Women’s fiction author, Christina Consolino, joins the Spotlight this week to chat about Rewrite the Stars
Author Name: Christina Consolino
Book Title: Rewrite the Stars
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: March 18, 2021
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Welcome, Christina! Please share what inspired Rewrite the Stars.
On Father’s Day 2012, I left my four young children at home and took a quick trip to the grocery store. While there, I chatted with the person in line behind me. Our conversation didn’t go exactly as written in Rewrite the Stars, and I wasn’t discontented with my life, but the words we shared bored themselves into my mind and stayed there. When I reached home, I gave my husband the groceries, sat at the computer, and wrote my first scene, some of which is still in the book.
How long did it take for you to write it? Did you have to do any research?
As I mentioned, the book began in June 2012, and it was accepted for publication in February 2020. I didn’t work on the novel full-time, and it went through many revisions, some of them major overhauls. The book originally involved a couple dealing with an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis, something I understood since I have a degree in muscle physiology. But for reasons too long to go into in this interview, I decided to work PTSD into the story. In brief, I wanted the character living with a health issue to still be able to have agency, and I wanted to make him an active character, one who chose to live each day. I thought I could do that with something like PTSD, and I hope I succeeded. In order to portray PTSD accurately, though, I read articles, books, and websites and sought help from subject matter experts, combat veterans, and others without military ties who live with PTSD.
What drew you to the women’s fiction genre?
The Women’s Fiction Writers Association writes that “the driving force of women’s fiction is the protagonist’s journey toward a more fulfilled self.” Much of what I write is inspired by my life, and that journey is important to me, which makes it integral to my characters. I’ve witnessed what can happen when we don’t listen to our gut and strive for fulfillment, and I want my characters to at least try to find what works for them. They’ll stumble, and sometimes they won’t succeed on all counts, but my readers will walk away with the notion that my characters, while still flawed and human, have made positive progress on the journey toward self-fulfillment.
What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?
The writing process itself excites me. When I get a new idea, I can’t wait to sit and begin putting it on paper, and once I have a draft, I truly enjoy revision. And lately, my youngest (she’s almost thirteen) has stepped up as a sort of accountability/brainstorming partner. We’ll take walks, and she’ll pepper me with questions: Did you write today? What happened? What is that character thinking when she does that? Do you think that characteristic is a good one for him to have? Where will the story go? What about an alternative ending? The list goes on. But as much as I love the process, finding the time to write is always a challenge. My four kids are still at home, and I have a part-time job (that sometimes veers toward full-time, depending on the number of projects I’m working on). Setting aside time to write is the only way to overcome that challenge, and I try to do that at least five days of the week, though the number of minutes of actual writing time can vary.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Rewrite the Stars?
This is a great question, and the first thought that came to mind was a comment from a podcast host about my character, Sadie. “She’s a real mess, isn’t she?” he said. In some ways, I don’t think the podcast host completely understood the complexity of Sadie and people like her who try to juggle children, careers, relationships, domestic tasks, and more, but he spoke the truth. Sadie is a mess, and she’s trying to find a way through that mess (at one point, she even says, “I need to clean up me.”) Readers who like to connect with people like themselves—real, genuine, flawed, and sometimes messy people—tend to like Rewrite the Stars. The tagline for my stories is “Fiction about families like yours,” and that’s what I write about. Most readers will find a little bit of themselves or someone they know in my characters.
What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?
I’ve been floored by the support given by people who do not know me or my writing. Other authors especially, both debut authors and those who have gone through the trenches before, offered advice, said yes to endorsing my work, agreed to review the book, or shared a tweet or a post on social media. I’m grateful for every person who has helped me spread the word about my book because, as you know, marketing these days really does fall on the author. And of course, that includes you, Sarahlyn, so thank you for having me here!
On the other hand, I don’t think I truly realized how much I’d have to ask people I personally know to be involved in my launch. Social media is an enigma to me, and I thought if I shared something, people would just share without the ask because they know me and they know I’ve been working toward this goal a long time. But people have lives, and they don’t revolve around me, and social media time for my busy friends is minimal. Getting used to asking though—that’s been tough! Since I know how difficult that ask is, I always try to reciprocate.
