Interview with Eleanor Alspaugh, Award-Winning Author of The Mommy-Go-Round

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Initially I was well into writing my first book before considering myself a writer even though that was exactly what I was doing in all my spare moments. Eventually I recognized my calling and love of writing about halfway through my writing of The Mommy-Go-Round. It became the back up career I knew I wanted to try someday. Although I continued to work on The Mommy-Go-Round in my spare time, that “Someday” finally arrived in 2013 following my retirement from my Assistant Vice President position.

What inspires you to write?
I think my writing is motivated by life experiences. When I am moved by something, I’m inspired to capture it to share with others. Raising children inspired me, taught me so much and opened an entire world that before motherhood, was totally foreign to me. Becoming a mother threw all kinds of emotions, experiences and even challenges at me. I had based my impression of motherhood on innocent family shows where “Stepford-like” children lived, ever perfect and obedient. Real life was eye opening to me and I wanted to share it, poke fun at it, and prepare others like me for real ‘momlife.’ In the case of The Heart of a Soldier, I felt very moved by my father’s letters home during World War II. I wanted to share the letters, the war’s impact on their and others’ lives and was worried that these beautiful letters, their love story and experiences would be lost if I didn’t capture them in a book.

Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?
Absolutely!! Have phone or a scrap of paper and I’m jotting down an idea, a few sentences or more!!

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Most of my writing started with cryptic notes written on scraps of paper and various notepads but I’ve grown from those early days. Now I use my iPhone notes feature to send myself ideas, snippets of sentences or thoughts, dictate or type paragraphs or chapters while away, etc. until I can transfer them to my computer where eventually it all comes together.

How important is research to you when writing a book?
I used life experiences to write The Mommy-Go-Round but when it came time to write The Heart of a Soldier, research was everything to me. I am not a historian nor do I recall much beyond names and dates being taught in school so I needed to do lots of research of World War II to complete this book. I am very indebted to Army Heritage and our library system for their guidance and many resources.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
I normally write when I feel inspired, and jot or dictate notes and ideas whenever they hit me. When I was writing The Heart of a Soldier, there was so much that required research, I worked more on a schedule to complete that book. I worked many hours each day researching and writing throughout the week and even weekends. It was a book that weighed heavily on my heart and I felt guilty if I wasn’t working on it as there was so much to do.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
I can’t speak for all authors but I feel I have a fairly normal yet sometimes hectic life. I’m married, have raised 3 children, have grandchildren, and had a 32 plus year career in which writing was an integral part. There I worked my way up and was an Assistant Vice President for over 13 years. I am also a self-employed photographer working part-time for the past 12 years and now am proud to be an award-winning author. I’ve been very blessed in this life.

Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?
Absolutely! My first book, The Mommy-Go-Round was written over a period of about 15 years in the wee hours of the night, weekends and on vacations. For the first 7 or so years, I didn’t even realize I was writing a book. I was just writing my heart out. My second book, The Heart of a Soldier was started shortly after my mother passed away in 2002 but at the time, I was working full-time and raising three children who were active in their own activities, photographing them and their teammates, etc. I found it hard to do it all so The Heart of a Soldier was “put on a shelf” until I had more time. I never lost the desire to write The Heart of a Soldier so “a mere” thirteen years later, following my completion of The Mommy-Go-Round, I resumed writing and the research for that book. I also have a sequel for The Mommy-Go-Round started but that too was put on hold so that I could focus on The Heart of a Soldier.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?
I wanted to teach and eventually my dream became more specific. I wanted to be a Spanish teacher. Although I had good grades and had won an award in Spanish, my Spanish teacher became aware of my plans during my senior year and discouraged me from this goal as she said it was very difficult to find jobs teaching Spanish. It must have remained in my blood as I believe my desire to teach Spanish was passed on to my daughter. Today my oldest daughter is a wonderful Spanish teacher and loved Spanish from an early age. I still enjoy hearing the Spanish language and have considered writing children’s books with Spanish versions so that my daughter and I can collaborate on them.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first book?
No. Once I recognized that I had started writing a book, I knew I was going to finish it. I just wasn’t quite sure when or how I was going to end it.  Life provided that answer.  A sequel is in the works!

