Author Interview: Judith Marshall

About the Author:

Judith Marshall is a third generation native Californian, born in St. Helena and raised in Concord. After leaving a successful career in corporate America as a human resources executive, her lifelong dream of writing fiction was realized with the release of Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, winner of the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writers Club. The book was recently optioned for the big screen.

Judith is an active member of the California Writers Club and a regular participant in writing classes and workshops. She is currently working on her second novel, Staying Afloat, the story of a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother who morphs into a sex-starved adulteress. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

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About the Book:

ELIZABETH (“LIZ”) REILLY-HAYDEN has a safe and predictable life planned out -- a long-term significant other, a hard-earned executive position at a hi-tech firm, and her friends, a quintet of women whose high school friendship has carried them through decades of multiple marriages, divorces, teenagers and menopause. About to turn sixty, Liz has become almost too good at taking care of herself, holding tight to her reins of control. But beneath her tough exterior lies a tender soul that longs to let go.

Set in the spring of 2000, at the height of the dot-com boom in Northern California, the story begins on the day that Liz, Vice President of Human Resources for Tekflex Corporation, is orchestrating a massive downsizing at her company. Over time, she has become desensitized to the distasteful parts of her job. As the only child of warring parents, she learned early to retreat into herself for protection. That night at dinner, when her sweetheart, Sam Steuart, reveals that he’s accepted a promotion and is moving to New York, her neat orderly world turns upside down. Little does she know that his leaving is only the harbinger of greater changes to come.

The next day, Liz finds herself a victim of the same downsizing. Unwilling to pack it in and call it a career, she draws on a kind of “sticktuitiveness” she learned from her beloved Aunt Vi to find another position. But it doesn’t take many visits to the outplacement center thronged with people half her age to crumple her hopes. Faced with the prospect of an unplanned retirement without Sam, Liz retreats into herself. At that most painful point, she learns that Karen Christensen, her best friend and confidant, has been killed in a motorcycle accident at Lake Tahoe that sounds suspicious to Liz, and to the other long-term pals who have loved Karen from their high school days. The group decides to drive up to Karen’s vacation home at Lake Tahoe, where they have spent dozens of memorable vacations and weekends over a period of forty years. Here, they will bury their friend.

As the time for the service approaches, compelled by the need to learn more about the accident that claimed her friend’s life, Liz slips away from the group and confronts Greg Ronelli, Karen’s long-time friend and off-and-on lover who was driving the motorcycle when the accident occurred. She is stunned to hear him say that there was no accident, that one minute Karen had her arms locked securely around his waist, and the next minute she simply let go. When Liz shares this startling news with the others, everything from a planned suicide to murder is considered a possibility.

Before embarking on the final step of scattering Karen’s ashes, the group discovers a letter addressed to them in which Karen reveals her breast cancer diagnosis, and her decision not to have a radical mastectomy. Instead, she’ll wait and see what happens.

In the end, with the help of her trusted friends, Liz discovers that only by releasing the pain of the past can she let go and fall headlong into the life that is waiting for her.

The Interview:

1. When did you decide to start writing?

I always knew I wanted to write a novel about enduring female friendship, but life kept getting in the way. It wasn’t until 1997, when I read “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” that I decided to quit my corporate job and write.

2. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?

I write women’s fiction. I chose that genre because that’s what I like to read.

3. Were you worried about the word count of your work?

No. I knew nothing about word count guidelines when I started writing.

4. Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?

I keep a running list of “leftovers;” words, phrases and sentences that I edit out of various drafts. It’s over 100 pages long at the moment.

5. If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?


6. How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?

It was an actual toast made by one of my girlfriends after one of our divorces.

7. What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?

Don’t let life’s disappointments harden you. And when you need help, reach out. That’s what friends are for.

8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.

In 2004, my novel won the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writer’s Club. It thought I was on my way to publication. But after more than 200 rejections, I decided to independently publish my book. Within three months of publication, a movie producer contacted me, and the book has now been optioned for the big screen.

9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?

If you have a book inside you, get it out. Sit down and start writing and don’t stop until you’ve finished a first draft. There will be plenty of time to learn the craft later. The main thing is to keep at it. Tenacity is 90% of being a successful author.

Blogger's Note:

Thank you so much to Judith for her patience. Took me a long while to post this interview. And readers, if you're interested in reviewing the book featured in this interview, please leave your name and email address in the comments section so that Judith can contact you.

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  1. Great post/interview. Judith sounds interesting as does the book. Shah. X


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