My ALLi author guest this episode is Stacey Aaronson. She is a ghostwriter, editor, cover designer, layout artist, and publishing partner for indie authors, but perhaps what gave her the most personal satisfaction was writing a book about her mother, who was a teenager when Stacy was born. Together, they formed a unique spiritual bond.
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Inspirational Indie Author Interview. Stacey Aaronson: About the Author
Stacey Aaronson practically popped out of the womb reading books and obsessing over grammar. In 2011, she founded The Book Doctor Is In, where she relishes taking writers by the hand as a ghostwriter, editor, cover designer, layout artist, website designer, graphics creator, and publishing partner, helping authors bring books of excellence into the marketplace. In partnership with her amazing clients, and as a layout artist for She Writes Press, she has been involved in the full or partial production of over 275 books. Stacey is also the award-winning author of the quirky and touching memoir, Raising, and Losing, My Remarkable Teenage Mother, which has been honored with a Book Excellence Award for Memoir, an IPPY Bronze Medal for Best First Book, and a Readers’ Favorite Award for Memoir. She currently lives on Whidbey Island in Washington state with her soul mate of twenty-three years, and the many deer, squirrels, and birds that frequent their property.
About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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Read the Transcripts: Stacey Aaronson
Howard Lovy: I'm Howard Lovy, news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors, and book editor at howardlovy.com. You are listening to Inspirational Indie Authors. Every episode, I interview an ALLi member to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors.
My guest this episode is Stacey Aaronson. She's a ghost writer, editor, cover designer, layout artist, and publishing partner for indie authors. But perhaps what gave her the most personal satisfaction was writing a book about her mother, who was a teenager when Stacey was born. Together, they formed a unique spiritual bond. I'll let Stacey Aaronson tell her story.
Stacey Aaronson: My name is Stacey Aaronson. I'm a writer, ghost writer, editor, book designer, and publishing partner who's been involved in the full or partial production of about 275 books. I currently live on Whidbey Island in Washington State with my soulmate, and I was very privileged and excited to become a first-time author in June of 2021.
I grew up in Long Beach, California, and I was one of those kids who came out of the womb with a love of books and language, and I was obsessed with grammar, and I loved writing. I actually started writing my first novel, so to speak, when I was eight years old. Nothing actually came of that, I don't know what happened to that notebook, but I always held the dream of being a novelist ever since I was a little girl.
Reading was a huge part of my life. In fact, when I was three years old, I started reading without actually being taught, and both my mom and dad were divorced. I had very young parents and we'll talk more about that, but they both said, you just picked up a book and started reading. So, I was very blessed to have that skill very young, and I was constantly reading as a child and always have been.
Howard Lovy: Stacey had a unique childhood because her mother was not much older than a child herself when Stacey was born. Later, this became the subject of her memoir.
Stacey Aaronson: Yes. Well, my mom had me when she was 16. My dad was just shy of 20 when my mom got pregnant, and obviously it was a tricky situation for my parents. They did get married, and I was born in February, and by November of that year they had already separated.
My mom was just too young to be married and have a baby. It was so much for her, but I was very fortunate to have a young father who wanted to be involved in my life. He was so dedicated to me, really loved me, and so even though my mom got custody in the divorce, and we moved back in with my grandparents, we didn't live that far apart, and I spent a lot of time with my dad.
In fact, when I was nine, I ended up moving in with my dad and living with him for 10 years. So, I had both of my parents in my life, very, very different people, and I also had a very strong presence of my grandparents. So, I really had what I call in the book, I talk about it, my trifecta, because I had three very distinct entities in my life who helped raise me, and each one of them was very different and all very wonderful.
Howard Lovy: As a result of their closeness in age, Stacey and her mother developed something more than just a mom/daughter relationship.
Stacey Aaronson: I actually always knew that I had a really young mom. I always knew that she was 16 when I was born, I always knew a lot of things because my mom saw me as a confidant.
My mom was adopted, she didn't have any other biological connection besides me, and I was born very much an old soul, and somehow, I worked as her confidant, and we sort of nurtured each other. We just always had a really special and unique friendship. So, she talked to me a lot and I always understood how young she was, and I loved it because I always had the youngest mom.
This is a very surface thing, but she was very beautiful and so people always oohed in awe over my mom, how young and pretty she was, and it was just sort of a special thing that I had that nobody else had, and we always had such a lovely bond, and I always had so much freedom. So, I was raised very differently from the way a lot of my friends were, and so I always actually did understand that I had something very special, and I'm so grateful for that because a lot of times when we're kids, we don't really realize things like that. But I loved my life, and my childhood, and my family, and the freedom I had, so luckily I was aware and grateful for having something very different from what most of my friends had.
