An In-Depth Interview with Nora Weirich, Author of Cliff House

Short Bio: Nora Weirich, a New Jersey resident, has been thriving as an elementary teacher’s aide since 2007. Embracing the joys of working with children and staff in her local school district, she cherishes the ample vacation time that comes with the role. Beyond her passion for education, Nora finds delight in expressing herself through writing.

Resilience, Romance, and Writing: An In-Depth Interview with Nora Weirich, Author of 'Cliff House'

1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be? 

 Creative, Patient, Witty 

2. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as a writer?  

I was diagnosed with Dyslexia with a Dyscalculia component when I was very young. Because of this I struggled with my reading, spelling, and math in school. As an adult I still struggle with math and spelling. Despite struggles in school my imagination was strong and even as a kid, I enjoyed coming up with stories. There was a time when a friend and I would take turns writing excerpts for stories of our own making. Even during the summers when I was away, we would mail our entries back and forth. As I got older my stories got more elaborate. Because of my Dyslexia, in school I didn’t have aptitude or desire to read, but writing was never an issue. Thankfully by the time I left high school I’d discovered the desire to read finally matched my desire to write. I have been coming up with stories and putting them to paper all my life, I just recently had the guts and opportunity to share one of them with the public. 

3. What inspired you to write “Cliff House,” and how did the idea for the story come about?

Honestly, it sounds cheesy, but I had a dream one night of a couple meeting for the first time on a beach in the middle of the winter. When I woke up, I remembered their conversation word for word. This went on for a few nights before I decided to write it down. I liked the idea of this women meeting her “love interest” and not realizing right way who he was. Also in my dream was the house, the house was a huge draw for me. Sitting there on the edge of a cliff with the ocean raging below her feet and a mountain at her back. I wanted to go into that house, truth be told I wanted that house.  

4. Madison Danaher is a complex character who has faced significant challenges. How did you approach developing her character, and what aspects of her personality do you find most compelling?  

Years ago, I had handwritten a scene with a woman sitting in court awaiting the verdict that could send her husband to jail for horrific acts against her. When the verdict went her way, she was granted a divorce. It was just a singular scene or snapshot if you will yet, I wondered what would happen to her afterwards. Later when I started Cliff House, I pulled out my old file of handwritten starts.  I came across the court scene and decided to see how this woman’s story would end. I knew that Madison was going to have a rough few years of young adult life. However, I wanted to show that just because she had a terrifying past it wasn’t going to stop her from becoming a very successful, strong, independent woman. That’s what I find most compelling about Madison. She had some truly horrible experiences and yet she found her strength and self-worth again. This would enable her to rise to become a top executive, and eventually the women who would travel solo to a foreign country to expand the business.  I think her strength, quick wit, compassion, and business savvy brain makes for one hell of a powerhouse woman. She didn’t let her past dictate her future.  

5. The book appears to touch on themes of love, danger, and protection. Can you elaborate on the central themes you wanted to explore in “Cliff House”?  

I am someone who reads a lot. I read just about everything, from Dan Brown to E.L James, with a little Stephen King mixed in. However, romance is my home. I like books that have smart savvy characters, a good believable love story, familial elements, and a good problem. Now some books have a conflict, like mine, with crime, and others business or any myriad of issues. In Cliff House I choose to have offenses that are pretty dark, and for some, might be too dark. When I started to work on Cliff House, I didn’t follow the “rules” of writing. I didn’t have an outline for each chapter or character sheets. I went with my gut and the natural flow. For that reason, this was a question I had a hard time with. I didn’t consciously set out to have a particular theme. I decided to ask a friend who’d read the book if she felt I had touched on a theme. Her response was “I think your theme was about Madison’s journey from tragedy to triumph. Victim to powerhouse.” In a word “Resiliency.” I like this. It was nice to know, even though it wasn’t intentional, there was a theme after all. 

6. Were there specific traits or qualities you wanted to highlight in the characters to make them stand out in this particular love story?  

I wanted to highlight Madison’s strength and her ability to give and receive genuine love and friendship despite her past. For Ian I think I wanted someone who would balance Madison out. I wanted him to be strong, yet gentle and patient, but not the prescriptive knight to the damsel.  

7. In the context of ‘Cliff House’ being a contemporary romance novel, could you share a favorite banter or flirtation scene from the book without giving away too much? How do these moments contribute to the overall dynamic between the characters? 

