Interview with Shirley Alarie

What is the theme of your latest book - Hope in the Hood?
My latest book is being launched on April 29, 2017 and is part of my 'Lemons to Lemonade' Series. 'Hope in the Hood' is an inspiring true story about Colleen Adams and her improbable dream to help inner city young men who were on the wrong path, to have a chance for a better life.
What surprised you most during this project?
I grew up in an average middle class neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, so I felt I had some idea of the plight of these inner city youth from Miami. I had African-American friends, I was the minority at one of my schools, and my neighborhood gradually morphed from white to black, so I felt somewhat knowledgeable about this topic. I had the idea that we all have choices in life and if we just make the right choices, then we have the chance to have a decent future.

This project reminded me that you don't have any idea what's going on behind people's front door. When I heard and saw the disparity of what these young men have and what I had in my childhood - even though I hadn't had much - it made me realize that if I'd grown up in their shoes, I probably would have ended up on the same wrong path that they did.

When I watch the news and see violence and crime, I can now understand there is more behind the person than them just being criminals.

The empathy and great fondness I had for the youth in a very short time surprised me.
What inspired you most about this project?
Colleen Adams inspired me, for one thing! But the main inspiration was how the young men ate up the attention and affection they were getting through the Empowered Youth program and how many of them really wanted to change for the better, but just didn't have a real chance. When they are offered the tools to a brighter life through Empowered Youth, the great majority take it. They want it. They want to be on the right path. They want to earn money to help their families rather than stealing or selling drugs for it.

In summary, the young men and their resilient spirits inspired me the most.
What is your goal for this project?
First, I'm hoping I've told an interesting and engaging story that will affect readers in the same way the story affected me. On a personal level, this book is important to me because we're using it as a fundraiser for a culinary training center and cafe. The property is already secured and the architectural plans are drawn. Once the facility is complete, it will be used to train and employ 50 youth to help them find their way out of poverty and groom them for future careers. Today they are being trained in a church kitchen and their Vibe 305 food truck employs about 4 boys at any given event.
How have these projects affected you as a writer?
Before I met Colleen Adams, I said that I had never met another person like Shawn Jayroe (the heroine of A Healing Haven - Saving Horses and Humans at RVR Horse Rescue). Now I can say I've never met anyone else like Colleen or Shawn.

These women are true heroes in a sense that I can only compare to Mother Teresa, and I mean that with complete sincerity. Neither are perfect, but they have devoted their lives to their causes so wholeheartedly and at their own expense, both financially and emotionally, that is nothing short of amazing.

There are many good people doing good deeds in the world. But I think if you read these books you will agree that these two women take it to a level that is beyond comprehension for most people. They are truly angels on earth.

Their stories make me hopeful to uncover other gems whose inspiring stories I can help share with the world.
Where is Hope in the Hood available?
You can go to Amazon to learn more or pre-order the ebook at a reduced price. You can paste the following link or search directly within Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Hood-Poverty-Empowered-Lemonade-ebook/dp/B01N39GWT1

The softcover will be available on Amazon and ebooks will be available at other vendors as of April 29, 2017.

LIKE my 'Shirley Alarie Author' Facebook page or subscribe on my www.shirleyalarie.com website to be reminded about the launch!
What’s the story behind A Healing Haven?
When I began to explore possibilities for my next writing project, I was drawn to an “animal” theme. I pursued an opportunity to write about a small therapeutic horse ranch and was disappointed when the project fell through. However, a couple of months later, my husband was reading about my recently published breast cancer guide, The Road Paved in Pink, in a local newspaper insert. When he turned the page, he discovered another article featuring a heartwarming story about a horse rescue ranch.
“Where’s that?” I asked him. Neither of us had a clue. In the year since we’d moved into the neighborhood, we’d never heard of RVR Horse Rescue, but it was within five miles of our home in Riverview, Florida. The following week, this urban-girl showed up on the ranch to muck stalls and fill water buckets, all in the presence of majestic and beautiful thousand pound creatures – completely foreign and frightening to me. But it was the type of opportunity I had dreamt of since my childhood.