Howard Lovy: Rather than go to college right away after high school, she got a retail job and enjoyed it up to a point, until Stacey realized she needed more of a challenge.
Stacey Aaronson: I had a bit of an unconventional track. Right out of high school I wasn't feeling that urge and passion for college, and so I started working. I ended up getting a job at Nordstrom. I ended up starting to get promoted, and I loved the company so much that I sort of set my sights on staying there and moving up and having a career there.
But when I was 25, I had sort of an epiphany where I realized that my childhood intellect, that had sort of helped me coast through as a maybe “smart kid” all along was fading. I wasn't being intellectually challenged. I loved my work, I loved my company, but I wasn't feeling like I was growing intellectually the way I should have been, and I suddenly really wanted to go to college.
So, it was interesting, I decided I wanted to go. I really wanted to be there, which is different from a lot of people who go to college and just feel like they have to be there. So, I enrolled in community college when I was 25.
I stepped down from my management position and I took three classes a semester and I did really well, so that kind of bolstered my confidence in going back to school in my mid-twenties, and I loved it.
I did that for four years while I stayed at Nordstrom, and then I had a dream of going to Scripps College, which is a women's college in Claremont, California. I got into Scripps as a transfer student, and I spent my final two years there. So, I had six years of college while I was working, and it was great. I really appreciated it, which is something that not every college student gets to feel while they're in college.
Howard Lovy: After college, Stacey went back into retail, but always felt like she wasn't doing something she really wanted to do, which was to use her creative mind.
So, she did what she called a career reinvention, and that's when she finally got to use her passion for writing.
Stacey Aaronson: Well, my company had struggled and eventually they just couldn't afford me anymore and I thought, oh, I have all of this experience and years of management and I've got my college education, this is a great time for me to pivot and start a new chapter.
Only, there were so many people, because in 2008 there was the economic collapse and there were lots of people unemployed, and so it turned out that there was a whole flood of candidates for all kinds of jobs, and I found it extremely difficult to even get interviews, even when I was highly qualified for something.
So, what happened was, after a year, I'd had several interviews and even a couple of second interviews, and those didn't pan out and I couldn't figure out what was going on. Why wasn't any job working out for me? Until I realized that the universe was trying to push me away from what I had been doing and toward what I had always been meant to do, but I had never necessarily had the confidence to take the leap, or the circumstances hadn't been right.
Truthfully, the timing was right for all of the skills and passions I had around books and writing, because the self-publishing industry was really emerging in a bigger way. Even though self-publishing has been around for decades, the newer platforms with IngramSpark and KDP, those things were starting to emerge.
So, I was able to immerse myself in, how do these platforms work and all of the different facets of book production. I had a really strong background doing editorial work and things like that because I'd always been writing and editing on the side, but I'd never made it a career.
So, I threw myself into learning all about cover design and interior layout as a layout artist, and I had all of the background in working one-on-one with people in management and just even as a leader. So, that was a great foundation as well for me working one-on-one with authors, and then of course my love of books and writing.
All of it just sort of came together client by client. I kept adding in new skills until I became a full scope book production and publishing partner.
So, I work as a ghost writer, an editor, I do comprehensive editing, line editing, copy editing, proofreading. I do layout, artistry, cover design, and then I do all the publishing facilitation with my authors.
So, my goal from the very beginning, because I saw how many poorly self-published books were flooding the marketplace, and I've always had such high standards for myself and everything I do, I realized I wanted to be one of those partners who could focus on the high standards of legacy publishing within the emerging self-publishing arena.
So, that's what my focus has been ever since I started my business in 2011.
Howard Lovy: But in addition to all her achievements as an editor and designer, there was still one more story that Stacey needed to tell.
Stacey Aaronson: Well, what ended up happening is in September of 2020, I lost my mom, much earlier than I ever expected I would, especially having such a young mom.
To give that some context, I did talk a little bit about our relationship, but back in 2000, from 2000-2007, there was a hit show called Gilmore Girls, and if any of the listeners know that show they'll know that it was about a mother and daughter. The mother had her daughter at 16, they had a very unconventional role reversal style relationship where the daughter was very old-soul bookish and conservative, and the mom was very free spirited, and that was my mom and me. It was like we were suddenly portrayed on a hit TV show in really interesting, uncanny ways.
