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[Author Interview] Patricia Mitchell

Patricia Mitchell’s lifelong love of writing and desire to capture the story of her mother’s life prompted her to embark on her first professional writing project—A Girl from the Hill. She holds degrees in mass media and communication, English literature, and creative writing. This work expresses her interest in Italian American culture as well as the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Patricia Mitchell lives in Smithfield, Rhode Island, with her husband Jeremy, daughter Julia and Beagle Trudy.

Her new book, Goodbye Pound Cake is available now.

You can follow Patricia Mitchell through her social channels:

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What inspires me – My intention when I write is to express myself in a way that others can relate to. As a kid I found fun in sarcastic essays, but as I got older, I decided I wanted to learn the craft of fiction. To me, fiction is much more challenging, and gave me the chance to create my own world that other people could understand and connect to. I studied creative writing and literature through college, but never felt confident enough to share my work beyond the classroom until 10 years ago. I kept the desire tucked in the back of my mind as I navigated through the corporate world. When a friend urged me to go to a writing workshop, I decided to take a chance. I initially worked with book coach Lisa Tener, who inspired me to actually write something and self-publish it. As an experiment, I thought it would be fun to bring some of the stories my mom talked about growing up on Federal Hill to life. The collection of essays in in what turned into my mom’s memoir, A Girl from the Hill was my first self-published book.

My desk/writing space – I have a desk that I use in one of our spare bedrooms. I use that sometimes, but more often than not, I’m sitting in a comfy chair with my laptop.

Writing routine – I am a big procrastinator, so I don’t have a set routine, but when I do write, I always play white noise on to help me focus. My favorite is vacuum cleaner noise. I listen to instrumental jazz sometimes as well. It’s hard for me to sit quietly and write because I get distracted way too easily.

Hardest scene to write – When writing A Girl from the Hill, I learned that my mother had a nervous breakdown when she was 31. She never revealed this to me, though the rest of my family knew (I’m the youngest of 5, and was often referred to as “the baby” well into my 30’s). She was sent to a hospital in 1955 and received electric shock therapy as part of her treatment. She really opened up to me about it, and it took me forever to capture her experience in a way that was real but allowed her to keep her dignity. To this day, I am so proud that my mom allowed her story to be shared, but the actual writing broke me down to tears numerous times.

Favorite scene to write – In Goodbye Pound Cake, the scene where the protagonist Michelle and her friend Mandy are found exercising to a video by Michelle’s rude brother. He laughs at them sending Michelle after him and throwing Mandy into recoil mode. Finally, Michelle’s dad puts and end to the ensuing argument, and decides that they should all go out to eat. In addition to the three kids, Michelle’s crush interest, and her brother’s best friend, comes along for the ride. It was fun capturing that experience. It felt very realistic to me.

What inspired the book – I mentioned the inspiration for A Girl from the Hill above. For Goodbye Pound Cake, I was at a place in my life where I worked hard to get fit and feel good about myself for the first time in a long time. I wanted to write a story about a girl who faces the challenges of being overweight during the very sensitive middle school years, getting ready to transition into high school and a whole new set of challenges. It’s important for girls, and boys, to love themselves for who they are, no matter what anyone thinks. But being skinny is not what it’s all about- it’s about being healthy in body and mind. It can be difficult to accomplish and attain, as I myself have learned going up and down the scale and having my own set of physical limitations. So, I know how it feels on both sides. I hope readers will see the importance of having hope and not giving up on their dreams, even if that dream is to not be bullied for how they look.

What are you working on next – I’m not sure! I have some ideas for a short story for the 2023 ARIA Anthology that are milling around in my head. It will also be the 10th anniversary for the publication of AGFTH, and I’d like to do a new edition to commemorate. My mom passed in September of this year, and I thought it might be interesting and cathartic to document some of life’s struggles as we age. I would also like to do a follow up book to Pound Cake, but I’m not sure if I can do anything more with those characters. I’ll gauge it on the response I get now that it’s published.

What authors influenced your writing – David Sedaris is my favorite modern essayist. He can make me laugh and cry in the same breath, which is such a remarkable talent. I love historical fiction, especially during the Renaissance and Middle Ages. Philippa Gregory tells beautiful stories from those periods. I appreciate the painstaking research she does for each book. And Alice Hoffman is an old favorite that keeps popping up anytime I’m in the mood for character driven stories.

If you could live anywhere – I would probably want to live in London in the 1960’s so that I’d at least have a chance to meet a young Paul McCartney!

What is your favorite Meal – I love Indian food, and samosas are my favorite.

Coffee or Tea – both! Wine or Beer – Beer when I was younger, wine now that I’m starting to age.

Describe yourself in 3 words – Compassionate, Silly, Expressive

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