Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
My life journey began in a small town in eastern Montana, known for its cowboy bars and yearly “world-famous” bucking horse sale. Breaking the mold, I did not grow up to marry a cowboy or live on a ranch. Within a couple days of receiving my diploma from Montana State University, I boarded a plane for Europe. I spent the next two months vagabonding through eight different countries, before settling into married life and a new job in Midland, Michigan.
Three babies, three moves and a new husband (much) later, I am now happily settled back into the unhurried life of a Montanan, in the south-central part of our beautiful state. The babies have long since grown and gone, although happily, my son and his wife moved back to Montana, which means I now have three grandsons nearby!
For over 30 years I worked as a lactation consultant, counseling women on how to succeed with breastfeeding. In January of 2014, I made the decision to leave this career behind in order to focus on writing. My first two books have focused on intergenerational stories about my family.
Journaling has been a part of my life since the age of 16, a form a therapy that has helped me cope over the years with the ups and downs of life. I have also written and had numerous articles published in lactation journals. My typical subject matter of lactation, however, took an abrupt turn from life’s beginning to life’s end when I began keeping a diary documenting our family’s journey, after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my dad with Parkinson’s-related dementia. Over time, this diary became my first book-length work, a memoir detailing our rocky road through this devastating disease. I was inspired to seek publication of "Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia" after sharing it with friends and friends of friends traveling the same difficult road and hearing them tell me how much reading it helped them on their journey.
In 2015, I one of three finalists in the Best Woman Writer category ("Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia") for the High Plains Book Awards, which encompassed over 200 entries from 7 western states and 3 Canadian provinces.
I am one of the founders of AlzAuthors.com, a website created to increase awareness of dementia. Our goals are to reduce the stigma of a dementia diagnosis and to connect resources with caregivers. Over the past two years, our website has posted more than 130 essays by authors and bloggers of books about dementia from around the world. Each week we feature an author/blogger and I cross-blog that post on my website, vickitapia.com.
My second book, "Maggie, A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival" delves into past generations of my mother’s family. Only seven years old when Great-Grandma Maggie passed away, I unfortunately didn’t know her well, but I did grow up listening to stories about her. I carried those stories into adulthood and have melded them with genealogical research and imagination to create a work of historical fiction, a tribute to the intrepid life of my great-grandmother, written in remembrance and recognition of a time when women had few rights.
My short story, "Freedom," written from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl growing up in eastern Montana in the early 1960's, was published as part of an anthology of western writers entitled "Sandstone." This anthology was published in an effort to help raise funds for a local indie bookstore.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My second book, "Maggie, A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival," was released in March, 2018. It is a biographical work of historical fiction inspired by the life of my great-grandmother, a spunky and determined woman thrust into marriages of abuse, not once, but three times. Writing her story took root in my psyche nearly twenty years ago when I came across affidavits of her divorce, depositions and the divorce trial transcript. Her journey, which begins in Michigan and ends in Montana, is a testament to her determination, courage and spirit. It takes place around the turn of the 20th century, when women had few, if any, legal rights.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Well, I’m not sure what would be considered “usual” writing habits, so whether or not my writing habits are “unusual” is open to debate. My office is sitting on a stool at my computer at my kitchen counter breakfast bar. I write at all different times of the day or evening, whenever I can escape life’s persistent demands.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Escaping into the historical fiction and fantasy time-travel of a Diana Gabaldon novel is my idea of a great time. Her writing style is so engaging, I find myself saying (or thinking) “ken” and “dinna” weeks after finishing one of her novels. I’d love to have her talent for writing characters. She also has a knack for including interesting vocabulary. I enjoy Barbara Kingsolver and felt her book "The Poisonwood Bible" changed the way I look at life. Her books are thoughtful and remain in my mind long after I’ve finished the read.
What are you working on now?
At this very moment, I am taking a break from long narratives to promote "Maggie." There may be edits for another short story which has been accepted for an Alzheimer's-related anthology, plus I’m staying busy with short bursts of writing on social media in addition to blogging and other venues (like My Book Place). My oft-described “overactive” imagination is persistently on the lookout for my next project. It may be another intergenerational story taken from our family lore.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I engage with social media via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest nearly every day, maintain a website with a blog and seek out connection with other writers. Each provides a different way to reach readers and I believe the more avenues in which to engage, the better! I also enjoy public speaking. I’ve spoken numerous times for various organizations about “Dementia Awareness” and always bring along a stack of my books to sell. I’m not yet sure where my latest book, "Maggie," might take me in that venue.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
It's important to put together a good, professional-looking product that is well-written and professionally edited, with a classy, eye-catching cover. After that, it’s all about marketing, marketing, marketing. And, yes, I’d rather be writing…
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
What are you reading now?
I just finished John Grisham’s The Painted House, very different than his usual. I’ve recently read: Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi, Dreamland by Sam Quinones and Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. Since then, I’ve been off on a tangent the past couple of months with WWII books, including Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan (kudos to a fellow Montana writer), The Silver Music Box by Min Baites, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, Farleigh Field by Rhys Bos, Daughters of the Night Sky, Aimie K. Runyan and my current read, The Honest Spy by Andreas Kollender
What’s next for you as a writer?
In the short-term, my goal is to participate in promos and market my newest book, Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival. Long term? There is undoubtedly another tale to be told.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I should probably say "The Odyssey," "Moby Dick" or "War and Peace." But, I'll be truthful instead. It's "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon, which includes my favorite genres of time travel, romance and history, plus accurately-depicted scenes of babies breastfeeding!