Nancy Ann Healy

Nancy Ann Healy is a woman of many talents and interests. She has worked as everything from a bookstore manager to a standup comedian, and she enjoys movies, theater, and karaoke in her free time.

Nancy is happily married to her wife, Melissa. Together they have a son, Chris, and two dogs, Maggie and Sydney Bristow. The family currently lives in Connecticut, where Nancy is completing her studies in social justice through Arizona State University and working on her second novel in the Alex and Cassidy series.

AJ: Congratulations on the success of your book, Intersection. I’m sure you’re thrilled. Tell us a bit about your work.

Intersection is a political thriller with a romance at its center. It begins when an influential congressman and his ex-wife start receiving threatening letters. President John Merrow requests the assignment of his longtime friend, Agent Alexis Toles to the case. Alex is sent to the congressman’s school teacher ex-wife, Cassidy O’Brien in New Rochelle, New York. In the midst of the investigation, Alex and Cassidy discover they cannot deny the connection between them and fall in love. The investigation takes numerous twists and turns and Alex finds herself emotionally embedded in the case, changing everything for all the players involved. There are politicians, foreign businessmen, CIA, FBI and NSA agents, and even a psychopathic stalker; all somehow connected to the letters. In the end, Intersection is about the intersection of people’s lives; how when lives collide unexpectedly the world changes for everyone. It’s about the masks we wear and what happens when someone unexpectedly comes along and unmasks us. It’s about heroes and villains; what makes a hero and what makes a villain? And, it’s about falling in love and how even in the most insane circumstance, love can be a beacon of light and hope as well as a great teacher.

AJ: You published this book yourself. What led you to this decision?

Numerous things led to me decision, not the least of which was creative control. The book is also placed in a BISAC category of Mystery/Suspense-Political Thriller and not Fiction/Literature-Gay-Lesbian. My desire to mainstream the story as much as possible was also a major factor in my decision not to submit a manuscript to a LGBT press. There is a need for LGBT presses and publishing. I also believe that there is a need to mainstream models; representations of marginalized groups in mainstream media. Intersection will appeal mainly to a female audience and a lesbian audience. However, if even a few people discover it in Political Thrillers and decide to take the journey; if those individuals find SOMETHING in Alex and Cassidy’s journey that resonates with them, then for me I have accomplished something. While art reflects life, art also informs life. Growing up with few models that represented ME, I think we need to press into mainstream media more. Why can’t a straight person take a journey with lesbian and gay characters and fall in love the same way so many of us have taken journeys with heterosexual characters and fallen in love? I have a friend who bought the book and is straight and struggled a bit at first. She is quite conservative, actually. Part way through she emailed me and said, “They are no different.” For me, as a creator, that matters.

AJ: If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

Every single time I read it I find SOMETHING I would tweak. I might consider re-tooling the cliffhanger ending and opening the next book that way instead. I MIGHT. I think you can drive yourself crazy with second guessing your creative decisions though.

Intersection was edited by numerous people, several of whom have backgrounds in teaching and even editing and STILL it had some errors. I opted for a PDF proof, which I would still do. However, I will time the next project better and be certain that I have the hard copy in hand as well before I approve it going to print. There are LOTS of lessons I have learned. That is how I am trying to approach this whole adventure. It’s a lesson in everything from writing and publishing to living life.

AJ: Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

It’s collaborative. I think that every writer needs proofreaders. I am so close to the story that I miss things. Also, your mind compensates for grammatical errors, particularly if you are engaged in the content. Even with multiple sets of eyes, Intersection was not PERFECT grammatically. Sometimes errors can even occur in the editing process. At the end of the day, you utilize the best partners and resources you can find and learn from each experience and mistake. I could never do it all myself.

AJ: If you had the book edited, who did the job and how did you select him/her?

I had several friends assist with editing. One is an English teacher and another an editor by trade. For me, I selected people that I knew were proficient in grammar and that I trusted.

AJ: I love the cover on your book. Who designed your book cover? Tell us about the cover and how it came to be.

