Carol Desforges holds degrees in biology and education from the University of Rhode Island, and over the years she has worn a variety of career hats: primary and secondary educator, dietitian, nursing home administrator, home care coordinator, sales associate, secretary, and bank teller.
In the past, Desforges spent her time volunteering in her local community tutoring teens and adults, managing religious organizations, working suicide prevention hot lines, running adoption support groups, and leading Girl Scout troops. Now, she writes novels, teaches Mah Jongg, and runs statewide tournaments for the game. The Pinning and Behind Closed Doors are the first two books in her Shugrinsky family saga series.
What makes you proud to be a writer from Rhode Island and New York? I tend to write about places in which I have lived, Rhode Island and New York. I enjoy introducing the readers to these places and the idiosyncrasies associated with these regions. When I can express a thought in an entertaining fashion but get the reader to understand my point of view of or understand the point of view of one of the fictional characters in these places, I want to jump up and scream, “Hurray! I’ve done it.”
What or who inspired you to become a writer? A met a young woman from a dysfunctional family who stated that she hated her mother. I asked the twenty-three-year-old if she would feel the same way about her mother if her mom became ill or died. She said that she could never forgive her mother and would always hate her. I tried to explain to her that she might regret not having a relationship with her mother; she may never have peace of mind. I tried to explain that she could come to a resolution with her mother without “forgiveness.” The girl did not understand. I decided to write a story about a young woman from a dysfunctional family who was able to come to a resolution with her mother (and or parents). As I began to write, I became more and more excited with the process of writing. It became a catharsis for me as well.
When did you begin writing with the intention of becoming published? After I began my first attempt at writing, I showed my efforts to a librarian and a neighbor. Both felt I had some talent in writing. The librarian encouraged me to make the story into a novel. At that point, I decided to learn more about writing. I went to a writer’s conference and heard from others how difficult it was to get a publisher; however, the writing field was not as bleak as it used to be. It was becoming fashionable to be independently published when a traditional publisher was not available. I decided to take the plunge. I ordered two books on the process of writing and tried to incorporate the book knowledge into what I was putting down on paper.
Did your environment or upbringing play a major role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage? I came from a very dysfunctional family. It was not difficult for me to write a story about a dysfunctional family. I had a good understanding of how a character could behave and react in dysfunction. I wanted the characters in the story to exist in the same time frame as my formative years, 1950s and 1960s. During those times, families were portrayed as picture perfect and ideal (e.g., “Father Knows Best” and the “Donna Reed Show”). Divorce was not common. Homosexuality was not open. During that era, I felt there were a lot more dysfunctional families than there were picture perfect ones. Most people relate better to some degree of dysfunction than to the world seen through rose-colored glasses. I decided to write about a parent with mental illness and introduce alternative lifestyles to a young girl. I tried to write without being judgmental.
Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript? It depends. While I was writing the manuscript The Pinning, I came up with a title. I used the term pin and pinning so much, it was natural to incorporate it into the title. In fact, I made the ending pertinent to the title after the title was created. Using the word pin and pinning, I came up with a surprise ending in the format of O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi and left the book open ended–implying that there would be a sequel. In Behind Closed Doors, I chose the title before I wrote it. The book involves a married couple with a less than perfect hidden relationship. Also, the mother was mentally ill and her condition was hidden from her family, friends, and neighbors. She was thrown into a psych ward with locked doors (hence behind closed doors).
Please introduce your genre and why you prefer to write in that genre? I write family sagas. You often hear that you should write about what you know. I know a lot about dysfunctional families. Voila, I write about them. I have written and independently published two. I have ideas for a third the family saga novel that will mix in fantasy.
What has been your most rewarding experience with your writing process? The most exciting and rewarding experience in the writing process is the aha moments–when an idea comes to mind and you feel you have expressed it well.
