Brooke Fossey is this week’s Meet a Mom! This Dallas mom of four is the author of the new book The Big Finish, a funny novel about an unlikely friendship between a senior citizen and a young woman who crawls into his Assisted Living center room window. Her literary debut is already garnering praise from critics; we spoke to Brooke about her work, her background as an aerospace engineer (really!) and more.
First of all…you were an aerospace engineer. Why did you decide to pivot to writing?
I quit engineering to stay home after I had four kids in five years, and while I was happy with my decision, I was also slowly going insane with all that baby talk. I began writing on a whim during their nap time for sanity, and it snowballed from there. In no time, I’d found a writing critique group, committed to freelance work, and set about getting published. Almost a decade later, and here we are.
Amazing! Okay, so four kids in five years…how old are they now?
I have an 8th grader, a 7th grader, a 5th grader and a 3rd grader in this order: girl, boy, girl boy. Yes, we occasionally have traffic jams on the stairwell and yes, we run out of hot water every night.
Ha! When do you find time to work?
You know, I’m lucky because I work from home, and a lot of working moms don’t have that luxury. It allows me to have a flexible schedule, but it also requires me to be flexible—always. Sometimes the work gets done during the school day, sometimes late at night. During the summertime (and quarantine apparently), when everyone is home, I have to cobble the time together in fifteen minute increments. So this is my strategy: Roll with the punches and keep on trucking.
This book is such a wonderful concept of family coming together in a hilarious but life affirming way. How did you come up with the idea?
I came up with the idea for THE BIG FINISH while visiting my grandpa at his assisted living home with all of my children in tow. My kids would bring such joy and chaos to the home, so I decided to wrap them all up in the character of Josie, let her stay a while, and see what happens. Once I paired her with good ol’ Duffy, who was inspired by my Grandpa, the story took off.
Why do you think there aren’t more seniors visible in these kind of plots in books, TV, movies…?
I think society has a tendency to lean into sexy storylines, and getting old is definitely not that. But there is a very specific beauty that comes with age that none of us can deny (because we’d ultimately be denying our future selves), so yes, I think times are changing.
You were just featured as one of People magazine’s Best New Books! Congrats – were you surprised?
When my husband brought home the magazine, I’d just taken a break from homeschooling, I was still in my pajamas, and I was in the middle of eating a microwave Indian lunch that my youngest proclaimed looked like baby food and smelled even worse. How’s that for keeping it real? But, obviously being in People magazine is beyond anything I imagined when I started this journey, so it’s a thrill. If you happen to pick up a copy, please think of me as that very put-together woman in the photo.
What advice do you have to other moms who have written in previous lives and are considering writing a novel?
Do it! There are a lot of people who always talk about writing, but they never actually put pen to paper. That’s all it takes. Don’t overthink it. Give yourself permission to sit in a room and make things up.
And what advice do you have to moms who love their careers, but they just aren’t working for them right now, as moms?
This is a constant struggle, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. My only advise is that you recognize your value in the workplace, because that will give you the courage necessary to find a better balance. If you love what you do, that means you’re good at it, it means you’re marketable, it means that any employer would be lucky to have you. Leverage that to find your center.
What are some of your favorite recent quarantine reads? And/or favorite female authors?
I can never go wrong with Tana French or Anne Patchett, and really enjoy memoirs from funny, creative ladies (i.e. Mindy Kaling or Amy Poehler). Sadly, during quarantine, my reading has taken a hit. I’ve been unexpectedly homeschooling, launching a book, and writing my next novel. I do have In Cold Blood by Truman Capote on my nightstand. Follow me on Goodreads to see what’s next.
Do your kids love to read and write? How do you encourage that?
All of my kids LOVE to read, and my only trick has been to take them to the library on a regular basis and let them pick out whatever they want (within reason). That’s all. I’ve never been a big bed-time story mom, so hopefully that relieves anyone out there who simply can’t manage it at the end of the day (like me!). Surround them with books they want, give them some quiet time in their room in the evenings, and I promise they will eventually get bored enough to read.
During these stay-at-home times, what are some of your favorite activities to do with your kids?
We’ve gone on a lot of bike rides, walks and hikes. We’ve instituted a “family show” after dinner, which my husband and I get to pick. They complain a bit about our old fuddy-duddy choices, but by the end, we have them hooked.