Sunny and Dana, Heroines of Shirley Goldberg’s Books, Talk About Writing

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Shirley Goldberg. Today, Shirley shares an entertaining chat with the heroines of her novels, Middle Ageish and Eat Your Heart Out.

Here’s Shirley!

When Joanne asked me to guest post, I invited two of my main characters to join me. Living through the writing process with me hadn’t been easy.

They didn’t seem all that eager.

“What’s the problem?” I’d been wrestling with words all day and didn’t welcome moodiness from my imaginary beings.

“Isn’t this a tad weird?” Sunny’s voice was taut with attitude.

“Weird? How?” Dana asked.

“We’re characters in books and we’re chatting as if we’re real people.”

“Not so odd.” Dana scratched a mosquito bite. “We’re friends in the books.” “Florida was great, by the way. Except for the bugs,” she added.

“Don’t say anything about who you went with on vacation,” Sunny said. “We don’t want any spoilers.” She gave Dana a stern look. “I guess we should introduce ourselves. I’m Sunny Chanel, the main character in Middle Ageish, Shirley’s first novel.

“I’m Dana, Sunny’s BFF in her book.”

“You have your own book now, though. How do you feel about that?”

“You sound like my therapist.”

“The two of you bicker inside my head all day long,” I interrupted. “It’s unnerving.”

“I’m the one with a therapist, not you.” Sunny stepped around me to confront Dana.

“Hey, no spoilers. Not everyone has read Middle Ageish.”

“Sorry.” Sunny looked embarrassed. “Aren’t we supposed to be introducing Shirley?”

“You start.” Dana gestured with her chin. “Give the readers a heads-up about her background. Why she wrote the book.”

“I’ve always wondered myself.” Sunny looked at me. “You did a lot of online dating and took notes in the ladies room, didn’t you? When you were on a meet.”

“I’ll admit it.” I put my hands up in surrender. My dirty little secret was out. At least they weren’t bickering.

“So let me get this straight. You’re on a date. You excuse yourself to go to the restroom. And take notes in the toilet stall? Seriously?”

“Pretty much,” I said.

“It’s true,” Sunny said. “You wouldn’t believe how many guys I had to do the old meet-and-greet with to keep the story moving forward. Shirley planned it all in the restroom.” She gave a little sneer. “How romantic.”

“I don’t write books in the toilet,” I protested. “Notes. I took a few notes.

“We’ve all heard the advice writers get.” Sunny fixed me with a look that said I wasn’t getting away with anything. “Write about what you know.”

“I’ve heard that,” Dana said. “We’re getting off track here. The book is about starting over. Not so easy when you’re a little older. Shirley knows because she started over. She was living in Crete, teaching English. She and her husband ended their marriage.

“Right, sorry about my tirade,” Sunny said. “Shirley moved back to Connecticut and started over.

“We met when you moved from Paris to New Haven and enrolled in the grad program.” Dana crossed her legs and scratched her mosquito bites again. “Just like Shirley.”
“Are you saying the book is autobiographical?” Dana asked Sunny.

“Ask Shirley,” Sunny said. “I think all writing is somewhat autobiographical.”

“My marriage was circling the drain.” No point in denying the similarities in the book to my own life. “Look, relationships aren’t easy. It’s a wonder two people come together, much less stay together.”

“So in Middle Ageish, I issue the dating challenge that starts the ball rolling,” Sunny said.

“I made up that dating contest,” I said.

“Yeah, probably after three glasses of wine.” Sunny looked around the living room. “I could use a glass of wine.”

“Hey.” Dana poked Sunny in the arm. “We’re guests here.”

Sunny gave Dana a look. “Shirley forced me to date. A lot. And broke my heart.”

“No spoilers!” I’d had it up to my eyelashes with my characters. Especially Sunny.

“Dana, you’re the heroine in Eat Your Heart Out. Can you say a little something about––”

“Friendship,” said Dana. “Women. Men. Two foodies. We sauté together, banter, and dance around each other. No spoilers here.”

“Shirley said she writes to make readers laugh,” said Sunny.

They exchanged a knowing look.

“Amen to that, wouldn’t you say?” Dana put a hand on her hip and executed a little salsa move.

The three of us burst out giggling.

