Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday Women: The Girls et al. by Sunny Alexander

The theme of Women banding together to fight injustice is a personal favorite of mine, so I had to invite Sunny Alexander to talk about The Girls. Not only she's giving a glimpse of her other works, but one lucky winner will walk away with a copy of The Girls! Please leave a comment in this post between now and next Tuesday noon EST to enter, but first, enjoy:
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I am excited to be here and am looking forward to sharing my journey from housewife and stay at home mom, to psychotherapist/author. I am looking forward to your questions and to add a bit of encouragement, if you ask a question or make a comment, you will be entered to win an autographed copy of The Girls.

 I come from a family of storytellers and you’d be surprised about something as simple as grocery shopping can be turned into a riveting, spellbinding adventure. As a child, I entertained my younger brother and cousins with tales about fairies living in a magical land with rivers made of lemonade. During adolescence, I began to write stories filled with age-typical dreams and longings.

 There was a period of time when I turned away from writing and focused on raising my children. I was one of the many women who returned to school in the 70s; what a time of revolution and revelation that was! You’ll read about that historic time in The Girls. For me, it was a huge change from being a stay at home mom. I developed a career as a therapist but most importantly I opened the closet door and acknowledged my identity as a gay woman.  

 My return to writing began in a most unusual way after a sixteen-year relationship ended. I was not only grieving a personal loss but had volunteered to counsel veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. I kept thinking about the number of troops returning with PTSD and my thoughts began to focus on what I saw as a forgotten group: the medical staff that treated the wounded. On one of those sleepless nights, a name came to me: Kathleen Moore. I began to see an image of a woman with long dark hair and freckles. As if I was being guided, I went to the computer and began to write. I’m not even sure what I wrote; at this time there was no form... just words pouring out. After two years of research and many drafts, the story of Kathleen Moore, frontline Army physician was told in Flowers from Iraq: Book 1 in the series: The Storyteller and the Healer.

After I had published Flowers from Iraq, I began to write The Girls.  The book opens in 2020 when President of the United States, Julia Moorhead has signed the Freedom to Marry Act into law. Gathering together to watch this historic event is a group of women in their late 70s, who have been friends (family) for many years. They are a tight-knit group that has worked silently and relentlessly not only for marriage equality but also to rescue women from abusive situations. As they watch the event unfolding on TV, they are witness to the excitement and happiness of many, as well as the hatred of a few. They decide to help the people understand and embrace equality by revealing their secret past to a curious, perhaps snoopy reporter, who has heard about The Girls.

 As the story unfolds, we travel from 2020 to the past where we meet each of the Girls and share in their lives. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to The Girls:

 Char, a psychologist, is more than familiar with keeping dark secrets... including her own.

Em, the storyteller, has written a series of novels about a group of women who risk their lives to rescue the abused.

Iris, a United States Senator, finds romance on both sides of the gender aisle.

Les, a wunderkind, discovers a love far greater than her passion for medicine.

Max, the mechanic, can make the human heart purr as sweetly as any engine.

Frankie and Bobbie pack up their dishonorable discharges from the military and hop onto their Harleys for the freedom ride of their lives.

 I will share with you how Iris painted a picture of her childhood.

One morning while I was walking, I began to see a broken-down trailer park. I then saw a tall, thin child. I could see the tattered dress she wore, the hopeless expression, the way her mouth turned down, and the snot running from her nose. This was the beginning of my relationship with Iris and her incredible journey from poverty to the United States Senate.

Because of my background as a therapist my novels have a psychological bent to them. I also have an intense interest in social issues; the pain that comes from them and the healing that can follow. My novels are character-driven which means the emphasis is on inner conflicts and relationships. That doesn’t mean there is a lack of romance and humor. After all, don’t they go hand-in-hand with relationships? And most of us have lots of inner conflicts around them!

(graphics provided by author)

 Some readers have asked me how I get the titles of my books. Flowers from Iraq came to me after I had written most of the book. Flowers kept showing up as metaphors in different scenes. I began to think of the wounded and fallen troops as flowers. And there is a dream sequence in the book that resonated with the title.

