Books Are Dreams: Hi, Gwen, as an important person in Love Ya Like a Sister, we've got a few questions for you today. The first one is this: do you consider yourself to be Hope's mother-figure or her sister?
Gwen: I'd like to enjoy just being her sister, but Hope's only 5 years old. I guess I really am both sister and mother. I remember once when I fed her baby formula from a beer bottle with the nipple taped on. Mom's run off again, this time with "Bill, the tattooed trucker," and is right now either in the cab of an eighteen-wheeler or a sleazy motel. I'm trying to be a better role-model than that.
Books Are Dreams: How did it feel knowing you had "sunk" to your mother's level?
Gwen: Like--well, the word begins with "s" and ends with "t"! I promised to clean up my mouth, though, so I won't say it. I once had a counselor tell me that I was an alcoholic. I said, "No, I'm not. I don't drink, my mom does." The counselor said, "Anybody raised in an alcoholic family is an alcoholic." That scared me--and made me mad, too. I think we have a choice, but I guess we have to be careful, too. We are--or can be--influenced by what's around us. Yeah, I got angry and scared and drunk. But Randy helped me.
Books Are Dreams: OK, that leads us to the next question. How would you describe Randy?
Gwen: (laughs) Randy's an idiot--and my hero. Let's face it--it's a miracle the guy's alive, not in jail, the hospital, or in serious psycho-therapy. Somehow . . . he stumbles through and does the right thing--eventually--and more or less. His feelings are true, even if his thoughts and actions sometimes aren't so wise. Let's face it--even he doesn't know why he's doing what he's doing. He's the kind of guy whose face want to you slap . . . and then kiss to make it feel better.
Books Are Dreams: Who's the one person you can/do look up to? Randy?
Gwen: (After a long pause) I admire Jonas. He's an African-American who's over ninety years old and still taking care of himself. He's been through racism, through the Great Depression, and he still gives and gives and gives. He doesn't drone on about how you've got to change. He's just as good at listening as talking. And he's a good poker player, too. Lucky.
Books Are Dreams: Has your luck changed? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
Gwen: In 10 years, Hope will be fifteen years old. Going back to your first question--yeah, I guess I do see myself something like Hope's mom because I'm thinking of how I'll be taking care of her over the years. I want to go to college, but after this year I'll go to a community college so I can work and take care of Hope. In 5 years I want to know Hope and I'm safe, to be able to pay the bills. In 10 years, the same thing but hopefully done with school and with a better job. Maybe an office manager--but I'll have to work on my patience!
Books Are Dreams: If you could change one thing in your life--past or present--what would it be?
Gwen: That my mom isn't an alcoholic. And that I could have a normal life and get a chance to worry about all those unimportant things, rather than eating and having a place to live. (laughs) And every day I'd like to work on keeping my mouth shut. I've heard that sometimes I've got a sharp tongue . . . but I'm not often told that. Scaredy cats!
Books Are Dreams: What's fact and fiction in your life?
Gwen: It's like Randy says: First it’s real in my head. Then it’s real on paper. That’s the easy part. And then, if I write it well enough with just the right words, who knows? It might actually become real.
Thanks for stopping by Gwen! If you would like to learn more about Love You Like a Sister check out these links:
Tom Kepler Writing (Blog and Website)
Tom Kepler Writing/Wise Moon Books (Facebook Writing Page)