What advice would you give your pre-published writer self?
I’d tell her to be patient. When I first started, I thought I’d have a book in my hands within five years. That didn’t happen (though I like to think if I’d had more time to write, the number of years between inception and publication would be fewer), and while I wasn’t impatient, I don’t think I truly realized just how long the process could take. Now that I’ve published and chosen to go with a smaller publisher, much of the marketing is on me. Again, I’m finding that I need to be patient. My book is out there, and it will find its audience. I’m constantly reminded of a comment that author Stephanie Saldana once said of her own book: “People seem to be discovering [A Country Between] in their own time.” It’s something I think about every day and encourage other authors to remember too. Your book will be discovered, but it might take some time.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Does anything else exist? I say that in a joking manner, and yet, I do not. If left alone, I’d read and write all day. But running is extremely important to me. I’ve always said (and this is no joke), that I could either run or find a therapist. And it’s true. I’m able to manage mild depression with exercise, so I run twenty-five miles a week and walk in the evenings. Both practices help keep me going, but I also enjoy spending time with my family, and that can be anything from a quiet vacation to a picnic to a short hike to a movie.
How are you adjusting to promoting your book during a pandemic?
Since this is my first novel, I don’t know any different. And because I’m an introvert, being behind the screen adds another layer of protection, which means virtual events have been comforting, to say the least. But I spent almost twenty years in front of a classroom of people, and I’m comfortable speaking to groups of people I don’t know. So, I’m honestly looking forward to when in-person events are the norm again (and at this time, scheduling a few is on my to-do list!). I’m so grateful that we have the technology we do, or those of us launching during a pandemic wouldn’t be launching at all.
Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.
My next novel, The Chocolate Garden, is once again classic women’s fiction, though one of my protagonists is male. The story centers on eighty-year-old Frank Raffaelo, a retired serviceman who loves his family but doesn’t always understand them or their motivations. On a visit to his doctor for a routine checkup, he begins to doubt his ability to remember. An accidental fall forces Frank to rely on his three children: Gabe, the oldest, who always seems too busy to come home; Nico, the youngest, who is keeping a secret from his family; and Marissa, the quintessential middle child, who wants to feel like she belongs and matters to her family. Marissa is a nurse practitioner, and with time, she realizes that Frank doesn’t show any abnormal cognitive changes, but Angie, his wife of forty-two years, does. When Angie’s denial of her symptoms results in dangerous consequences, the Raffaelo family understands that life as they know it is about to change.
In 2015, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That summer, I spent many hours with my parents, and I sat with my mother as she was assessed for cognitive changes. This book reflects my experiences from that summer and beyond and exposes the toil and hardship that dementia can cause on everyone close to it.
Thank you, Christina! Rewrite the Stars is available NOW.
Disillusioned about her broken marriage and her husband’s PTSD, mom-of-three Sadie Rollins-Lancaster heads to the grocery store for Father’s Day fixings. But after a charged interaction with the man behind her in line, she brings home more than just vegetables and milk: the man’s voice and smile linger in her mind for weeks. When Sadie formally meets him months later, she’s challenged by emotions and feelings she never expected to feel again. But life is complicated. Sadie’s husband, Theo, the one to instigate the divorce, now refuses to sign the papers. And Sadie has to ask herself: What do I want? REWRITE THE STARS is an authentic and heart-touching novel about being brave enough to acknowledge the difficulties we face and having the strength to actively shape our own futures.
Christina Consolino is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in multiple online and print outlets. Her debut novel, Rewrite the Stars, was named one of ten finalists for the Ohio Writers’ Association Great Novel Contest 2020, and she is the co-author of Historic Photos of University of Michigan. She serves as senior editor at the online journal Literary Mama, freelance edits across multiple disclipines, and teaches writing classes at Word’s Worth Writing Center. Christina lives in Kettering, Ohio, with her family and pets.