Shelley Freydont AKA Shelley Noble is the New York Times bestselling author of women’s fiction novels, Beach Colors, Stargazey Point, Breakwater Bay, Whisper Beach, and Lucky’s Beach to name a few. She is a former professional dancer and choreographer and most recently worked on the films, Mona Lisa Smile and The Game Plan.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in a small town in Georgia,. As kids, we walked to and from school. PE was half an hour of playground time, where we chased each other, maybe played basketball on the dirt courts, made houses with pine straw walls in the shade of a tree. It was a simpler life. Some of us went after school lessons like music, dance, and art. There were no organized sports. After school, you’d tag up to play softball, boys, and girls together. In the summers we roamed the neighborhood, exploring the local crick or spying on the new neighbors.
There were no cell phones or internet, not everyone had a television. If you wanted to talk to your friends, you would walk down the sidewalk or yell across the street until someone came out to see what you wanted.
We made up stories that we acted out, sometimes continuing a story for days or weeks. When someone got tired of a role or didn’t show up, we would change parts and keep going, a resilient group of imaginers. Sometimes we’d put on plays and corral the adults to come and watch.
Among that naivety ran darker undercurrents in our families and our community, most of which we didn’t really understand. But the unique combination of light and dark certainly shaped our view of the world and the stories I write.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That every moment holds the seed of something special. It may be large or small, or just momentarily enlightening, but if you’re always waiting for the next big thing, you’re likely to miss the small important ones.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Write what you know. That used to be the “big” piece of writing advice. If we stuck with what we knew, we’d be very limited in our story material. Fortunately someone I don’t remember who, but bless them, said, Write what you want to know.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I think the darkest moments of my life were when the AIDS epidemic swept through New York. I was working as a professional dancer and it seemed overnight my friends and dance partners became sick and inevitably died. We were all frightened and mourning and not understanding what was happening and why it was happening to the people we knew and trusted and loved.
And it didn’t stop but went on and on taking those we held dear.
We dreaded who would be taken next, not wanting to pick up the phone, afraid to hear what might be said at the other end of the line. That will live with us forever and taught us that life is hard, it isn’t fair, and we should do our best for everyone regardless.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
For me, success and sustaining that success is dependent on resilience, being willing to reinvent yourself, and staying open to new ideas while using everything you encounter as raw material for living and for creativity.
What is your morning routine?
I usually wake around six, shower, and change into my work clothes, black yoga pants, and a tee-shirt. Perhaps an odd choice for sitting at a desk all morning, but like the black-clad scenery movers on the stage, I try to develop a sense of dressing the part of the unseen stage manager, moving my fictional characters and setting without interjecting myself into the story. I take my coffee into my office which happens to be next to the kitchen, an easy commune.
I sort through my emails, deleting the majority, and noting which ones will need to be answered immediately, and which can wait. I seem to need to get the “housekeeping” part of work out of the way before I can concentrate completely on the writing work.
I like to have a solid four-hour block of writing time, only interrupted by obligatory interval walks for circulation, lunch, a trip to the gym, then answering emails, publicity or editing, or any of the other components of a writing career.
It’s important for me, and most writers I think, to write consistently, habitually, keeping the creativity well primed.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Working consistently and being generous. A constant battle in trying to find enough non-writing time, which is very important.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
It’s important for me, and most writers I think, to write consistently and single-mindedly, then being just as serious about free –from-writing time in order to keep the creativity well primed.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Of all the books that have had an impact on me, I find myself returning to the I Ching by Taoist Master Alfred Huang over and over again. There have been books that influenced different periods of my life, certainly, books that influenced my writing, But one particular? I was in a quandary when I remembered my grandmother in the kitchen opening her much-loved copy of Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. Now it may seem like an odd choice to pick from the world’s great literature, but remembering those mornings in her old kitchen with the linoleum floor cool beneath bare feet, she taught me to combine the simplest ingredients into a delicious, sustaining meal. And isn’t that what life is about, taking the simplest parts of ourselves and transforming them into a great whole, good for ourselves and for others.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Quite a few, some merely for their guiding spirit. And others that lift and inspire. But when the going gets tough, and I’m feeling stymied or just really stressed out, I go to my favorite American philosopher, Burl Ives, when he sang. “As you go through life, Make this your goal, Watch the donut, not the hole.” I can’t sing that without ending with a smile and getting a new boost of “Yeah, you can do this.” I highly recommend it.