Do you read any of your own work?
Absolutely. Of course, you have to read it as you are reviewing it, but I also like to go back and read over sections again. I guess I want to revisit the feelings, the laughs, the craziness and even some of the feelings of love even if it sometimes came with tears. I also enlist friends to read and have received plenty of guidance and feedback along the way.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I have a very personal, down to earth, from the heart writing style that shares many of my innermost thoughts and feelings as if I was confiding in a best friend. A Readers’ Favorite reviewer described The Mommy-Go-Round as “written in a style that lets you hear Mrs. Alspaugh’s voice as if you were a friend drinking coffee at her kitchen table, assuming there is even time for a Mommy TO sit!”

How much of yourself do you put into your books?
I always felt that I was breaking the “motherhood code of silence” as I wrote The Mommy-Go-Round but to do that, I definitely shared many aspects of my life that many keep private. I also shared my perspectives, heart and history in The Heart of a Soldier. However, in both books, as I reminisced or perhaps confessed my shortcomings, I couldn’t resist humorously calling myself out on my past behavior or viewpoints at times. I hope that my honesty adds humor and helps readers relate, possibly finding laughter and even some tears between the lines. Many have shared that they loved The Mommy-Go-Round and can totally relate to my family experiences. Even men have confessed that despite their hesitance to read a book with that title, they couldn’t help but laugh and relate not only to the immediate family stories but also to the extended family interactions we all have to some degree.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
With the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II so close (the year 2020), I feel The Heart of a Soldier will interest many people as it is an easy way to revisit World War II history on a more personal and interesting level, using the letters written home and the theme of my parents’ love story throughout the book. The Heart of a Soldier is not a text book but provides an abbreviated understanding of some of the key events of World War II, while also giving a glimpse into the lives impacted both here and abroad. I’m also currently working on two other books, one is a children’s book and the other is a sequel to The Mommy-Go-Round.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
My books are dedicated to the love of family. The Heart of a Soldier will be dedicated to my parents as a way of showing my love and honoring them.

How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?
I see my writing as a passion. When I first started writing, it was a way to capture family moments but was also therapeutic in sorting parenthood out and understanding what sometimes felt like craziness. I felt very passionate about writing The Heart of a Soldier. I wanted to preserve these letters and my parents’ love story which survived long term separation and a world war. I feel their story is a wonderful example of loving and living happily ever after, regardless of sometimes tough circumstances.

Do you believe attractive book covers help in its sales?
Yes, I do. Initially I collaborated with my husband who is very creative and talented designing The Mommy-Go-Round cover. It was personalized and I loved it but I did have another vision in my mind for that book which he was not aware of at that time. We recently created that book cover and are updating the eBook version with this new cover which is more of a self-portrait and caricature of my own working mother’s crazy ‘momlife’ ride. I’m hoping more readers will relate to this cover and check out this award-winning book. I’m excited to see the impact that this has on sales.

Are you working on something new at the moment?
Yes, I’m currently working on a children’s book that addresses a child’s life when a parent is deployed. I’m hoping my granddaughter’s experiences when she was just 2 will encourage and help other children who are or will be experiencing this separation.

Have you received any awards for your literary works?
Yes, I’m very proud to have won the 1st Place Pacific Book Award for Best Parenting – Family book and the Readers’ Favorite Bronze Award for Non-Fiction Parenting book, both in 2016. I’ve also received numerous 5-star ratings.

In case one or any of your books honor the big screen, which book would you like it to be?
I actually think The Mommy-Go-Round could be a wonderful sit-com. However, part of the subject matter of The Heart of a Soldier is World War II and my father was considered a war hero, having been credited with saving lives, and having received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. With that in mind and their wonderful love story, I think The Heart of a Soldier would be a wonderful war and love story for the big screen!

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?
It varies. I do tweet about what I’m writing and I enjoy coming up with creative tweets. While I don’t think it really affects the way I write, it does give me a chance to interact with readers and those on social media. I’ve also recently joined with other authors I’ve ‘met’ through Twitter and am excited to be a part of a Summer Lovin’ Readers Giveaway where readers can enter free to win over 50 prizes plus an $80 grand prize! Information on how to enter is on Twitter and The Mommy-Go-Round Facebook page.
On Twitter, readers can follow me at: @elalspaugh.
I’m also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheMommyGoRound/
and have a blog at: themgr.blogspot.com
Also, my photography business and The Mommy-Go-Round share my photosbyel.com website. All these sites have excerpts and reviews.

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