March, the month of new beginnings as spring ushers in thoughts of rebirth and growth. What a perfect time to introduce you to Christina Consolino, Freelance Editor/Writer and Senior Editor at the online journal Literary Mama,
and her debut novel REWRITE THE STARS, which will be out this month. Christina has a science background and a writer’s soul. She honored me with a beta read of this terrific story. Now I can share it and her with all of you!
Janet Irvin: To get started, Christina, please share a little of your writing journey with us.
Christina Consolino: My writing journey extends as far back as first grade, when I used to write little stories to myself. By eighth grade, I was writing poems to send to my dad while he was away from the family for three months; by high school, I wrote for and edited the high school paper; by college, I tutored students in writing across all disciplines. And yet, I didn’t choose to study English or creative writing. But once I married, I realized that writing needed to come back into my life. I journaled, then blogged (which I still do), and finally sat down and began a novel. That novel is still on my hard drive (and I think I have a paper copy somewhere), along with at least eight other manuscript drafts! I’m hoping to dust a few of those off in the coming months. Rewrite the Stars, which releases on March 18, is the third novel I completed.
JI: You have a scientific background. How does that contribute to your writing?
CC: I taught anatomy and physiology at the college level for almost twenty years. Despite having walked away from that career, I still love to talk about all aspects of the body and how they function. And one of the many parts I’m drawn to is the brain, which plays a huge role in personality. I think that draw is why I focus on relationships and connection in my novels. I also almost always feature a physical or mental health issue, partly because the topics themselves are so interesting and partly because I understand them so well.
JI: As a debut author, what goals have you set for yourself?
CC: That’s a great question! I have so much going on at home (four children, four pets, a part-time job, and I serve as point person for my aging parents) that I’ve never asked myself that question. To be honest, the goal for this book was to find a publisher so this story could see the light of day. Clearly, I reached that goal. But wrapped within that goal was to create a story with both a compelling plotline and good writing.
JI: That sounds like a goal many of us have for our novels. You also teach classes through Words Worth Writing Connections. How does that impact your writing?
CC: I’m a life-long learner, and some of my most important lessons have come from students. So every time I run a class, I usually come away with having learned something new. That can be anything—a new expression (many of the students are far younger than I am!), a new perspective, a new writing resource. I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach and to take home lessons from such inspiring students.
JI: With all you have going on in your daily life, do you have a dedicated daily writing time? How do you fit writing into your teaching and mentoring schedule?
CC: The past few months, I’ve wandered away from my dedicated writing time because book marketing takes so much time. But thanks to my youngest, who is twelve, I’ve recently fallen back into (or maybe pushed is a better word) my writing routine. That starts at 5:15 a.m., when I rise, grab a cup of coffee, and head to my computer. If I can get in a good thirty minutes of writing before I need to take on other tasks, I’ll call that a win. Since I freelance edit from home, though, it’s easy to take breaks from editing so that I can write a few paragraphs or even a few lines. And then, by the end of the day, I try to fit in ten minutes of writing time just before I shut my computer.
I’m not going to lie: it’s hard to find the time to write. Like everyone else, my plate is full—overflowing, really—so if I do not set writing as a priority or I don’t do it at the same time each day, it doesn’t get done.
JI: I understand. Let’s talk about the process itself? How long did it take to complete REWRITE THE STARS? How much revision did you do? What about the research aspect of the novel?
CC: You know those authors who say they wrote the draft in three months, found an agent on the first try, and now they’re looking forward to their debut? I know someone like that, but I am not one of them. I like to say that the seed of this story was planted on Father’s Day in June 2012, when (just like Sadie in the book) I had a conversation with the man in line behind me at the grocery store. Unlike Sadie, I wasn’t discontent with my current life. But my mind began to spin with questions, and I went home, dropped the groceries in the kitchen, and sat down to write part of the first chapter.
That chapter has changed significantly since then and so has the entire book. Within eighteen months of that first writing, I had a full draft in hand, but then I revised the book based on comments from my writing group, my sisters, a few other friends, and an editor. When the book failed to land an agent, I revised it again based on information I took away from a writers’ conference. Eventually, I thought what I had was “good enough,” and I landed a publishing contract.
As for research, Sadie’s almost ex-husband, Theo, lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, I read many articles, essays, and nonfiction accounts of what PTSD is and what it’s like to live with it. I wanted to portray Theo and his behavior as believable. While PTSD can manifest in similar ways from person to person, it’s also an unpredictable disorder. Each person who lives with PTSD can react differently and at different levels. I consulted several therapists and asked a few questions about the disorder from a subject matter expert. Even after the book was in the copy-editing stage, a late reader (with experience in treating clients with PTSD), helped me revise a few sentences for accuracy.
JI: What stories do you have in your portfolio going forward?
CC: My work is mainly categorized as women’s fiction, and my next novel, The Chocolate Garden, is no exception. The story centers on eighty-year-old Frank Raffaelo, a retired serviceman who loves his family but doesn’t always understand them or their motivations. On a visit to his doctor for a routine checkup, he begins to doubt his ability to remember. An accidental fall forces Frank to rely on his three children: Gabe, the oldest, who always seems too busy to come home; Nico, the middle child, who is keeping a secret from his family; and Marissa, the youngest, who wants to feel like she belongs and matters to her family. Marissa is also a nurse practitioner, and with time, she realizes that while Frank might not show any abnormal cognitive changes, his wife of forty-two years, Angie, does. When Angie’s denial of her symptoms results in dangerous consequences, the Raffaelo family understands that life as they know it is about to change.
In 2015, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That summer, I spent many hours with my parents, and I sat with my mother as she was assessed for cognitive changes. This book reflects my experiences from that summer and after and exposes the toil and hardship that dementia can cause for families.
The manuscript that follows The Chocolate Garden is entitled The Marriage Debt and it features a woman who seeks to reconnect emotionally with her husband.
JI: You belong to the Plot Sisters, a dedicated and successful writers’ group. What advice do you have for writers looking for such support?
CC: The Plot Sisters is a wonderful, supportive, nurturing group of women who came together on a lark. We like to joke that something was in the stars the day we all signed up for the writing class where we first met. I’m certain I would not be where I am today as an author or editor without the support of Cindy, Jen, Ruthann, Traci, and Jude. They make my pages better—each of them has a unique strength—but they also make me a better person. While I consider myself lucky to have found them, I think it’s important to remember that most writers want the same thing: to write a good story that someone else will appreciate. Knowing that, writers looking for support have to be committed to finding what they need from people who will give it. Because people are out there—on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, library groups, community groups, and more. You might have to do a bit of legwork, but you’ll find the right support system. And once you do, be sure to give as good as you get. Your writing will thank you for it.
JI: We could talk writing for hours, but I always like to ask some fun questions. Name your favorite all-time movie and tell us what do you like about it?
CC: My all-time favorite movie has to be The Princess Bride. It has everything I look for: love, adventure, wit, and humor. And you can’t go wrong with Mandy Patinkin.
You can find out more about Christina Consolino and sign up for her newsletter at