drop, sugar cookie, snowflake, or my old standby, a cosmopolitan martini. It’s a special treat when the martini is served over dry ice—a real bubbling witch’s brew.
- What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
If we want to maximize our great potential for success and happiness, I recommend the book by clinical psychologist Dr. Edith Packer. It’s called “Lectures on Psychology.”
It’s an important work for anyone interested in understanding the psychological requirements for achieving happiness. In today’s crazy world, we’re prone to suffer at least some degree of psychological damage. Starting in our formative years and continuing into adulthood, we can be pulled down by inexplicable emotional reactions, fear of failure, self-doubt, anxiety, debilitating anger, and other psychological issues that cause us to be unhappy and to miss living life to its fullest. Dr. Packer’s work, based on her own clinical cases, shows us how to demystify, understand, and be in control of our emotions, as well as how to build our reasoning ability, self-esteem, and values in order to confront and correct any mistaken premises we may have about ourselves and our chances in the world. I especially love one of her chapters, called “Happiness Skills.” All of her methods put us in control of our lives in a fundamental way and help us to become supremely eager, confident, and happy people who are all good managers of our own lives.
- Is there a question you would like to answer that has not been asked? And what is your answer?
Yes, the question is: What’s my new novel about and why did I write it?
My new novel is a political thriller called Just the Truth. I wrote it to celebrate journalism, the profession that speaks truth to power and protects our freedoms. Today we have a troubling trend toward “fake news,” with reporters substituting bias for truth. My novel shows how one newswoman resists this trend.
My protagonist is journalist Laura Taninger. She discovers anomalies in a new voting system that just might manipulate an upcoming election in which President Ken Martin is running for a second term. Just when her high-level source within the administration is about to reveal important information to her about her investigation, he’s suddenly murdered. This makes Laura’s suspicions rise to high pitch. As she investigates, she faces the covert retaliation of the administration and its supporters against her family’s businesses and against her personally, and she faces intense pressure from her family to be more “pragmatic” and drop the matter. But she persists.
The novel pits those who abuse power and want to hide their real motives and actions against a courageous journalist who risks everything to find out the truth and expose it.
Laura Taninger is an especially important heroine this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution, giving women the right to vote. There’s a long tradition of women writers who went against the tide to fight for truth and justice. For example, take the antebellum author of the antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was viciously attacked and her book was banned throughout the Old South, but she prevailed—and her great abolitionist cause was won. There are intrepid investigative newswomen today, such as Sharyl Attkisson, whose motto is: “Untouchable subjects. Fearless, nonpartisan reporting.” Their work inspired my story. My character honors this tradition of independent women writers who fight for important causes. I hope Laura Taninger will be an inspiration to readers.