Irene Woodbury released her first novel A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis in August. Get to know the author through this interview as she reveals details about her life and her newest book.
Have you always aspired to be a writer?
I don’t think I ever aspired to be a writer. I just was one. I tried to deny it, run from it, hide from it, but it was always there. From the time I was a teenager, my friends told me I should be a writer. I would roll my eyes and go home and write poetry. I was the last one to know. But, looking back, I can honestly say I never fitted in anywhere until I sat down and wrote this novel.
What is a normal day in your shoes?
I get up around 8, turn the computer on [and] check e-mail. Then I try to do some exercises and write for a few hours. Around 1, I have breakfast, read the papers, open the mail, pay some bills. I go back to work at 3 and write till 6. I ride my exercise bike for an hour and a half while watching TV, reading or listening to music. I have lunch around 7:30 while prepping for dinner. My husband and I have dinner around 10. We’ve had roasted chicken every week since I started the novel. That’s 5 years of roasted chicken five nights a week. I wanted to put a picture of hundreds of chickens on the back of the book with a note of gratitude for all the chickens whose lives were lost so that this book could be written. My husband can’t stand chicken anymore. I’ve got to get a grip and change it up a bit. Maybe next week . . .
Other than writing, what other talents or skills do you have?
None. I read all the time. That’s it. Good writing makes life worth living. I have hundreds of magazines in my house. I can’t throw them out. I also read blogs and online articles. And I love books- E and otherwise. I read the same ones over and over and come away with something different each time. The Portrait Of A Lady by Henry James and The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton are two examples.
Was there a specific moment or event that motivated you to write a book?
As a travel writer, I spent a lot of time in Las Vegas. I loved the energy and absurdity of the city. There was so much fantasy, illusion and playfulness. I was always distracted from reality in Vegas. The Strip is such an assault on the senses. You can’t focus on your problems with all that in your face. I knew there were quite a few books set in Vegas, but they were mostly crime stories or thrillers. To me, it was the perfect setting for a funny novel about a woman who goes there for a weekend and doesn’t leave. That was always my fantasy. What would I do if I stayed instead of going home? I always wondered. So, no, there wasn’t one specific moment. There were many little moments over the years that convinced me I should do it.
What can readers anticipate from your book?
Characters that are like the people you know. Friends who’ve hurt you in many ways over the years, but you hang in there because you want the friendship. That kind of vulnerability. Needing people so much that you’re willing to put up with a lot to keep it going. Characters who love each other but are so afraid of losing each other that they make every mistake in the book—and end up losing each other. Characters that seem to have everything–looks, health, success, money–but they are totally lost. They have all the advantages that make them look fine, but they are truly dysfunctional in some ways. Characters that get along quite well in life, but are really a mess. One minute you want to hug them, the next you want to slap them. Characters who contradict themselves constantly; say awful things about the people they love; make the same stupid mistakes over and over; love people who can’t, or won’t, love them back. You know, characters [that] are like all of us. And it’s all set in Las Vegas, a city that fans the flames of their dysfunctional behavior. A city with so much excess and absurdity that their behavior doesn’t seem abnormal or unusual.
Did people from your life help craft the characters in the book?
Yes, but the characters in the book are exaggerated versions of people I know or have known. They would never recognize themselves because I inflated everything so much. I also made characters up that have no relevance to anyone I have ever known. I have no idea where some of them came from.
If readers joined you during a writing session, what will they see?
A total basket case. They would hate me because I do everything 100 times, then I try it 50 other ways. Then I’ll go back to the first version. I would ask for their opinion or advice, then maybe take it, or maybe not. I am always on edge. [I'm] always worried that it’s not going to be as good as it could, or should be. I have literary stage fright. Sometimes it takes me hours to get started because I’m so afraid things aren’t going to go the way I want. Other days, I get in the cockpit, strap myself in and take off.
Is this book only available as an E-book?
Yes, it is. It’s a little challenging to tell friends and family who don’t have e-reader devices how to download PDFs. But, the upside is the book is only $7.98—and you can download a PDF fairly easily on Booksonboard.com. I hope to get the book into print one of these days.
Can we expect a sequel or another book in general from you?
Yes, but it’s a major commitment that I would take very seriously. I work seven days a week. I basically give up my life and totally devote myself to the book. It’s not that much of a sacrifice. It’s the way I want it, really. It’s worth every minute if you end up with a book you like—and people laugh and enjoy it and relate to the characters. To take all the experiences of your life and transform them into something people can read and appreciate is a tremendous gift.
Using one word, describe your book.
Don’t forget to purchase A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis and keep an eye out for the book review on Miss A.