Q. Why did you decide to write this book?
A. One American Woman Fifty Italian Men: A Journey of Cycling, Love, and Will is a true story. I knew at the time it was a great story, a story that should be told—a unique, true story that many others would find fascinating, and, I hope, inspiring. I also felt that as both writer and protagonist, I could do it justice.
Q. Do you have any writing tips to share?
A. When I was writing the first draft of One American Woman Fifty Italian Men, I wanted to write it all at once as much as possible, to honor the flow. I cleared my life as much as I could and left a message on my phone that I was working and would return calls at 5:00. Recognizing how easily distracted I was, I locked my three phones in the shed every day, because I’m even more at risk for making calls than I am for answering them. For me the first draft is the fun one, where the story flows out. The hard work of editing and re-writing comes later. Also, never write creatively when you’re tired. The zest goes out of your writing as it goes out of your body.
Q. Tell us a quirky, funny or unexpected story about you.
A. I had two writing mentors. One was a hard-ass, hard-drinking writer with some forty books to his credit, original, ghost-written and for hire, who claims he is a hack who only writes for money, but is in fact a prolific, highly talented and much-published writer. The other was a published woman who came of age as a writer when back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead, romantic heroines were in vogue. These two people hated each other. Every time one read into my manuscript the influence of the other, he/she would rant, rave, and order me to take the influence of the other out of my writing. And yes, I had to choose. I chose the hard-ass guy. He still calls me up and says in his gravelly voice, “Is your butt in the chair? What’s in your typewriter?”
Q. What books are on your nightstand right now?
A. I just finished The Field, by Lynne McTaggart. I set out to relax with Hotel Honolulu, by Paul Theroux, but can’t stand his attitude, I don’t care how good a writer he is. Now reading Phillip Lopate’s To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. Now there’s something to aspire to. (to which to aspire? Oh please). I’m also reading Extreme Fear, by Jeff Wise, researching my upcoming Blog, which will be about possibilities, and handling fear.
Q. What’s your favorite quote?
A. Shirley MacLaine, upon being asked to give one piece of advice about ageing, said, “Change your choreography.” Sage advice, which I try to take. I see it as a study in mindfulness.
Q. Who inspires you the most?
A. Hilary Clinton. She goes the distance, no matter what it takes. She gets my vote.
I’m also inspired by Shirley MacLaine, another woman who perseveres and stays on her path. I walked over 400 miles across Spain alone a few years ago on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail because of reading how MacLaine had done it. In turn, at least five women that I know of walked it because of talks I gave, and who knows how many walked because of them? And so the ripples of inspiration spread.
I’m also inspired by my mentor, Jim Shock, who writes every day of his life that he’s able.
Q. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?
A. I’m very excited about the great adventure that is this story, and also about the fact that I never should have been able to do this, but did it anyway. That means to me that others can do the same. It’s a matter of accessing your will. Our possibilities are far greater than we think. Analyzing this and sharing thoughts about this has become my passion, and will be the subject of my upcoming blog (see my website; www.lynneashdown.com—to be called, “The Possibilities Blog.”
Q. How long did the book take you from start to finish?
A. That is not a relevant question in my case because I wrote it a decade or so ago and then life intervened in the form of marrying an Englishman, moving to England, and my mixed success in attempting to become a wife, in all its humor and pathos, after a long, independent single life. This is the subject of my next book, which is currently in progress.
Q. What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?
A. Keeping true to my voice and my very colloquial speech, commensurate with the best writing I could do. I chose consciously to be an American writer who writes exactly the way she talks. This spoke to sentence length, lapses into streams of consciousness, descriptions that came from my gut, and revealing my feelings regardless of whether it made me look good or not. I am authentic person, and I think that is important to people who read now, to read the thoughts and feelings of an authentic person. Too much of life today is phony, made-up, bull.
Q. Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?
A. I wrote from experience. However, I researched any history I recounted to give the reader the background and enhanced interest that comes from knowing what preceded and shaped an event.
Q. What surprised you the most about this process?
A. That I loved it so much. I sank into the bubble bath of right livelihood—pure bliss (most of the time).
Q. Did you have any notable experiences when writing your book?
A. The notable experience was that I had lived the story. Also I was pretty impressed with myself that I was able to actually sit down and write it all at once, having your normal modern American short attention span. The first draft took three months. Don’t even ask how many drafts there were after that.
Q. What other projects are you currently working on?
A. I mentioned before that I’m writing a book about my bi-cultural marriage to my English husband. We didn’t expect it to be bi-cultural, but it was. In addition, I have started, working title, The Real Italy Book, a true story about a naive writer, guess who, who ill-advisedly accepts a book contract to write a cycle-touring guidebook for Italy, moves there, and what happens to her in the process (Want a guidebook for the world in three months? I’m your girl.)
Q. Is writing your sole career?
A. Yes. Along with running a household, garden, and my social, civic, financial, and other life, being recently widowed.
Q. When can we look forward to your next book?
A. I hope in early 2014.