The Next Big Thing

Thanks, Heather O’Connor ( for thinking of me and my blog and including us in the game of blog tag.  As part of blog tag, author’s are asked to answer ten questions about their work-in-progress. Very timely, indeed, since I have made it my New Year’s resolution to finish my novel and begin sending it out before year’s end. I particularly enjoyed imagining who would play my characters if/when it is ever made into a movie.

What is your working title of your book?     LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER

A mock-up of my novel that I have placed in front of my desk to remind me what I'm there to do.

A mock-up of my novel that I have placed in front of my desk to remind me what I’m there to do.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Look Over Your Shoulder is a story about forgiveness and redemption.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In 2004 my dear friend, Heidi Stanzel McIssac, was told she needed a bone marrow transplant to beat leukemia that she had battled most of her adult life. Being an only child with her father from Germany and her mother from South Africa, finding a suitable donor was not going to be easy. When a donor was not found within Heidi’s extended family, the search broadened to include media campaigns overseas. Eventually, a donor was located and Heidi received her transplant only to have her body rejected the donor marrow. Heidi passed away on September 16, 2004, leaving behind a thirteen year old daughter and parents who, most likely, will never recovered from their lose.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Heidi’s attempts to educate people about bone marrow transplants and her death made me take a look at my own family. I come from a large, Roman Catholic family. I have three siblings and ten first cousins. My ancestry is a Celtic cocktail of English, Irish and Scottish with a dash of French to add some heat to the mix. I suspect if I were to ever need a transplant, one would be easy enough to find. This got me thinking. What if someone from a large, dysfunctional family required a transplant and the only match available came from the least reliable person in the clan.

What genre does your book fall under? Literary Fiction

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? My hope is to find an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I was able to finish the first draft of my novel in a year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Although the stories are different, I would like to think the style I have written Look Over Your Shoulder will remind readers of Jane Hamilton’s – A Map of the World, or Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s – Turtle Valley.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Since no one ever sees the same situation the same way, I thought it would fun to write this story from the point of view of three players—Anne, Burt and Barb.

Everyone looks to Anne, the matriarch, for guidance as they wade through the biggest crisis to ever face their family. Before she can help them, Anne must first confront her feelings of guilt and must make peace with a God she’s convinced has abandoned her.

Burt’s years of self-destructive behaviour have destroyed two marriages, pushed his three sons away and taught his family that he can’t be trusted. He is the last person anyone feels they can count on, and the only match for his sister. Although nervous about the transplant procedure, he comes to see this as an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his family.

Barb, the youngest sibling, seldom thinks of anyone other than herself. When Lizzie’s body begins to reject Burt’s marrow, Barb is faced with the real possibility that she could lose the only person she feels has ever accepted her. Yet, true to form, Barb throws risky distractions between herself and the truth of what life without her closest sister could mean.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Anne – Shirley MacLaine, Burt – Robert Downey Jr, Barb – Julianne Moore.

Thanks again, Heather and tag, you’re it, Kate Arms-Roberts and others who still have to give me permission to use their names.

Kate Arms-Roberts is a Toronto-based writer, though she has hailed from various locations in the U.S. and U.K. before landing in Canada. She blogs at and is currently working on a fantasy novel for teens.


Filed under Writer's blog, Writer's journey, writing,

11 responses to “The Next Big Thing

  1. I like to think as dysfunctional as I feel we are my family would at least try to help.
    Sounds like a great story Sharon –I would be happy to read it

  2. This is interesting, Heather — you doing this taught me more about what you’re writing than the U of T class did, especially the way you shaped the premise to be more than personal.

    Now, can I play?

    • Hi, Barbara. I would love for you to play blog tag with us. Please let me know your blog address and I will send you all the particulars to get you going. It was fun. I particularly enjoyed imaging who would play my characters in the movie adaptation of my novel.

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  7. Joanne Junor Reid

    I went to school with Heidi for many years. We saw each other after High School until I moved away. By the time I found out about her, it was just before her death and I was unable to see her again. She was a great, strong person. A great mother and a good friend and classmate. Anyone who knew her was very lucky. I have fond memories of a friend, the sweetest & funniest was her trying to teach me how to flirt lol. I failed miserably and that was probably the only time she gave up on anything! I think the story for your book is a great one.

    • Thank you so much, Joanne. It is amazing that you found my blog and I’m so glad for both of us that we knew Heidi. Although my novel is not directly about Heidi, it is about loss and I count Heidi’s passing as one of my greatest losses.

  8. Paula Caitlin jarrett

    Hi Sharon. I too knew Heidi. She was my very first friend (and one of my best friend’s throughout her life) I made when we started school in Jr. Kindergarten, and continued our friendship until her passing. She was an amazing person, and I feel so blessed to have had my life touched in so many ways by knowing her! Her life, and her passing away also taught me to live more in the moment and completely changed me afterwards. I think that throughout her life, just by her being her she changed many peoples’ lives for the better. Thankfully, I did have the opportunity to see Heidi, and say goodbye the day before she passed away. I think of her often, and every Sept. 16 I dip Oreo’s in milk in honour of her (as she was the one who introduced me to this amazing ..ahem, dare I say addiction-lol). One of our favourite study traditions before exams was to buy a brick of ice cream, and a Sara Lee bar cake. We would literally cut both the ice cream and the cake in half and each of us would pig out, and then study! Unfortunately you can no longer buy those same Sara Lee cakes today, or that would be my tradition every Sept. 16…not that I’m complaining because the Oreo tradition definitely brings back wonderful memories as well :-). Her daughter Alannah is a spitting image of her mother, and a wonderful young woman that I have no doubt Heidi would be extremely proud of today. I recently reconnected with Heidi’s father. Her parent’s are amazing people! Of course you had to know that Heidi got her sparkling personality, incredibly warm and generous heart from somewhere though, right?

    I would love to read your book! I’m assuming that it has now been published? Where would I be able to buy it? I’m glad that you were able to draw inspiration from Heidi, and turn it into a book of your own! I also went to school with Joanne Junor Reid, she too is amazing person, and I’m glad to call her my friend too! Your blog pops up when you just do a simple google search of Heidi’s name :-). Thank you for sharing Sharon! I’m glad that Heidi seemed to have touched your heart, just like so many others, mine included! 🙂

    • Thank you for your comments, Paula. Heidi has been on my mind a lot these days. Butterflies are my symbol for her and for the past week, wherever I sit or walk on my property a Monarch butterfly follows me. Funny timing. The anniversary of her passing is upon us and this week my agent sent my book out to publishers. (I did acquire an agent a year and a half ago, and have been working ever since to edit and polish my manuscript before it is sent out.) Last month, we moved to a country property very close to the Stanzels and have seen them several times since. Ursula has read my novel a number of times and even passed it on to Alannah. They have both given it their seal of approval. Although it is in no way Heidi’s story, her strength and courage are what inspired me to tell this tale. I will definitely let the world know when it is picked up and it’s release date. Thanks again.

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