Two foodies, Dana and Alex, banter, sauté and tiptoe around each other. Except for the occasional smooch. What’s with that? They’re not ready to go from friends to lovers. Will practice make perfect?

Blurb for Eat Your Heart Out

When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Time for the BFF advice squad, starting with Dana’s staunchest ally, Alex—hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire. But when the after-hours smooching goes nowhere, she wonders why this grown man won’t make up his mind.

Alex Bethany’s new lifestyle gives him the confidence to try online dating. What he craves is a family of his own until a life-altering surprise rocks his world. He knows he’s sending Dana mixed messages. Alex panics when he thinks he’s blown his chance with his special person. From appetizers to the main course will these two cooking buddies make it to dessert?

Funny and bittersweet, Dana and Alex’s story will have you rooting for them.

Excerpt from Eat Your Heart Out

“However things play out, I want to tell you something.” Alex took both my hands now between his. “Getting to know you, your sense of humor, compassion for the students—corny, I know, I’m a corny guy—has been such a pleasure.” His voice like hot fudge, sincerity emanating in waves. “But I’m not lying to myself.” He turned toward me, a loaded grin transforming his expression.

My defenses faded, replaced by the kind of warmth you feel when a specific compliment comes from a specific, uh, person.

“I’m not saying you would date me, Dana,” he said, ducking his head as if the boldness of the statement surprised even Alex himself. “Date me, Dana,” he repeated. “It has a ring,” he said and laughed. “But I certainly have a bigger chance now, don’t I? Than that much, much bigger guy I used to be.”

My mouth hung open as I groped for a clever retort. Where the hell was my repartee when I needed it?

“Relax,” he said. “I’m sorta messin’ with ya. Thank God you’ll never know what it’s like to be as large as two and a half men.” He sat back, hugged his arms to his chest and rocked once, twice.

Sure. Letting me off the hook, saying he was messing with me. His way of letting himself off the hook, too? Date me, Dana. Date. That word had a way of popping up every once in a while between us.

And what did he mean by however things play out? His comment repeated on me, like too-spicy sauerkraut. What was playing out? We weren’t dating. Did he think this spontaneous dinner was a date? Impossible. More like he was back-pedaling, resending those mixed messages.

His hand slid over mine. “I want to make you happy, enjoy the moment. You’re my friend, my good friend.” A little half smile.

I knew his problem. He still couldn’t make up his mind. Normal under the circumstances. With such a huge lifestyle change, it was no wonder he was confused and overwhelmed. Overwhelmed? That was putting it mildly. For starters, a son he never knew he had. And the women, dozens probably. He needs an excel sheet to sort them out. Because he’s online, isn’t he? He’d be a fool not to be.

Alex leaned forward, his elbows on the table. “I don’t know if I should ask you this. Hell, I’ll just spit it out. How’s the dating thing going? Are you in extreme like? Or has it gone over to the smitten side?”

How could I answer that one? I suspected Alex was the smitten one, although he’d said very little about Honey, the woman he was dating, other than she’d had some tough relationships, a problematic mother, and they were having fun, he and Honey. Honey. The name felt thick and sweet. He has to be kissing her. And more. A man didn’t date someone for weeks, or months without…that meant he was kissing us both. And doing one of us.

My so-called date date date date at Union League? I wasn’t his first choice. But those kisses. When he kissed me…those slow, meandering kisses… My mind floated, imagining what it would be like to—


“Yes?” I let more wine slide down my throat, leaned toward him pointing a finger. “You have a nice mouth. Do you know that?”

Buy/Read Links

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About the Author

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website offers a humorous look at living single and dating in midlife. Shirley is the author of two rom coms. Eat Your Heart Out and Middle Ageish, both in the series Starting Over. Shirley’s friends nag her to tell them which stories are true in her novels. Her characters believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.

“Started very different and very interesting. Was a great book watched the relationship grow from the beginning. I fell in love with this book and didn’t want to stop reading.” Goodreads Review

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Turning Experience Into a Belly Laugh

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Wild Rose Press author Shirley Goldberg sharing her inspiring reinvention story and new release, Middle Ageish.

Here’s Shirley!

Thank you, Joanne, for having me on your blog. It’s always fun to talk to readers.

So why a book about a woman who starts over, moves from Paris, France to New Haven, CT, goes back to school, and online dates?