RVR Horse Rescue is a non-profit organization run by an army of volunteers. Their mission is to intervene, rescue, rehabilitate, and provide sanctuary for neglected, abused, abandoned, and traumatized horses. I quickly realized it was a legitimate and amazing haven of healing and approached Shawn Jayroe, the founder and owner, about her interest in writing her story. To my delight, she accepted immediately. Like so many others, Shawn had always intended to write her story, but hectic daily demands kept taking precedence.
What was your greatest surprise during this project?
I was first drawn to write the story because the aspect of good people helping animals back to life from the brink of death really touches my soul. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much the ailing horses actually healed the people helping them. It was utterly magical. The revelation that people were benefiting as much from the relationships as the horses were was a curveball from left field that I never saw coming.

The incredible stories selected for inclusion in “A Healing Haven – Saving Horses and Humans at RVR Horse Rescue” are only a small sampling and represent hundreds more love stories unfolding behind the gates of this incredible healing haven.
Where did the Lemons to Lemonade Series originate?
No story hooks me more than real-life adversity that first crushes me with hardship, then brings me to tears of joy at the remarkable outcome. After all, who doesn’t love a happy ending? I was pleased and humbled that readers felt inspired by my memoir, Losing the Girls, and the term “Lemons to Lemonade” popped into my mind and stuck. I had been trying to find a purpose for my writing - a platform that felt meaningful and could make a difference in people’s lives. The Lemons to Lemonade notion morphed into a plan to write a series of uplifting ‘troubles to triumph’ novels, called The Lemons to Lemonade series. I envisioned the stories serving inspiration to a world so filled with negativity. Losing the Girls was the first installment, then I went in search of another amazing story to tell.
What is your goal?
I’m not so naïve as to think I can change the world, but I believe that knowledge is power and through awareness, change is possible. In the business world, we said, “That which is measured is improved.” It’s the same idea for social issues. Once a person is aware of something, change becomes possible and even likely.

That sums up my goal. If I can bring awareness to social issues that plague our communities and our world, then change is possible. My objective is to serve meaningful stories in an engaging way, creating a positive reading experience and leaving the reader wanting more.

My favorite feedback to date of A Healing Haven is, “It was worth every tear.” This simple statement defines exactly what I am trying to accomplish.
How meaningful was this project for you?
I can say with complete honesty that this project changed my life. I knew as soon as I walked through the gates of the ranch that it was a special place. The hectic world of lofty materialistic goals, financial responsibilities, unrealistic deadlines, social media drama, and stories of violence invading our nation’s schools and neighborhoods dropped away as if I’d teleported to another planet. The serene and quiet beauty drew me into its enchanting spell.

This was the type of place and opportunity I had dreamed of during my harried days of life in the corporate manufacturing world, making plastic panels for various applications, such as windows. Big company politics, deadlines, back-stabbing, and turf guarding had sucked the life out of me, and I believe contributed in some way to my breast cancer diagnosis. Even though we joked that “It’s only plastic”, it was a dog-eat-dog world on a treadmill that kept gaining speed. I could never see a life beyond plastic. That is, until I walked through the gates of RVR. It suddenly brought the meaning and purpose I had been missing.

Beyond the peaceful environment itself and the beautiful animals, I fell in love with the people. RVR Horse Angels, a fitting description of the volunteers who work tirelessly to save the abused and neglected animals. People who volunteer around the clock to sit with a dying horse. People who do whatever it takes to do the right thing. People who work hard for a worthy cause, then kick back together in fellowship. It is like a huge family, including the normal drama and special characters, but still a family.
I could never have anticipated how my life would change when my husband handed me the newspaper and said, “Look at this article about a horse rescue ranch.”
What’s next?
I’m currently working hard to promote A Healing Haven, but this writing project was such a positive experience for me that I’m certain I want to continue on with the Lemons to Lemonade series. I’ve recently finalized the topic of the next installment – another one that’s near and dear to my heart.

At RVR Horse Rescue, we're also working on a children's book about our favorite ranch duo, Charity, the horse and Dominic, her donkey. The story will be a very basic introduction to animal advocacy and will hopefully touch the hearts of little ones.