 The title for The Girls came directly from my mother’s Friday night group of card-playing friends. They always called each other, “The Girls.” They met every week for a friendly game, and then on Saturday, the phone would begin to ring as they dissected every play— and I must add, every player! The subtitle of The Girls: A Different Kind of Love Story came about when I thought of how many types of love there really are. And through thick and thin, The Girls do share a very special love.

 Claire’s Song—Book 2 in the series The Storyteller and the Healer— began as God Laughs and I went so far as to have a book cover designed. Then as Kathleen and Claire struggled with dark secrets that they had kept from each other, I thought, this really belongs to the lover of music—Claire— and so the title became Claire’s Song.

 I do work with one goal in mind: to have the reader identify with the characters... to laugh with them, cry with them and most importantly to enjoy a good story. I hope that my books show that even though life can be difficult and painful, there is always hope. And, by the way, I believe in a happy ending.

 I am getting ready to begin a new novel. All I know at this point is it will be about a group of Holocaust survivors who hide their identity and deny their experiences from the world. I am starting to get flashes of characters and scenes and so another adventure begins.

 I would like to share a favorite quote of mine from The Girls. In this quote, Em is musing about her life, the many twists and turns it has taken.

Being gay is not the only closet, she thought. So many closets in life, as she had discovered over the years.

Please visit my website for some thought provoking blogs or contact me directly at





  1. Welcome Sunny

    Where do you get your inspirations for your books?
    What is your reaction if someone likes one of your books, and than don't like another book ?

    1. Hi Louise, thanks for your questions.

      My inspiration often comes during my morning walks when I am entering a semi-meditative state. It could be around a social injustice or just something I am very curious about. It may come from a current situation or one that I have experienced through my many years as a psychotherapist.

      In Flowers from Iraq, it was about PTSD and child abuse. In The Girls, it was the right to marry as well as spousal abuse. Claire's Song was a little different, I kept thinking about the secrets people keep... so often filled with shame that the secret prevents them from entering a place of true intimacy.

      That's how a novel begins with a troubling thought that sticks around. Then, I begin to see scenes and characters and the story evolves.

      I was taken with your second question. My reaction to a reader’s feelings about my books is one of interest and curiosity. The word "likes" can mean so many different things. Does the reader not like the style or is it the subject matter? Sometimes, a great dislike still means that the reader has been impacted. I am always open to hearing more about a reader’s reactions to my books. And as an author, more than anything, that's is my goal in writing.

  2. You are correct Sunny, likes can have many different meanings. I guess the better question would have been-
    How do you handle a bad review?
    I've spoken with several authors and the reaction is differently, one might get more determined to write a better book, another would possibly get down and depressed due to a bad review.
    Which is both understandable. I mean the book is one's baby after all.

  3. I have received a variety of reviews ranging from glowing, to "I wish there was a rating less than one star." I think I learned more from that one-star review than all the others. That review is what led me to write my initial response (sometimes, a great dislike still means that the reader has been impacted.). I was somewhat shocked when I first read the review, but after reading it several times I felt that something in the book had hit the core of the reviewer. I'm purposely not being more specific, because I also respect the anonymity of the reviewers.

    I would like to share this experience I had prior to publishing my first novel.

    Early into the process of writing Flowers, I submitted a sample for review and feedback. The reviewer was beyond harsh and tore the book and my writing style to shreds. I felt depressed and put the book in the bottom of my desk drawer... for about a month. During that time—after a bucket of tears— I thought what is it I need to change? What can I learn from this experience? I took the review out and read it line-by-line trying to turn what felt like lemons into lemonade. That became my journey in writing what must have been 20 first drafts.

    Long answer to your question, yes? Here's the short answer, not only about writing, but the way I try to live my life: as long as I am breathing in and out, I won't give up.

    Thanks for clarifying your question. It made me think about that incident. As much as it stung, I do believe it made me a better writer.