Author Spotlight: Judith DeChesere-Boyle
Judith DeChesere-Boyle was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and with the exception of living for three years both in England and Texas, spent her childhood there. She first attended the University of Kentucky, then moved to California, where she graduated from College of Marin with an AA degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, and San Francisco State University with a BA degree in English. She attended Sonoma State University, earning two teaching credentials and an MA in Education with an English Curriculum emphasis.
She taught English at the secondary level for many years, retiring early enough to pursue her love of writing more seriously. She raised two wonderful sons, Alex, and Justin, and now lives in Sonoma County, California with her husband, Rick. Besides writing, she reads avidly, gardens, tends the family’s koi pond, and walks her two German Shepherds three miles a day.
Judith is the author of five novels, Big House Dreams, Nine Bucks And Change, Go With The Flo, Not A Through Street and, For The Love Of Grace. She also has written a memoir, including a new Second Edition, entitled Tumor Me, The Story of My Firefighter, a tribute to the memory of her son, Alex.
PP: Tell us about your most recent book or an upcoming project.
Judith: My most recent book was a second edition of Tumor Me, The Story of My Firefighter, a story that I was compelled to write after the loss of my son, Alex, a CAL Fire engineer, to occupation-caused brain cancer. Writing the memoir was cathartic in nature and I reread it from time to time to this day. It provides me peace.
Prior to that, I wrote For The Love Of Grace, a story based on the waning years of an eighty-eight-year-old woman living in a plush, retirement community. She resides on her floor alongside several other elderly folks, each with unique personalities, backgrounds, and quirks. My purpose for writing this novel was to call attention to the fact that old people are not unimportant; they are not throwaways. Rather they deserve respect for the lives they have lived—the good and the bad—and they have stories to tell, history to share, and we must listen before it is too late.
Right now, I am writing book three of the Flo Gray mysteries series that takes place in the foothills of Central California. Go With The Flo was the first, followed by Not A Through Street. The yet-untitled novel that comes next is two-thirds complete.
PP: How did you know you wanted to be an author?
Judith: I have loved to write since I was a little girl. I always kept a diary and wrote very short stories that piqued my imagination. Naturally, I had dreams of one day becoming a famous writer. Of course, life happened, taking me through elementary and high school with little extensive writing being produced.
It was not until, at the age of 21, when I attended the College of Marin, that my love of writing was rekindled. I took several creative writing courses there and had, among others, a remarkable professor, Mary Hedin, an author who passed away in 2014. She was tough, making me doubt my skills at times, while at other times praising my talent. I kept writing—journals and stories that I kept hidden away—while I completed coursework at San Francisco State University, earning a BA in English.
Life continued on with marriage, two children, a divorce, and more schooling. I earned two teaching credentials, began teaching, and continued my own education, culminating with a MA in Education, all while raising my boys. My writing suffered during those years because, as an overworked English teacher, I spent more time reading and correcting student essays than writing anything of my own.
Do I regret that? Yes, a bit. I could have done both. When I retired in early 2010, I was free. I began writing again, completing my first two novels before starting a blog, “I Street Imaginings,” which I sadly have neglected during the age of Covid.
The bottom line is I have always loved to write, and I always will. I often tell my husband I am a very happy person when I am sitting at my computer, creating characters, imagining where their lives will take them, how the story will end. Writing can be frustrating, but the reward is fulfillment and satisfaction. Furthermore, I learn more and more every day by writing, both about the craft and about the world around me.
PP: What is your writing process?
Judith: I have vowed to myself to write every day, and I do, either creating something or revisiting my work and editing (I do a great deal of that!). My process is somewhat unique, I think. I don’t generally have a plan for where my story will go. I have a general idea, of course, but when I begin a project, I am never sure where it will end. That may sound a bit sketchy, but it works for me. Why? Because I believe I am very good at developing characters. I have observed people my whole life; I have a sense of how a particular person, based on personality traits, might behave in a certain situation.