Thanks! I love the cover too. Actually, the cover was designed by a graphic artist at CreateSpace, the Amazon publishing company that I utilized. I was very fortunate that the designer on my creative team was excited about the book. She had read the marketing copy and loves political thrillers. I am certain that her excitement over designing the cover was an advantage. We had a consultation and I explained what I wanted overall. I wanted the US Capitol on the cover. I wanted a dusk or dawn type image. I wanted indigo, blues or purples, and I covered the elements of the story that were most important to me. She came up with two very different options. The one I chose I love. It has all the elements I sought. It’s bright, but still taken as evening is setting. The title runs through target cross hairs and where it intersects it becomes two dimensional by adding black to the white font. It also has the capitol reflecting in the pool. All of these are intersections. That is exactly what I wanted conveyed. There really is no such thing as the intersection of two things. Any time two lives, or two circumstances intersect, it sets in motion countless others to collide. At the same time it introduces the political elements of the story. I was thrilled with the cover. It engaged me!

AJ: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Without question. I worked on the retail side of books for quite a few years and I can tell you that covers matter. The large publishing houses invest a great deal in cover art and the large brick and mortar retailers often have input. Years ago I did an event with Ann Beattie. Her collection of short stories, Follies was about to be released in paperback. The hardcover depicted a fawn. That played into the stories inside. The paperback has a dog. Why? Because the major book retailer had input and dogs and puppies test market better than deer. So, in order to commit to purchasing a certain number of copies, the retailer pressed the publisher for a dog on the cover. Covers matter. Unless you are a MAJOR author and people are anticipating your next book, I think a cover is crucial. In the arts, people can get a bit pretentious about marketing. A book cover is the first level of engagement MOST readers have with your work. If it captures their attention they will move to the description of the story on the back. Those two elements matter.

AJ: What is your favorite line from the book and why?

I don’t know if I have one favorite line in the book and that is the truth. There are so many different moments and a large cast of characters. There is a scene where Alex explains to Dylan, Cassidy’s six year old son, why carrying a gun does not make her a hero. That is one. It deals squarely with the idea of what makes a person a hero. Another is this one:

“Alex, you can protect me from the bad guys all you want and I welcome it, but you can’t protect me from everything. You are not Batman. Even Bruce Wayne had pain, needed comfort,” she chuckled. “He had Alfred. You don’t always have to be the caped crusader. I love you just as much as an English butler,” Cassidy smiled.

Cassidy has a pet name for Alex, Alfred (the butler from Batman). I love this moment because Cassidy truly does unmask Alex. Again, it is about who we really are. The masks we wear can be both to protect ourselves as well as to assume a different identity. It’s why Batman is referenced in the story.

I also love many of the light moments of banter between characters. One of the things I am the most proud of are the contrasts in the story. It’s so much FUN to write all of these characters. Every minute is an adventure that they take me on.

AJ: What is the toughest criticism you've had as an author and the best compliment?

The majority of criticism has been regarding two things. The first is the cliffhanger ending. The other is that some people feel Alex and Cassidy say “I love you” too much. That is just who they are. I had one review that called Alex juvenile. Criticism is a reality. Not everyone will love Alex and Cassidy of their journey. Some people drink coffee, some tea and some only like water. I try to remember that.

The greatest compliment? The greatest compliments are when people post Batman references or tacos on my Facebook page because they remind them of Alex and Cassidy. There isn’t one specific one. The knowledge that some people have truly fallen in love with this crazy cast of characters just fills me in a way I cannot describe. I love writing them so much. It brings me such joy to travel with them. The knowledge that someone else is enjoying that journey is priceless.

AJ: Are you a 'Country Mouse' or 'City Mouse?'

Both. I love the country and I love the city. I find the older that I get the more I just want to experience everything and the more I appreciate the need for contrasts in life. Ideally, I would have a house on a lake to retreat to and the time and resources to travel to LA, New York, London and Paris, etc. There is something to be learned and experienced in all of it. I think, for me, as long as I can do what I love which is create and as long as I am surrounded by people I love, I can be anywhere.

AJ: You’ve had a number of different jobs. What was the strangest job you’ve ever had?

