May 30, 2007

A Thought Provoking 3Q with Joni Rodgers

GOOD MORNING --- I am about to go grab Karen and head for New York. I told her I was going to show up a good half hour before I actually plan to be there, in the hopes that when I arrive, I will not find her standing around in her underpants with wet hair, looking helplessly down into a TOTALLY empty suitcase and saying, “Do you think I need to bring my wooden cloggy foot-bind looking shoes? Or just these toe flower things?”

Once there, we will meet up with Sara and Renee and do our very level best to get arrested. YAY!

While I sit on a plane, I leave you to be entertained by Joni Rodgers, who has joined me here to talk a little about the paperback release of her latest book.


In THE SECRET SISTERS, Pia feels the walls of her life closing in around her, until she discovers a strangely sensual world that leads her to a new existence. Lily, Pia's brash, tough-talking sister, makes a tragic mistake that leaves her incarcerated, body and soul, but in the prison library discovers a key that will unlock her mind and open her heart. Beth, married to Pia and Lily's brother, has never been able to admit her own failure as a mother. Finally forced to confront a tragedy of her own making, she discovers that the truth can set her free.

"Honesty, humor, and fearlessness...(Rodgers) illuminates the internal landscapes all women navigate." Houston Chronicle
JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?

JR: Easter is a big deal in THE SECRET SISTERS, because the book is about resurrection more than anything else. There's even a character named Easter, a little girl killed by a drunk driver -- her aunt Lily. Someone with the best of intentions, but tragically bad judgment. After Easter’s death, her mother Beth is trapped in the past and must find a way past her grief and anger. Sentenced to seven years in prison, Lily loses her husband and everything else she loved about her life, but the prison library frees her mind and prepares her for a new life – and new love. For Lily’s sister Pia, the disintegration of the family brings on a powerful panic disorder that almost kills her. Her journey is the one most fraught with danger, as her fears leave her vulnerable to a seductive con artist, who leads her to an exhilarating new dawn, but at a terrible price.

The title refers to the three women (Mary, Joanna, and Magdalene, often called “The Secret Sisters”) who went to Jesus’ tomb at dawn on Easter morning -- the third day after the crucifixion. They found the tomb empty and were confronted by angels who said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen."

Two thousand years later, I often wonder the same thing, and I wanted to ask that question with this book. Are we looking for God in all the wrong places? Too many people of all religions -- many with the best of intentions but very bad judgment -- seek God among dead teachings that spout God's name, but were designed by men who use religion to divide and control. God is not there. He is among the living. The loving. The open-minded. The practitioners of daily loving-kindness. He rises up with the peace-makers and the forgivers and the healers.

We are the living. Ancient hatreds, past failures, fear we can’t see around, guilt we can’t give up—those are the dead. Like the Biblical Secret Sisters, the three women in this book journey from grief to wholeness, from fear to freedom. Each of the sisters dies and rises again in a different way, learning that redemption is tragedy cross-pollinated by grace.

JJ: What is the relationship between writing and motherhood? I mean this in a personal way -- for you. Does one feed the other, are they similar for you, does doing one make doing the other harder, do these things compete or come from the same place or? What?

JR: Watching the intimate daily evolution of two people from infancy to young adulthood has been an amazing gift, which deeply affects the way I think about people in general. When it comes to developing characters, it’s impossible for me to see one-dimensionally. I know now how every tiny moment of a person’s life weaves its way into who they are. And I know that there are no perfect heroes or perfectly evil villains. Everybody is somebody’s baby, and even if I don’t go into a detailed backstory for every character in every novel, I’d like to think that the perspective brings a certain depth to the people who populate my books.

My kids are also an unending fount of great dialogue and fresh ideas. And they definitely keep me grounded in real life any time I’m on a bus toward Diva Town. While the art of writing is something I do for myself, the craft and business is compelled by my desire to set a strong, successful example for them – and my need to pay their college tuition!

On the flipside, having a rich, vital writing life made it a lot easier for me when they both left home last year. The “empty nest” has been a lot easier to face than I thought it was going to be, because I’ve been able to throw myself into one great project after another without feeling guilty about the travel schedule or the crazy workaholic nose-to-the-grindstone hours I put in.

