Kathy Dunnehoff Speaks About ‘The Do-Over’

What draws a writer to a story? Maybe it’s something lofty like a desire to change the world, but what drew me to The Do-Over was a long, cold, dark winter stuck inside with two children. I fantasized about taking a vacation from my beloved family and returning re-energized.

After the wonderful break, I’d be ready to make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich and happy to warehouse shop for jugs of ketchup. Since a vacation wasn’t actually shimmering on the horizon, I spent the rest of the long season escaping to my computer. I lived Mara Jane Mulligan’s story vicariously, and I hope others will feel the fantasy of their own domestic escapes.

Kathy Dunnehoff's Breakthrough Novel - The Do-Over

Question and answer with the author

Where did you get your idea for this book?

There were a rash of movies about superheroes, and it struck me that they were male fantasies.  I thought, “what’s a woman’s fantasy?”

Every woman I know longs for a break.  A vacation is great, but even when you’re on one you’re still a wife and a mother and a woman who doesn’t wear prints.  The real fantasy would be to take a break from your whole life, be somebody else, and recharge enough to head home again.

Where do you get your ideas for writing in general?

I wrote a screenplay from an obituary.  I read them every day because I love that they are mini biographies.  I keep my eyes and ears open for things just like that, an over-heard bit of conversation in the grocery store, a piece of news, a picture.  Then, when something strikes me, I ask, “what if?” and try to put the least likely character in a challenging situation.

What are your inspirations?

I just love to write.  “Inspired” sounds like the stars need to align, but I think writing is fun.  I entertain myself by living with stories in my head.  Besides, if I’m not writing, I’m like a hamster without a wheel, and my family is inspired to tell me to get to work.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Third grade.  I wrote a story for Mr. Hartman, a Nancy Drew sort of mystery based on my grandmother’s black velvet watch band.  The story was well received at Muldown Elementary.  I realized writing was great fun, and I was forced to abandon my second grade dream of being a botanist, a profession I chose because the word was cool.

What do you like to read?

I always have a non-fiction book going.  I think of it as continuing education.  I love books about finance and budgeting, self-improvement, home organization, business, and, of course, writing and creativity.  In fiction I read for pure pleasure: Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Janet Evanovich, and Jennifer Crusie.

How do you balance writing and family life?

I write at home, so it’s been tricky.  I learned never to write when the girls are around.  My mom radar is always on, and I’m easily distracted by anything I hear outside my office door.  I can plot, research, take notes, etc… but I don’t even try to get any pages done.  Now that they’re both in school, it’s easier, but I still go away from the house to write during school breaks.  I’ve written with no trouble in a McDonald’s playland with children screaming.  They just weren’t my children.

How did you start writing novels?

My background was in poetry, and I was teaching college English when I had an idea for a novel.  I think working in different forms keeps writing interesting.  I dove in and used the first novel to learn how to write one.  My first screenplay started the same way, as an exercise in how to be a better writer.  Now I like to alternate novels and screenplays.

How did you research The Do-Over?  Did you run away from home or play volleyball on a nude beach?

First, what I love about fiction is that I get to make stuff up.  It’s the main reason I don’t use my journalism degree.  News agencies frown on “made up” stuff.  For The Do-Over I took many, many bubble baths while entertaining the fantasy of thirty days away from everything, including myself.  And I did take the family to Vancouver to fill in the details of that wonderful city.  I scouted the beach next to the nude one.  I like to imagine I would have happily gone the female equivalent of the full monty had the children not been there.

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