Well, I sort of did the same thing. I’d been living in Greece for eleven years and my marriage was failing.

What triggered my decision was a mundane exchange between me and my husband one evening over what was the plan for dinner. And it was in the middle of that conversation that I realized I no longer wanted to be married. A realization that had been coming for a long time.

I moved back to Connecticut to start over, went back to school and started dating.

While writing the book––and talking about my characters as if they were friends––my real friends asked questions. By this time, they were familiar with the book’s heroine, Sunny Chanel, who was online dating. Over happy hour appetizers and wine, they’d pepper me for answers. “How much is autobiographical?” “Was that a true story about the 300-pound man Sunny dated?” “Did you really go on six meets in one week?”

Sure, there’s a bit of me in Middle Ageish, because making fiction and turning experience into a belly laugh is much more fun than humans should have. And I’m having the time of my life, pumping my checkered past for “copy” as Nora Ephron (or was it her mother?) called everything that was story material.

Starting over is a real thing. It resonates with happily married women because they have no idea about how tough online dating can be. And they’re fascinated and glad they aren’t dating. Divorced women, on the other hand, are intimated by the pitfalls and stories they’ve heard.

Lucky for them I’ve got a website chock full of tips and suggestions for anyone started over. There are articles for men, too, such as how to entice a woman to email him back, written with Peter, a friend of mine who’s been around the dating block a few times. These days he’s distance dating, so I’m planning on interviewing him now that the world of online dating has shifted.

Thinking about venturing out there? When it comes to online dating, remember that nothing counts until you meet. Emailing and zooming aren’t dating, but they’re a good start.

You’re never too old to start new.


Tagline: Don’t leave home without your sense of humor.

Sunny Chanel’s marriage is circling the drain when her husband marks his colonoscopy on the calendar and ignores their anniversary. With divorce papers instead of roses on the horizon, she says “au revoir” Paris and croissants, and “hello” cheap New Haven apartment and ramen noodles.

Encouraged by her friends, Sunny jumps into online dating, twenty-three years and twenty pounds after her last date. To her surprise she discovers dating might require a helmet, and occasionally armor to protect her heart, but after years of being ignored, her adventurous side craves fun and conversation. She’s middle-aged not dead. Then suddenly, on the way to reinventing herself, life takes a left turn when the one man she can’t forget calls with an unexpected request.

Excerpt from Middle Ageish

“Last night was number nine,” I said, en route to a job interview. In the car, I shared recent experiences with my best friend Isabel while she kept me company on the phone. School was out, and I’d caught her prepping in her classroom.

“You’ve reduced your meets to numbers?”

“What’s the point in names? I’m not seeing any of these guys again, and you just get confused.” I pulled into the Waffle Cone parking lot and unhooked my seat belt.

“True. But you’re turning into a cynic.”

“As soon as I find my someone special, I’ll tell you his name.”

“Sounds good. So what about your number nine?” Isabel had met her guy online.

“We traded tales from the trenches and he—”

“Trenches?” Her voice rose. “What trenches?”

“Dating trenches, what other kinds of trenches do you think?” Isabel is way too sheltered. “He met eight women, all in one day. In a coffee shop in Hartford. Two coffee shops. Back to back appointments.”

“You are joking.” She cackled, not a pleasant sound.

“He ran from one coffee shop to the other. Had it all timed—half an hour in one coffee shop, and then he’d run a block to the second, and so forth.”

“People do these things?” Isabel asked. She’s lost touch, been with Roberto far too long.

“Oh, lots of weird behavior. I thought it was bold. In fact, I can’t believe what some guys tell me. And do. Like this guy––” I opened the car door, drooling for a vanilla cone with sprinkles.

“Don’t tell me,” she snorted. “I don’t want to know.”

“This other guy has no boundaries and he––”

She hung up.

Oh well. I slid out of the car. Isabel didn’t have a clue about my secret online dating life.

Buy/Read Links

Amazon | Apple | Nook/Barnes and Noble | Google | Kobo | Goodreads | BookBub

About the Author

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website offers a humorous look at living single and dating in mid life, and her friends like to guess which stories are true. Middle Ageish is her first book in the series Starting Over. Her character believes you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.

Visit my website for another excerpt from the book. Sign up and grab a copy of Happy Hour, a short story about an online meet and a tiny misunderstanding.

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