Rosemary Gard never intended to write a series of books about Croatian immigrants. She simply wanted to write a history of her family for her adult children. At 80-years-young, she continues to delight readers with “Danica’s Destiny,” published last year, and frequent speaking engagements. (How many women can say that their portrait – with three friends in evening gowns – hung in the entry of the Chicago Playboy Club?)
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, when it was known as the melting pot. Croatian was my first language and I grew up in that ethnic community. I was the Croatian Queen during the Gary Golden Jubilee in 1956. Tom Harmon, father of NCIS actor, Mark Harmon, was Grand Marshall of the parade! I finished high school, but my Croatian parents felt an education was wasted on girls. I was sent to Communist Yugoslavia for three months to my father’s village outside of Zagreb, where I lived the life of a peasant girl. Later, I lived in Vicenza, Italy, (near Venice) for a year with my G.I. husband.
One summer I worked for a local newspaper, interviewing interesting people. The editor of the paper helped me greatly with my writing and word usage. Even while my husband and I owned a Coffee House and an Art Gallery, I continued to write – most of which I threw away.
My husband and I are antique appraisers for attorneys and individuals. I’m also a jewelry designer and sold my pieces in stores from Martha’s Vineyard to Davenport, Iowa.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I decided to fictionalize the facts and the book, “Destiny’s Dowry,” won my first award. That first book started what is now a series of seven, including “Destiny Denied,” “Destiny’s Dance,” “Destiny Delivered,” and “Destiny’s Design.” Each follows the lives of the characters in the previous books. These are stories of people from the “Old Country” and how they lived going back to 1892 in, what is now, Croatia. The last book, “Stefan’s Destiny,” is currently being edited.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
When I start to write, the characters take over and tell me their story. I do not work from an outline. The first paragraph of each book, sets the tone for the story. When I start to write a book, I have no idea how it will end. The journey is interesting to me.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My biggest “Aha” moment was when I won the first of my three awards. Then I knew that I was a writer and any rejection slip I had received in the past no longer had any effect on me.
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
In the past I have read, Ayn Rand, Faulkner, Studs Turkel, (who stopped in the coffee house we owned in the 1970’s) Louis Adamic and many writers you may not be familiar with. I never read books while I am working on a novel, I feel it interferes with my writing flow and even my writing style.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I do not write every day. However, once I start a book, I continue every day with it. I sometimes delete entire chapters because my characters are going in a different direction. You see, my book characters are based on real people, people who were part of my past, so I know what they would think and feel in a given situation.
What are your interests outside of writing?
Travel and collecting all forms of art, from Primitive African to Modern Mid Century and current. My husband buys out estates to resell. Recently I was interviewed for the Chicago Tribune, and the journalist said (as do many others) that our house looks like an Art Gallery or a museum.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I feel that wanting to be a writer is not something you decide to do. You either are a writer or not. It is in you to write stories, anecdotes or articles. Almost every writer I’ve met has written or told stories going back to their childhood. The best advice I was ever given was from a New York literary agent. He said to study people. Watch someone from across the room, a stranger. By the way they sit, behave, etc. you can get an idea who they might be and even of their personality. For me, this has been great advice.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: firstname.lastname@example.org