Monday’s Friend: Barbara Ehrentreu

Today I’m pleased to welcome Barbara Ehrentreu back to the blog, as my first guest of 2015.  Barbara writes novels for teens, about the problems real teens face, and when I was in high school I used to love reading books like this.  She’s back to tell us about how a real-life traumatic event inspired her newest novel After.  Take it away, Barbara!

My Thoughts on Writing After
By Barbarah Ehretreu

Barbara and the Pacific Ocean (2)Sometime in October of 2006 my husband had a very bad heart attack and it required him to have bypass surgery. After the surgery he had a great many complications due to the fact that he had asthma and his heart was very damaged. Plus he had a reaction to the anesthetic called ICU delirium. So I was visiting him every day and spending most of my time in the hospital. That November I decided to do NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month to see if I could write a novel in thirty days. So when I started to write the whole experience of the night when my husband had his heart attack it was very fresh in my mind. Lauren, the main character, came to me and suddenly I knew that I had to write about the whole experience.

When I write I usually don’t put anything down until I have the first sentence. Then I can continue from there and write usually two thousand words without stopping. As you can see I am a “pantser”. This is what happened. Suddenly I couldn’t stop writing and even though I was visiting my husband every day and going through a horrible experience due to his delirium and his very slow recuperation, I came back to write and try to get to my goal. After awhile I couldn’t write anymore due to the events that were unfolding. He had pneumonia and it was the kind where you needed to visit wearing a gown and gloves. Plus he barely knew us and being with him was very difficult. So I put away the story, then called When My Life Changed, and left it alone until after my husband had returned to a fairly normal life. The next year I reread it and finished it. I never know the ending to a book until I can no longer write anything more. If it changes anything in the book then I go back and fix everything to work with the ending. Then I sent it to my critique group and several beta readers. When I read their comments I decided to put it away and didn’t think about it for years.

AFTER333X555 (2)There is so much in After, which had its name changed during the editing process, that came right from my own life. The whole first scene was taken almost word for word from the night my husband had his heart attack. The descriptions of the hospital and his condition came from my own experience and so did the emotions. In fact, one of the things my critique group said was that some scenes were flat without emotion, even though these were the ones where I had the most emotions in real life. This was the hardest part, because I had to go back and rewrite these scenes remembering the emotion but doing it in a more objective way. Sometimes when you write strong emotions you have to go outside of yourself and see the scene as a camera might. Getting emotional scenes right is the hardest part of writing something you have experienced in real life

If not for The Muse Online Writing Conference I would never have even thought about publishing this book. Three years ago I was taking a workshop during this conference from Margot Finke for first lines in your novel. I used the first line of this novel and Margot loved it. So I went back to the manuscript and revised it some more. I decided I would try to get it ready for publication. Then after stalling for another year I did send it out after my daughter Rachel helped me rewrite a few things, and it was accepted. That is why I dedicated it to her.

I didn’t write After for any reason other than to revisit my own experience, but now that it is published I feel that it could be a big help to anyone who had to go through this. I also love the way Lauren and Joey who are BFF’s have their relationship change due to Lauren’s father’s illness. Of course that is the part that is really fiction. To find out more you might want to read the book, which is available from MuseItUp Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as IBooks, and Smashwords.

Blurb for After

After is a story about the struggles Lauren Walstein, a fifteen-year old girl, goes through when her father suddenly has a heart attack and undergoes bypass surgery. In one phone call her life changes completely. Her best friend since kindergarten, Joey, is going out with her enemy and they have grown apart. Before the phone call all she thought about was getting a scholarship for softball and the Mets. Suddenly she must deal with both her father’s illness and being in school. The demands on her from both ends complicate the story. In the middle of all this, she finds she is developing feelings for her best friend that are more than friendly. Is he feeling the same or is he just comforting her? Does her father recover? In addition there is Joey’s mean girl friend Amber, who doesn’t appreciate Lauren in the picture.

ICBLJT Cover (2)Blurb for If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor

Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky junior quarterback, Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?

Author bio:

Barbara Ehrentreu grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Queens. She has lived and taught in Long Island, Buffalo, NY and Westchester, NY as well as a year in Los Angeles, CA. She has a Masters Degree in Reading and Writing. Currently she is retired from teaching and living in Stamford, CT with her family. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor won second prize in Preditors & Editors as Best Young Adult Book for 2011. It was inspired by Paula Danziger for her children’s writing workshop at Manhattanville College. Her second book, After, considers what can happen to a teen when her father becomes ill with a heart attack. It is based on her own experiences when her husband had a heart attack and the aftermath of what she and her family experienced. She is preparing the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Barbara also writes poetry and several of her poems are published in the anthologies, Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry, Beyond the Dark Room, Storm Cycle and Backlit Barbell. She has a blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, and she hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Radio Tales from the Pages once a month.

Find Barbara online at the following links:


Where to buy Barbara’s books:

MuseItUp Publishing:
For Nook on Barnes and Noble:

If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor (print and ebook)
MuseItUp Publishing:
For Nook on Barnes and Noble:


3 comments so far

  1. Chrissy on

    Great post. Very interesting.

  2. J.Q. Rose on

    After is filled with emotion that you portray so well in this family. The scenes are so real probably because you actually experienced this. Enjoyed reading it very much.

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