Marlena and her father: Nothing Bad Between Us
Author Interview – Marlena Fiol
In this blog series, I interview other authors. Here I interview Marlena Fiol, author of Nothing Bad Between Us: A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness (Mango 2020.) I met Marlena earlier this year when she generously invited me to be on her podcast. Our deep conversation there, as well as our weekly interaction on Mango Publishing’s weekly Heart Wisdom panel, led me to want to interview her so you could all get to know her too. I hope you’ll enjoy her depth and wisdom as much as I do.
Nita Sweeney (NS): When and how did your writing journey begin?
Marlena Fiol (MF): My writing journey began as a business management scholar, consultant and professor almost forty years ago. Most of my body of published books and articles explored why and how people/organizations form and transform their understanding of who they are and who they can become.
When I retired from my business career five years ago, I began journaling as a way to uncover previously hidden, recurring patterns in my life. I gradually began to understand that vulnerably facing my many failings and flaws was the surest path to personal healing and growth. I published a number of those journal entries as essays. My readers asked me to share more of my journey, which led me to the writing I do today.
NS: Why do you write? What motivates you?
MF: I consider every blog, essay, book and workshop an opportunity to learn more about my own transformational journey, as well as an occasion to share my insights with others. I find great joy in the outpouring of others’ similar life stories. My firm belief is that we all want to be heard and understood.
NS: Plotter or pantser?
MF: Both. After my brain gives me an idea for a scene, I invite the brain chatter to be still while I write.
NS: What’s your biggest writing struggle and how do you handle it?
MF: My biggest struggle in writing Nothing Bad Between Us was battling my fear of exposing myself so vulnerably to my readers. I try to handle it by reminding myself that vulnerability is an invitation to healing for myself and others.
NS: What is one thing about writing you wish you’d learned earlier?
MF: That a very imperfect first draft is a worthy target.
NS: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?
MF: I must be very fortunate. I cannot think of any bad advice I’ve received. I’ve learned from many fine teachers.
NS: Do you write by hand or on a computer?
MF: Computer. My fingers on a keyboard move in a faster flow than paper and pencil.
NS: What are you currently reading?
MF: I find myself reading less for pleasure and more for learning. Currently, I’m re-reading Roots in order to better understand how Alex Haley presented Kunta Kinte. Kunta is not a particularly likable character, and yet the reader cares what happens to him and has compassion for him, even when he is stiff and non-communicative with those who love him most. Haley does this so skillfully!
NS: Is there a book you couldn’t finish? Why?
MF: Many. Usually because I get bored when there are too many descriptive details.
NS: What book couldn’t you put down?
MF: Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.
NS: What advice would you give writers starting out?
MF: When writing for yourself, just write without thinking about why you’re writing; when writing for others, know why and for whom you’re writing before you begin.
NS: Some writers struggle with the emotional side of writing. Do you have any tips for them?
MF: If you have something important to say, write anyway.
NS: What would you like readers to know about your most recent writing project?
MF: My husband/co-author Ed O’Connor and I have nearly finished the first draft of a historical saga. It’s an exciting project, and I cannot wait to edit, edit, edit, and then publish it.
NS: Has your writing life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?
MF: I never expected to write creative fiction and nonfiction.
NS: What’s next for you writing wise?
MF: Ed O’Connor and I have a book in mind about passionate aging.
NS: Mermaids or Goddesses?
NS: Toast or bagels?
NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?
NS: Leggings or jeans?
NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?
ABOUT MARLENA FIOL
As a consultant and professor of strategic management, Marlena Fiol, PhD, guided her students and clients in coming to know themselves deeply, visualizing their dreams and identifying and removing the barriers to achieve them. Over half of her 85 published articles and books relate to identity and identity change. Her work has been cited over 20,000 times.
Today, as a blogger, essayist, novelist and memoirist, Fiol is still engaged in a similar mission. Every blog, essay, book or workshop provides an opportunity to explore who we are and what’s possible in our lives. Her new book Nothing Bad Between Us: A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness (Mango Publishing, 2020) is a vulnerable and inspirational tale of personal transformation. She was raised in Paraguay on a leprosy station, and today lives with her husband in Eugene, Oregon.