JJ:Tell us about your cancer experience and how it affected this book in particular and your writing career in general.

JR: I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994. Chemo sidelined me from my acting career (such as it was), and I used the downtime to write my first two novels. Maybe it was the drugs, but it was like a whole new part of my brain came alive. (Picture me slapping my bald head like one of the Three Stooges. “Oh! So THIS is what I’m supposed to do with my life! How did I not know that?”) Chemo gave me the time and quiet to focus on writing for the first time, and in turn, writing gave me a way to process that devastating experience. After my first two novels were published by small presses and received generous reviews, BALD IN THE LAND OF BIG HAIR, my memoir about my cancer experience, was published by Harper Collins, which took my career to the next level.

I guess I’m still processing the cancer experience in some ways. Fear of recurrence is a huge issue for most cancer survivors. In the wake of 9/11, our country was left wounded and terrorized, and it was eerily reminiscent of my own fragile state in the aftermath of cancer. THE SECRET SISTERS is my response to that. It’s a parable about how vulnerable we become when we embrace fear as a lifestyle. It’s also an examination of the way tragedy can – and should! – change us. Survivorship is about accountability, courage, and hope. As we emerge from life’s refining fires, we have to learn from our mistakes, celebrate our strengths, and seize hold of every new day with joy.

Thanks Joni!

In Closing, allow me to share the PHONE PIC which finally came---Please note TOES OF DOG in the corner -- he is DYING for me to take those sandals off so he can EAT them. Stinker.


Posted by joshilyn at May 30, 2007 5:42 AM

Or you could have just posted this link.

But then the foot fetish guys would have been pissed.
Have fun in NYC. Maybe I can convince you to return next Feb for The AWP.

Posted by: linda at May 30, 2007 6:57 AM

make that THIS link:

I meant to do that.

Posted by: linda at May 30, 2007 7:00 AM

Cute shoes!! Maybe Bagel is just creeping into the photo because he wishes he could wear them. (Ok, no....he probably does want to eat them.)

Posted by: DebR at May 30, 2007 7:21 AM

At least it doesn't look like you making out with Stephen King. Fine pedicure, that must be one from a REAL pedicure place, not like my lame half-assed home done pedicures, where I can hardly reach my toes over my gut.

And I'm afraid you really will fall with those, but you'll have awesome calf muscles doing it . .

Posted by: Brigitte at May 30, 2007 7:54 AM

I want THIS book and THOSE shoes! I just can't afford Charles David, even on killer sale.

Posted by: Heather at May 30, 2007 8:46 AM

Drooling over those shoes...

Posted by: Amy-Go at May 30, 2007 9:22 AM

I love the shoes YET I would never be able to walk in them. I'd have to sit pretty the whole time.

Hope you have a fabulous, CrazyBiblePasta-free time in NY.

Posted by: Lisa Milton at May 30, 2007 9:44 AM

OOH! Look at the pretty shoes, all sparkly and pretty.

Have fun in NY and make sure to update us on all the fun and debauchery!

Posted by: Patti D at May 30, 2007 10:03 AM

YOur shoes are lovely. I have not, however, been able to get the arches of my feet that high in several years. . .at least not while standing.

Enjoy NYC with your gals. . .what fun!!!!!

Posted by: Roxanne at May 30, 2007 10:34 AM

Those shoes look NOTHING LIKE you making out with Stephen King. They sure are purty, though.

Posted by: Aimee at May 30, 2007 10:58 AM


Dog eats shoes

My parrot Daisy goes after your toes (she's big on attacking bare toes, pedicured or not)

Posted by: parrotzmom at May 31, 2007 9:13 AM

I hope the lack of blog update means that Joshilyn is having a great time and not that she has tripped and fallen in front of a taxi. I would *definitely* trip in those shoes. Especially if there were cocktails involved. :)

Posted by: Leandra at May 31, 2007 4:48 PM

Killer shoes!

oh, and the book sounds pretty cool, too. must read.

Posted by: Patti at June 1, 2007 12:01 PM

Ooooh, I think I must have this book!

Posted by: Heather Cook at June 4, 2007 12:16 AM