Erika Liodice, author of Empty Arms, was kind enough to stop by today. I am sure you will all enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Where did you come up with the idea for Empty Arms?
The idea for Empty Arms was inspired by a story that my Nana told me over dinner about four years ago. Earlier that day, her friend's daughter had stopped by for a visit. During their conversation, the woman showed Nana a photograph of a young family. When Nana asked who they were, the woman replied, "That's my daughter and her family." Nana was confused; she'd known this woman her entire life but to her knowledge, she'd never had any children. That's when the woman revealed that she had gotten pregnant when she was sixteen and was sent to live at a maternity home to hide her situation and preserve her family's reputation. When she gave birth, she was given no other choice but to place her daughter for adoption. She was told that she would forget about the baby and have more children when she was married. It wasn't until years later that she discovered that she was infertile.
The cruel irony of this story stayed with me long after our dinner. Intrigued by the idea of maternity homes and forced adoptions, I started doing some research. That's when I learned that millions of women went through similar experiences. I was horrified to discover countless stories of young women who were ostracized from their communities, physically and mentally abused by their caretakers, and lied to and threatened by social workers in order to coerce them into giving up their babies. The more I learned, the more my interest (and outrage) grew, and eventually the
idea for Empty Arms was born.
Many people have very strong personal opinions about adoption, but the vast majority of the population will never adopt a child. Would you care to share your
personal views on adoption?
You're right; adoption can be a polarizing topic depending on how it has touched your life. I'm not adopted, nor have I adopted a child myself, so my experiences have been vicarious through my characters. With that said, I think that adoption has many merits...for people who are aware of their rights and enter into it willingly.
Empty Arms focuses on an entire generation of women who weren't told their rights or given a choice. They were coerced by social workers, medical staff, and their parents to place their babies for adoption, and in many cases it had devastating consequences for not only the birth mothers, but the birth fathers and adoptees.
For many writers, the characters in their stories contain parts of themselves; does Catharine or any other character in the book have any of your own personality traits?
Now that I think about it, each of the characters contains a little piece of me: Paul's passion for renovating old properties, Harper's free-spiritedness, Melody's sense of responsibility to others, Evelyn's concern with what other people think of her, Delaney's tough work ethic, Ellie's desire to know herself better, and Catharine's perseverance.
Do you find it easier to develop characters that you love or ones that you love to hate?
Neither! With the characters that I love, sometimes it's hard for me to see their faults. In my first draft of Empty Arms, my editor remarked that Catharine was "too good", so I had to go back and draw out her imperfections. Conversely, Catharine's mother, Evelyn, was "all evil", so I had to revisit her character and discover her redeeming qualities.
Who is your favorite author? How did he/she inspire you to become a writer yourself?
I don't have just one favorite, but some authors I keep coming back to are: Anita Shreve, Marisa de los Santos, Ann Brashares, Jodi Picoult, Audrey Niffenegger, Therese Walsh, and Nicholas Sparks.
The author who inspired me to become a writer is Nicholas Sparks. After falling in love with The Notebook, I visited his website and learned that he wrote and sold that book while working full-time as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It felt like a cosmic sign because at the time I was a pharmaceutical sales rep and was spending my time in doctors' waiting rooms scribbling down story ideas. His journey resonated with me and made me think...maybe I can do this too.
What stimulates you to write? Do you have a ritual that you follow to get the writing juices flowing?
I'm very fortunate in that I don't need much motivation to sit down at my computer and write for eight hours straight. When I've got a story idea burning in my brain, my biggest challenge is not neglecting everything else in my life!
Though I don't have any rituals, there's a piece of advice that I heard somewhere and started following in order to get the writing juices flowing: I end each writing session in the middle of a passage, so the next time I sit down at my computer I can jump in right where I left off and ride the momentum of the story forward.
Judy Blume says “I usually have a character or story idea inside my head for a long
time (sometimes years) before I actually begin.” How long do characters exist in your mind before they actually appear on paper?
Months usually, not years. The main character for my next book has been camped out in my brain for about six months, waiting patiently for me to finish up Empty Arms so I can devote my full attention to him. (Yes, him.)
Is there a genre that you are drawn to but find it difficult to write? Or do you write what you love to read?
I write what I love to read.
Empty Arms is a very poignant story, which I enjoyed immensely. Have you considered writing a sequel, exploring the lives of the characters after the fact?
It's funny that you ask this question because people keep asking me if I'm going to write a sequel. I never considered it, but maybe I should...
What’s next for Erika Liodice? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Same place, just more book titles next to my name.
Thank you for stopping by Erika!
Dear readers, Erika is giving away a copy of Empty Arms to one lucky winner!
You're going to love the book I promise (click here to read my review).
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Check out Erika's award winning blog, Beyond The Grey and follow her on Twitter too!