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Q&A with Doreen

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Q. When do you write?
A. Whenever I can. Sometimes, a little here and there throughout the day, sometimes not for days or a week at a time.

Q. Really? Most serious writers have a set block of time – usually several hours a day – that’s sacrosanct. No matter what, they force themselves to –
A. What are you, my mother?

Q. Your memoir, QUEEN OF THE ROAD, feels so immediate -
A. Why, thank you.


Ah… you wrote the question.

A. Oh. Right.

Q. Anyway, how were you able to remember so much detail and dialogue from your trip?
A. I knew before we even left Colorado that I wanted to write a memoir of our year on the road. So, I took a lot of notes – whether about conversations Tim and I had, or from places we’d visit. Once, one of the tour guides even asked, “Do I need a lawyer?”

Q. Psychiatrists aren’t supposed to talk about themselves. What was it like for you to disclose so much?
A. What do you think it was like for me?

Q. Well, I-I…

Verrrrrry interesting. However, I’m off-duty, so let’s get back to your question.

It wasn’t easy. But, I really, really wanted to write this book - even if no one else ever read it. And, if someone actually did, I wanted to share how life-changing the experience was. That’s why I dedicated Queen of the Road to anyone searching for his or her inner bus. It doesn't have to be as dramatic as taking a whole year off; we all have some "other thing" to experience, to shake up our lives, and help us focus on what's important.

So many of us work hard for so many years, wake up one day and ask, “Is this all there is?” Tim and I hadn’t realized how routine our lives had become – lacking a certain spark. We actually ended up being grateful for all the disasters we experienced on the trip (fire, flood armed robbery, my developing a bus phobia and finding ourselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few), because ultimately, they taught us the importance of stretching and challenging ourselves, as well as helped us get our priorities in order.
There are a lot of memoirs about some terrible catalyst that forces the author to change his or her life. Our case was different because we volunteered for this experience. (Fine. If you insist on getting technical, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming. Geez.) It doesn’t have to take a tragedy to change our lives. Tim and I are living proof that we don't have to wait. We can make the choice NOW to live our best lives.

Another important lesson we learned is that all that really matters is to be with the people you love. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet, that’s not how most of us spend our time. And, while it’s true that in traveling around the country we met incredibly diverse and unique people, we also found we all have one thing in common: Wanting to love and be loved.

The “bus thing” taught us how crucial it is to downsize and simplify our lives so that we don’t end up supporting a lifestyle filled with things instead of people. And, that… GULP… even includes shoes.

Q. So, with all that went into the book, how did you decide what to put where? Did you have an outline?
A. I knew the book would be structured the way our trip was. So, I just gathered all my notes and started from the beginning – when Tim first broached the whole “bus thing” – and eventually came to the end with our return home. Wherever tidbits from our pasts seemed to fit, I’d put include them, along with stories about the remarkable people we met, the fascinating histories of the places we visited, or how the trip was changing us.

Q. You make it sound so easy.
A. I don’t mean to. It’s just that I’ve been to so many writing workshops where writers complain about how tortuous the process is. Oh, please. I doubt they’d rather become ditch diggers. Now there’s a tough job. Anyone who has the opportunity to write should feel privileged, in my opinion.

Q. Is Tim really as wonderful as you portray in QUEEN OF THE ROAD?
A. No. Stay away from him.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. Trying to convince Tim it’s a bad idea for us to live on a boat. But, given my track record when he gets something into his head… Ahoy Maties!

Q. What about in terms of writing?
A. I’m still writing screenplays, mainly comedies and romantic comedies. (Come to think of it, if QUEEN OF THE ROAD were a movie, it would definitely be a romantic comedy.) I used to think, as a shrink, I should do psychological thrillers and have written a few, but comedy is so much more fun.

Q. Did writing screenplays help in writing this book?
A. Definitely. I think having written scripts really helps anytime I write, especially dialogue. Also, I use a tip I learned in a screenwriting class with any writing I do. That is, I read the whole thing out loud, in character. It’s amazing what you pick up on that doesn’t work. Of course, you have to be careful who overhears. I know there were plenty of times Tim gave me strange looks before I told him what I was doing.

Q. Since you’re a psychiatrist, have you been analyzing me this whole time?
A. Why? Do you think if I were a proctologist I’d want to look up your butt?

Copyright 2008 Doreen Orion