My characters, of course, are described physically, and that in itself can contribute to the character’s actions or bearings. Moreover, though, I create personalities, demeanors, attitudes, and behaviors in all my characters that make them come to life. Once they are alive, they take on minds of their own. It is quite likely that a character will defy my intentions, and do as he or she pleases, therefore taking my stories in directions I may not have anticipated. And somehow it works.
As I write, I constantly am revising. I use a thesaurus when I need just the right word; I search until I am satisfied I’ve found the term or phrase that clarifies my writing and creates nuance. I also enjoy playing with sentence structure, remembering to vary sentences in length and complexity. I find dialogue to be important in carrying a storyline along, but it can be difficult to make written discourse sound authentic. This is where good characterization comes into play again. Depending on who it is, the character will speak in his or her own way. If a character is one who uses foul language, it will appear in the dialogue. If not, it won’t.
I research. If I am not certain about an aspect to my story, I look up information for the sake of accuracy. A good example is horses in Not A Through Street. How do they act or sound when angry, fearful, calm? A little research gave me clarity.
When I complete each chapter of a book, I probably have read it 10 times at least, changing wording as I see fit. If something doesn’t sound right, I keep tweaking it until it does. I have heard other authors say, “Just get the words down, and then go back and flesh it out.” I can’t do that. Each chapter is a little creation all its own.
PP: What do you do to get over writer’s block?
Judith: I hate writer’s block. However, as difficult and frustrating as it can be, I have found the only way to get over it is to sit in front of the computer and reread what I have written, perhaps revise a bit, and keep writing. It usually works.
With my blog, if I don’t have a topic I want to write about, I may begin with one word: blue, hope, depression, flowers. I am often amazed where one, simple word will take me.
I won’t lie about writer’s block either. I have had some days when I leave the computer untouched and go into the garden to pull weeds. Amazingly, that helps, and before I know it, I’m creating in my mind.
In a nutshell though, writer’s block sucks!
PP: What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Judith: I wish I had known that though I have bad writing days and have doubted myself, I am the person in charge. No one is going to write for me. I have always been a hard worker, but I know now that perseverance is key to being an author. I also know that I should not have let other tasks and responsibilities (no matter how busy I was) keep me from writing.
On another note, I wish I had known how difficult it would be to market my books. I am a total neophyte when it comes to promoting them. I’d rather write and leave the marketing to the professionals!
PP: What advice can you share with other authors?
Judith: Hone your skills. Better writing comes with writing more, with editing fiercely, with being your own critic. If what you’ve written doesn’t “ring” right, you need more revision. Go back. Rewrite. Revise.
Read. Read many books, many genres. Always be reading.
Believe in yourself and don’t stop writing, even when it is difficult. Writing is hard work. No one is beside you to say, “Way to go. Good job.” Writers must be self-motivators and tough-skinned. Not everyone will appreciate what you write, but some will. Support is fickle. Appreciate the praise you receive; if it doesn’t come, keep writing.
PP: What projects do you have on the horizon?
Judith: I will be finishing the third in the Flo Gray series soon, then another novel. I have some ideas. I am considering focusing on one character, a male, who cannot, for the sake of himself, make relationships endure. Is it all those less-than-perfect women or is he the common denominator?
I want to revitalize my blog, “I Street Imaginings.” I have neglected it terribly in the past two years and plan to set aside time for at least two blogs a week.
PP: Is there anything else about you that you would like readers to know?
Judith: I am optimistic. I have had some heartbreaking experiences, have had a few errors in judgment, and wish, as I suppose everyone does, that I had made a few alternate choices. However, I do not dwell on the past and am thankful for each day.
I am a giver, not a taker. I donate money to causes I support: American Brain Tumor Association, Paralyzed Vets of America, the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, and various organizations that sponsor cancer research.
And I worry some—about climate changes, about potential fires in California, and about a divisive America. Writing has become my salve for many such concerns.
PP: Where can people find more information about you?
Author page on Amazon – Judith DeChesere-Boyle
Professional Facebook page: I Street Books And Such
Blog: I Street Imaginings – jdechesereboyle.blogspot.com
Linked In – Judith DeChesere-Boyle
Twitter – Judi DeChesere-Boyle
Instagram – jdechesereboyle