Have you had a negative experience in your writing career? If so please explain how it could have been avoided? The only negative experience in my writing career has been the fact that my writing does not seem to interest agents and traditional publishers; however, other readers have been very encouraging. I suppose I could pick a hot topic to research and write about and have agents and publishers banging at my door; but, I am not passionate about that.
What has been your most rewarding experience in your publishing journey? The admiration people have for writers surprises me. Even though I see some flaws in my writing endeavor, most people appreciate my stories anyway. I did not know how to create suspense in my first novel, but no one seemed to mind it. By the second novel, I had mastered that skill and people enjoyed reading the story that much more. That was rewarding.
Have you had a negative experience in your publishing journey? If so please explain how it could have been avoided? I hired a professional review service that was off-base. It is said that real life is stranger than fiction. Most of my stories are fiction. Occasionally, I will throw in a real-life experience. The review service told me that parts of my story were too farfetched to be realistic, when in reality, they were taken from real events. After that I decided not to hire a reviewer for a statement on the cover of my books. Although agents did not choose to look at my work, I am writing for my satisfaction not theirs.
What one positive piece of advice would you give to other authors? My advice to other authors is to try to find moral support any way you can–friends, family, and other writers–as there are too many critics that will want to put your work down. Try not to get discouraged. However, you need to listen to critiques. They can often be helpful to the writing process.
Be sure to get a good editor. Most libraries and newspapers don’t like to take on independently published authors as they are afraid those writers’ works will be error ridden or poorly thought out.
Who is your favorite author? I have several authors I adore. These names come to mind: Jody Picoult, Geraldine Brooks, and Kim Edwards.
Behind Closed Doors delves into the dark secrets of the Shugrinsky family following the desperate path of the manipulative mother Naomi as she runs from her past demons and copes with her day to day struggles.
The first book in the Shugrinsky family saga series, The Pinning, focused on Elizabeth breaking free from her dysfunctional family; now learn more about her mother’s tragic story in Behind Closed Doors.
Elizabeth would be the first to tell you that Naomi is not an ideal mother: she is manipulative and controlling, and she appears to be unraveling fast. But Naomi has survived tragedy before, and now she’s struggling to do so again.
When her suicide attempt doesn’t extract her from her painful marriage like she’d planned, Naomi finally opts to divorce Jesse. But with her history, she worries how she will be able to keep custody of Elizabeth and Mary. And even beyond the legal matters, how can she maintain a relationship with her daughters when everything she does seems to twist into something bad?
Naomi’s story travels back and forth from the 1940s through the 1970s, building the taut and bitter web that makes up her life. All it takes is for one string to snap before her world collapses around her, and the fallout won’t just affect her…
Behind Closed Doors is filled with tragedy and suspense, yet it leaves a small ray of hope for the Shugrinsky family by the end.
Genre: Fiction, Family Sagas
Book Review for ‘Behind Closed Doors’ by Carol Desforges.
‘Behind Closed Doors’ is a stand-alone book in the Shugrinsky’s family saga. ‘The Pinning’ (first book in the series) was Elizabeth’s story. ‘Behind Closed Doors’ is Naomi’s story (Elizabeth’s mother).
Naomi graduated from Columbia Law School in the 1940s but in a desperate attempt to leave her parents’ home she marries an affluent man named Jesse. Her story reflects many women’s history in the forties who succumb to their husband’s wishes for them to stay home and raise the children.
Needless to say, her dysfunctional childhood carries over into her relationship with her husband and children. On top of Naomi’s internal struggles is her acute awareness of her husband’s drinking and philandering.
Naomi’s emotional struggles take a toll on her and whenever any form of mental illness is added to family dynamics there are repercussions. Woven into every family are secrets that stay hidden behind closed doors.
Quote from the book jacket: “A novel drenched in drama and suspense”.
I think one should read ‘The Pinning’ first and follow up with ‘Behind Closed Doors’ (or buy both together) to get a deeper understanding of each woman’s story.
Reviewed by Cold Coffee Press (August 2014): http://www.coldcoffeepress.com