Bertha-Size Your Life! reads like a series of fast paced, humorous short stories that inspire the reader to kick up their heels and thumb their noses at the negatives and embrace the positive in life. Bertha, a zany redhead, is always up to something and drags her sidekick along with her while she’s dispensing down-home wisdom and perky advice for finding balance and joy in life. Throw in a conniving nemesis, an antagonistic cat, lime green spandex and high-heels and you’ve got Bertha, a book that’s sure to tickle your funny bone and leave you anticipating your next adventure along life’s journey.
Here’s an interview with Jane Carroll, author of Bertha-Size Your Life!
Q. I have read Bertha-Size Your Life! and the character Bertha is so lifelike that it’s easy to forget that she isn’t a real person. Do you hear that often?
A. Absolutely! I can’t tell you how often friends and readers ask me how Bertha is doing or what she would do in a particular situation. It’s like, “Hi, Jane, nice to see you. Now where’s Bertha…we need to talk!”
In fact, I just got a birthday card from a reader in England to Jane and Bertha…and we all know if the US Postal Service thinks she’s real…she’s real!
Seriously, I started writing a book about self-discovery during the empty nest phase of life and just between us, it was boring. Until one day as a fluke this character Bertha showed up and took over everything…the book…my life…everything. It’s almost like it was her idea the whole time…like she chose me to write her book.
A. Probably because I was a mess. I was all the things the book talks about. I didn’t have good boundaries at work or in relationships. I didn’t really know what I wanted or where I was going.
Q. But there are a lot of women like that. Why you?
A. I think because even though I was a mess I was ready to learn and most importantly…I was ready to change. I had already started down that path so Bertha must have decided that I could lead by example. And I have to admit that writing the book changed my life in ways that I could never imagine.
Q. Bertha teaches you many valuable lessons for living a better life in the book. Do you always practice what she preaches?
A. I wish. Sometimes I’ll reread a story and think, “That’s really great. Why didn’t I think of that?” Seriously, living a better life is a process. It’s not something that you get right on Tuesday and never have to worry about again. Every day new challenges come up and you have to figure out how to make them work. Sometimes it takes a few days, weeks, or even months but eventually it all comes together.
Q. Where does Bertha get her inspiration?
A. There are actually three answers to that question. First, her inspiration comes from everyday life. In the story Sweeping Boundaries I was literally in the middle of doing something totally unrelated when I suddenly found myself sweeping the kitchen floor. Bertha took that and dressed up for Mardi Gras and the rest is history. So, many of the stories have their roots in either my life or someone’s that I know.
I have always been an avid reader of personal-growth books…really anything that is positive and uplifting. The lessons that I’ve learned over the years get all twisted around and show up somewhere in a Bertha.
But last, and by no means least, there’s that wisdom of women that’s passed from generation to generation and over back fences and coffee cups that is the backbone of who Bertha is.
Q. One of Bertha’s favorite sayings is “When life hands you an ostrich…make a boa!” Can you tell us about your boa collection?
A. Oh, I just had to add on a new closet to house all the boas I’ve collected over the years. What I’m learning, with Bertha’s help of course, is to not feel regret, failure, anger, guilt, or any of those emotions when things don’t turn out just exactly as I’d planned. I try to see the experience as helping me to become the person that I want to be. Recently, I was in a situation that didn’t turn out as I’d hoped but I learned that my intuition and boundaries are much stronger than they used to be. So it was truly an important experience. Hmmm…think I need a new boa.
Q. Bertha tells you more than once to do what feels good. Is that the same thing as being selfish?
A. You know it sounds like that at first but it is anything but. What Bertha teaches is that you feel good when you are coming from a place of integrity. For example, when you are dieting, eating that piece of chocolate cake might sound like it would feel good in the moment, but the guilt that follows doesn’t feel good at all. It would probably feel better to drop the fork and walk away from the cake and stick to the goal that you’ve set for yourself. And it’s the same with spending money or anything else.
Q. Bertha-Size Your Life! is filled with vivid descriptions of Bertha’s wardrobe but you don’t give a lot of detail about the characters otherwise, like the name of the narrator and the cat. Why is that?
A. By not giving too many details about the narrator and being in first person the reader can easily identify and really connect to Bertha.
Q. Well, I know that once our readers have been Bertha-Sized they will want more. Are you currently working on another Bertha project?
A. I am. Becoming Bertha is at Master Koda Select Publishing now awaiting its turn. Shhh…Bertha thinks she’s in a queue line at Disney and I’m not telling her different. She gets so impatient. Anyway, this book really brings it all together for the narrator and Bertha.
Beyond that there’s a cozy mystery in the works in collaboration with K. D. Emerson featuring Bertha and a teenage sleuth along with a host of zany characters and lots of fun twists and turns.
HERE’S AN EXCERPT OF BERTHA-SIZE YOUR LIFE!:
Bertha rushed past me in a blur, broom and dustpan in hand. She was dressed and ready to go to a Mardi Gras ball. I mean we’re talking fuchsia strapless sequins with matching three-inch heels and even a matching boa, and there she was, going somewhere in quite a hurry with the broom. I followed, she was obviously too rushed to stop and talk.
When we got to the kitchen, she started to sweep. In no time she had a little mound of cat litter, dirt tracked in from feeding the dogs, the occasional popcorn kernel and a stray M&M.
She was sweeping up quite a pile. I couldn’t resist any longer. “Bertha, what are you doing?”
“That’s an understatement,” I thought. I looked around the kitchen for some new mess that had prompted this unorthodox behavior. “Bertha, why are you sweeping now? You’re already dressed for the ball and you look quite beautiful I might add. So why now?”
Bertha stopped briefly and looked at me in sheer disbelief. “Can’t you see what has happened here?”
I looked around. It still looked essentially the same as it did an hour ago. “No, Bertha, I can’t.”
Exasperated, Bertha pointed to the pile of stuff she had swept up, “How much dirt do you see here?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a cup and a half?”
“That’s it!” she pointed to the pile again, “A cup and a half of dirt was on the floor and the limit I can tolerate is one cup. You know how it is when I reach my limit; I take action, no sense fooling around.”
I looked down at the pile, “All this for a little trash on the floor?”
“Well now its trash in the floor. But I normally take action when any of my boundaries are crossed. Don’t you?”
“No, now that you mention it I don’t think that I do. Then again, it may be because I don’t have many boundaries.”
Bertha tried to give me a motherly look, but Mama never dressed like that so it lost something in translation. “Well, it’s not too late to set some. You can think about it while I’m gone tonight.” She smiled and handed me the dustpan.
I gave her a coy look, “Maybe choosing not to hold the dustpan will be the first boundary I set.”
“Good point. I’ll sweep fast, just in case!”
To learn more and get your copy of Bertha-Size Your Life! Visit these links:
Bertha-Size Your Life! http://amzn.com/B00KNDIGCI