Please ‘Like’ my Facebook page to stay tuned!
What's the story behind your memoir Losing the Girls?
I've always wanted to make a difference. My experience with breast cancer was an opportunity handed to me on a silver platter. My sister made a suggestion to write my story, but I didn't take it seriously. Why another cancer story? It didn't seem worthwhile. I put the idea aside until nearly 2 years after my recovery when I discovered that nipple-sparing mastectomy was still relatively unknown. A friend of mine had had a mastectomy and hadn't been told about this option, as her local hospital didn't offer it. A hospital that offered it was right in her city, but she didn't know it. I decided that I would do my part to raise awareness of this procedure. Writing this book, along with the accompanying websites, is my way of making a difference.
What additional resources do you offer your readers?
In addition to the books and website of NSM locations, I have recently created a video to reach a broader audience. The video will ensure that any woman who will have to make a decision about breast cancer surgery will be able to make a fully informed choice. A link can be found at my shirleyalarie.com website. I guarantee this video is a fresh and unique twist on the traditional breast cancer awareness training of "get your mammogram" and "do your breast self-exam"! This video has the potential to make a huge difference. I'd say it's definitely worth the 11 minutes!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhRnZVPodxY
What is the story behind The Road Paved in Pink?
The idea for "The Road Paved in Pink: A Practical and Personal Guide for Breast Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones" developed after the launch of my memoir "Losing the Girls". A very simple question from a reader planted the seed. She wanted to know how she could help her friend who was about to undergo breast cancer surgery. I gave her a simplified and general answer, but her question continued to bounce around in the back of my mind. Once the idea took hold and I started to write, I was unclear who the audience would be - the patient or the loved one. I ended up writing the booklet for both, because I believe the more the loved ones understand about the disease, the surgical options, and other nuances of this deadly beast, the better the loved one can support the patient in her time of need. I hope that the end result is a tool that helps many people navigate through a very challenging time.
What do your fans mean to you?
I'm in the process of developing my fan base! But those I have so far motivate me to keep writing and keep improving.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Having a reader say "I couldn't put it down" or "I stayed up all night reading" have given me the greatest joy. I want my story to touch people and make a difference and when I feel I've done that, it is a tremendous thrill and blessing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Traditional publishing is a wonderful option. After giving it a brief shot, I was more excited about getting my message to the world than clawing my way through the traditional publishing process. I felt people needed my information and there was no time to waste, so I made it happen - the indie way!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I consider every day a gift. I've learned first hand that life shouldn't be taken for granted and that inspires me to get out of bed each day.
Who are your favorite authors?
I read an eclectic variety of memoir, romance, detective, and religious books. I generally read more for the content than because of a particular author.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
The greatest blessing of my life is a wonderful husband and my free time is spent sharing life with him. We enjoy boating, biking, golfing, hanging out at the beach, travelling to new places, and visiting family and friends. We even enjoy reading together, although he doesn't like most of what I read!
Published 2017-04-01.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

A Healing Haven - Saving Horses and Humans at RVR Horse Rescue
Series: Lemons to Lemonade. Price: $3.49 USD. Words: 63,230. Language: English. Published: October 17, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Home and Garden » Pets & livestock, Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Animals
Discover the magical effect the beautiful equines of RVR Horse Rescue imprint on their caregivers, blurring the lines of who was saving whom. Enjoy the riveting saga of Shawn Jayroe and her Horse Angels who are tackling equine neglect and abuse one desperate animal at a time. A Healing Haven is an inspiring true story and a reminder that it is in giving that we receive life’s greatest blessings.
The Road Paved in Pink: A Practical and Personal Guide for Breast Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones
Series: Breast Cancer, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 12,570. Language: English. Published: July 30, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Cancer, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Reference
The Road Paved in Pink: A Practical and Personal Guide for Breast Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones will educate and support those reeling from a recent diagnosis. This booklet provides the comprehensive guidance needed to withstand the challenges ahead. The Road Paved in Pink is HELP and HOPE in a time of need.
Losing the Girls - My Journey Through Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy and Beyond
Series: Breast Cancer, Book 1 · Lemons to Lemonade. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 57,390. Language: English. Published: September 9, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Cancer
Delve into the breast cancer journey and beyond in Losing the Girls, a unique memoir differentiated by the author’s cutting-edge nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM)―a little-known breast cancer surgery technique that leaves the breast completely whole. Shirley Alarie shares her story to boost awareness of this specialized procedure so women facing mastectomies will know all of their options.