There were so many parallels, and basically all of our lives, people had said, I can't believe your relationship. I've never known a mother and daughter like you, and then Gilmore Girls came out and we just sort of basked in the glory of, oh my gosh, it's almost like our story's being told, and we sort of joked about, well, finally people get to see some of what our relationship is really like behind the scenes.
Obviously, that was just a fun thing that we would joke about, but when my mom passed away, I remember so many people saying over the years just what a special bond we had, and of course I knew that, and I never knew any other mother and daughter like us either. So, when my mom transitioned back to stardust, something miraculous happened. Not only did some remarkable spiritual things happen during our last week together, but four weeks later, after the traveling and dealing with the “after” of losing someone close to you, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was supposed to write our story, and that it would not only honour our wacky and wonderful, unconventional relationship, but that others might find gems within it for themselves, or even simply find it entertaining and touching.
What was, I guess, particularly serendipitous about everything, and there were so many ways the stars aligned, was that NaNoWriMo was starting in two weeks after I had this epiphany that I was supposed to write our book, and when I had that overwhelming feeling, it was not, I'll write it when I'm through all of my grieving, or I'll write it someday. It was, no, I'm supposed to write it now. And NaNoWriMo was starting in two weeks, and I'm sure all of your listeners know what that is. National Novel Writing Month. So, I wrangled my dear friend, who also had a desire to write a manuscript, as my accountability partner.
So, it was just the two of us. We didn't do it formally, and I set a really lofty goal of writing 75,000 words in November instead of the normal 50,000 and having a finished manuscript by January 1st that I could edit, have beta readers for feedback, design, and publish, on what would've been my mom's 69th birthday on June 14th, and I was very happy when that actually came to fruition.
Howard Lovy: The book called Raising and Losing My Remarkable Teenage Mother also describes a spiritual connection between mother and daughter.
Stacey Aaronson: On the spiritual side of things, my mom and I have always believed in past lives. She had a reading several years before that came out that we had been twin sisters in a past life, and that we had basically stood in for one another because we were kept in a tower. This was like hundreds of years ago, in linear time. We had been kept in a tower because having twin girls was some sort of a curse, and so only one of us was ever let out. So, we used to switch and, I guess, trick whoever would let us out.
So, we were always looking out for each other, and that made a huge impression on both of us because that was such a part of who we were now. The other thing that had come out in that reading is that we had promised to always find each other from here to eternity. So, while we believed that we've had many lives together, that was the only one that had come out.
The person who did that reading was a dear friend of mine, and when my mom was going through her transition period, basically she came home from the hospital, and we knew it was going to be her last days. We didn't know how long, but it ended up being eight days.
Susan, her name was Susan, she connected with my mom on a spiritual level while my mom was going through her transition, so while my mom's soul was coming and going. As she was departing from her physical body, she was having experiences, and at one point she came into Susan's, I guess, scope of space and had an encounter with her, and she told Susan some things about how she felt about dying young. She hadn't expected it. She wasn't happy about it, but she saw that she could do more on the other side than she could do here, and so it was very special for her to express that she would be able to be watching over me. I know people always say that, and it's maybe it sounds a little bit trite.
Oh, your mom will always be with you or will always be watching over you, but it seemed deeper than that. So, there were some really powerful moments when my mom was coming and going, coming back, and we were having conversations, and it really eased my soul to know that she was transitioning the way that she was, and that she felt that she had a higher purpose and that it wasn't just depressed and sort of fighting against believing, because it was really hard for us to separate from each other physically.
Howard Lovy: Stacey's advice for other writers who are thinking of penning their memoirs, sometimes you don't really know what kind of story you have until you begin to write.
Stacey Aaronson: One of the things I learned in the process of writing a memoir, and this may only apply to memoirs, but sometimes you are aware of the gifts your life has brought you, sometimes your life has brought you traumas and sad times, of course, as well. But I got to really experience what the freedom I had growing up with meant to me and how profound it really was, especially having such young parents who divorced when they did, and dedicated themselves to me completely, and that was such a gift to me.
I think sometimes when you're writing, you think you know all that you're going to write. You have all the memories. You can pull out letters and like I did, I had letters I found in my mom's things that I'd written her as a child when we were apart. I had lots and lots, hundreds of text messages I went through, and I included some of those in the book so that people could really be in the intimate, humorous, craziness of our relationship. So, you may think that you have all the tools and all the memories, and then when you're actually in the writing process, it's amazing sometimes the gifts that come out of it and the awareness that comes out of it.
That's quite profound and that happened for me. So, I hope that happens for other writers too, if they embark on memoir writing.