Strangest? This is a PG-13 forum, right? Well, when I was in college the FIRST time I actually worked in a VIDEO HUT. That was in the days of VHS and the video store I worked for opened a drive thru rental “video hut”. I remember FREEZING in that little space with an electric heater at my feet and attempting to find space to do my homework. (That was before laptops)! That “video hut” is now an ATM. That was strange.

AJ: Tell us about your career as a stand up comedian.

I did stand-up and improvisational comedy in my late teens and again in my twenties. It was an interesting and fun experience. I’m not sure what to say. I enjoyed the improvisational comedy the most. It is collaborative and it’s so much fun to work with other actors and comedians, at least for me. The spontaneity of it all; not knowing where someone else will head with a prompt you are given. Stand-up is different. It’s a giant monologue. In the nineties I did do a stand-up type show that had three characters. Really, more of a show though. Lily was a southern housewife who banked money by providing phone sex to try and get to LA. Maggie was an Irish barmaid and Harley was a tough talking lesbian. Sometimes I miss it, being on stage. But, I enjoy creating the characters more than I do playing them, so writing and directing are really where I have found I gravitate.

AJ: Deserted island…one book, movie, and person. Name them.

OH NO. One? Book: I Don’t Believe in Atheists by Chris Hedges. Not a light read, not fiction but it has deep meaning for me. (if you want fiction, well…Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café). ONE movie? Crazy as it sounds…Outrageous Fortune with Bette Midler and Shelley Long. I could watch that a million times and never stop laughing. Person? My wife. If you mean a famous person…well, Brendan O’Carroll from Mrs. Brown’s Boys. I think I would need all the laughter I could get on a deserted island and that man is HYSTERICAL.

AJ: Currently, do you write full time, or do you have a day job? If you have a day job, what do you do?

I have a part-time job merchandising for a company called Gourmet Garden. I make my own schedule. It was a huge decision to step back and work part-time so that I could devote my time to writing and creating. I hope in the future to transition to full-time writing.

AJ: Cup half full or half empty?

In honesty, I think we all have days when we feel one way or the other. Most days I see my cup as overflowing, and that is the truth.

AJ: If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

As I said, I would mull over the cliffhanger, though I doubt I would change it. I learned a great deal this time out. I would be certain to time things better with the release of the eBook in particular. I would make certain to review both the PDF and hard copy proof before releasing the book. Those were my biggest lessons, I think.

AJ: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There is a lot of diversity in the tone of the story. I love writing the “bad guys”, Carl Fisher and Claire Brackett. They are so very different from me and it is so much fun immersing myself in them. The way they see the world, the way they feel when they interact with others. Writing Carl Fisher, who is a psychopathic stalker actually gave me goose bumps. I loved writing him though. I also love the banter. That is the comedian in me. I love the quips between Alex and Cassidy and their playfulness. That’s the best part of writing these stories, the diversity in it.

AJ: How did you come up with the title?

Intersection is about the intersection of all of these people’s lives. There is also an event that occurs at an intersection part way through the book and an event that occurs at an intersection in Alex’s past. The title is meant to reflect the idea that we are all connected and two people coming together never stops there. Alex has a piece of dialogue in the book, “There are no coincidences, Taylor. Wherever four corners meet…they meet for a reason.” That’s where the title came from.

AJ: Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?

I have SO many questions! What is the most gratifying part of writing for you? What do you find the most exhilarating and the most draining in the process?

AJ: Ha…most gratifying for me is the interaction with the readers. I love getting letters and notes from the people who have read my work. I’ve actually made friendships from all over the world through my books. I’ll never forget my first ‘fan’ letter from a reader who told me woke up early and drove to work where she parked in the parking lot to finish my book before work. The fact that she was so invested in learning how the story ended was so rewarding to me. The most draining part…editing. Enough said!

AJ: Are there any questions you wish I’d asked you?

No, but I am happy to answer almost anything. Glad you didn’t ask me my favorite character, because I can’t choose ONE.

AJ: Thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful responses to my questions. I look forward to your next book.

Contact Information:

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© JEN 2014