 When I was reading through these questions this was the one that I didn’t have to think about. My favorite flirtatious scene in Cliff House is early on in Chapter Three. Ian is showing Madison where the laundry room is and there is a particularly cute and funny interaction between them. While I was writing up until this point, everything for the most part was loosely thought out and mildly choreographed. However here, the scene just flowed, and the characters seemed to have a mind of their own, I was just along for the ride. When the section was finished, I was laughing and couldn’t wait to see what they were going to do next. It was at this point I realized I was writing a book and not another, just passing the time story. It was a thrill and shock all at once.  Now as far as how this relates to the dynamic of the two main characters, I think it shows that there can be a true attraction without the need to be ‘gooey’ about it.  Now my favorite banter scene is when we meet Agatha Stuart in the flesh for the first time. This first interaction shows that this is a character that is going to be a real hoot! She was a character that I wanted to be fun, and she didn’t disappoint.  

8. Are there specific elements from your own life that you incorporated into the story or characters? 

 When I began writing Cliff House, I was working for a hospice company, so naturally this seemed to be an organic fit. They say write what you know, well I knew hospice, so I used it. I was in the office and worked on the business end of things, so I felt comfortable there. However, the nurses, social workers, chaplains, marketers, and home health aides were a daily interaction. I might not have known what it was like for them firsthand, but we were an ear for them when needed. I saw how hard they all worked and when two of my own family members were receiving hospice care, I saw the compassion from them on the other side of the spectrum as well. It was because of this I wanted to, in part, dedicate the book to hospice workers.  Because of this I was able to give Madison a more authentic feel. 

9. Are there any challenges you faced while writing “Cliff House,” and how did you overcome them?  

My first challenge was that the man who was originally supposed to be a genuine love interest organically turned into a real sleaze ball, LOL. It goes to show you that sometimes the best laid plans don’t matter when you’re writing. Some of the darker elements of the book were a challenge for me. It was something that always made me uncomfortable to read in other books, but as I got into the story, and I knew where everything was going to end up, I needed to add them. It was a fine line to walk. Did I add too much? Did I add enough? And that goes for other aspects of the book as well. I guess that major challenge was knowing what needed to be added and what needed to be cut. How much is enough and how much is too much? 

10. Do you have other writers in the family and/or friends? 

I have been lucky to have a few family members who have had the talent to write. My Uncle Jamie has written some and my cousin Mimi wrote and had some of her work published for her local historical society. I have also met some wonderful people since joining the author community. Charles Kern, author of Haldane Fall, and I live in the same town.  Sifi author Jermey Morang who wrote The Surrender Game: The Guardian War Chronicles Vol 1. Adrienna Hiat, author of YA Fantasy Fiction and Children picture books has written Osrealach, and Danielle Lynn who will be launching her debut romance, Fate Will Bring You Home.   

11. Are there any specific romance authors or books that have influenced your writing style?  

When I finally started to read for pleasure I read Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, Danielle Steel, Debbie McComber and more, but I think it was Nora Roberts that made the biggest impression. She is still my favorite author. I love the way she forms her characters to be real people. They’re three dimensional despite being on the page. Also, she has a talent for not having “stupid” characters.  That is unless they are supposed to be. I wanted to do the same thing with my writing. Her books contain so much more than just the main plot—real-life elements, humor, sadness, and problem-solving. There are no throwaway characters in her books, and I wanted to be sure to follow that example in my own. So, in short, it was Nora Roberts who has influenced me the most. 

12. Do you have any upcoming projects or works in progress that you can give us a sneak peek into?  

I have a couple different balls in the air right now. I am hoping to bring the second book out at some point. The Cottage is the next book in what will possibly become a series. Like Cliff House, The Cottage follows one of the Mackay brothers and has some overlapping characters 

13. Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring authors, especially those interested in writing romance novels?  

There is an adage that says, “read what you write” and in some respects that may be true. However, I say read what you like and write the way you read. Don’t be afraid to take elements from across the board to boost your writing. There is nothing wrong with mixing and matching to create your own work. Remember there are no rules you must follow. Everyone will tell you how to write this and that, don’t listen to them. You write the way you want to, the way that works for you, is the right way, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. For example, I was told that I needed to have an outline, character sheets complete with biographies and so on. In the beginning, I didn’t have any of that. Later when I was in chapter 4 or 5, I attempted to make an outline, which I chucked almost as soon as I was finished making it. My brain doesn’t work that way. I wrote Cliff House and two others almost fully by following the flow of the story. I allowed the story to dictate and not what I had decided on. As proven by my change in love interest for Madison early on, my advice is to go with your gut. Everyone works differently, so don’t feel you have to follow conventional rules. Just make sure that you write authentic people, not just characters on a page. Be sure to create realistic, relatable characters who are also, for the most part, likable. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t like them, no one else will. 

Want to read Nora Weirich’s amazing book ‘Cliff House’? Find it on Amazon.com and enjoy a wonderful story of love and resilience! If anyone wants signed copies, please contact Nora at [email protected].

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