Sharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl. She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up. Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s. There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years. But she was always writing. Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California. She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico. The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school. Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school. Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class. She was an A student in English. Not the most popular person in school, however.
Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Juggle and Hide. What was your inspiration for it?
A: I lived through the proverbial bad childhood, and then as a young adult, I started treating myself badly. Deeply ingrained patterns had been formed and I had to work my way out of them. I had a lot of help along the way, so Juggle and Hide ends up being a story of my search for love and – ultimately – my survival.
A: Since it’s a memoir, I’m the protagonist. I’m lucky to be alive. As a matter of fact, my mother’s sponsor in AA on the day he met me, about 40 years ago, said that very thing to me. He said it every time he saw me or talked to me on the phone up until the day he died — about a year and a half ago. One thing that sticks in my brain is that I never realized my mother was mentally ill until I was an adult being treated by a psychiatrist myself. I just thought she’d had a rough life and was doing the best she could. Actually, she was doing the best she could do, but it was a fight for her every day.
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: As this is my first memoir, once I started writing, it took on a life of its own. It took about six months to complete, but there weren’t many bumps along the way. The bumps had been in my own life and that’s what I was writing about.
Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: With my own life story, it somehow just flowed naturally.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: I do, but I experience anxiety before sitting down to send an e-mail or text to a friend. Writing is that kind of struggle for me, but once I start, it gets easier, but I never get any less anxious.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I write in my journal when I first wake up in the morning – about 5:00 – and most of the time that’s all I write during that day. Then I will have a spurt of energy and write for a few days or weeks at a time. I guess you could say I’m a binge writer. My husband, the artist Charles Pfahl – who did the cover for my book – died recently – but he was always supportive of my work. My cats, the Duke and Earl are very supportive, too, but you’d have to ask them why.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Being able to get through each day without too much angst or too much sorrow. Life is hard and just getting through the day makes me feel successful.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: Threaten to leave. Leave. Be supportive of them and their work and see if that helps. If it doesn’t help, then leave.
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: Not totally, but I’m no George Orwell either. I think it is invigorating to write. I think life is the struggle.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: Just keep writing. Something good will come of it. I hope Juggle and Hide makes its way onto your bookshelves or into your kindle, and if it does, I hope you find the dark humor in it. And I also hope you always have a sense of humor about your work – or mine – or anyone else’s. Never lose your sense of humor.