An Interview with Rosetta D. Hoessli

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and writing career?

I’m an only child, a military brat,and a resident of San Antonio, Texas since 1963. I’ve been married for nearly 37 years to Kevin Hoessli, my high school sweetheart. We have one beautiful daughter, Michele, and two terrific grandchildren, Kevin and Briana. We also have two dog-kids: Dakotah and Tundra, gorgeous Alaskan malamutes that just allow us to live with them.

My father was a military historian and photographer for the Air Force, so I come by my love of reading and writing quite naturally. I took accelerated English for four (4) years in high school with a teacher that no one else wanted because she was so difficult, but I loved the way she challenged me. (When she all but accused me of plagiarism on my senior term paper because she thought it was so good, I knew I had arrived!) I majored in English Literature in college, but dropped out to get married (like so many of us in the early 1970s).

Over the years, I’ve written and edited articles, ghostwritten and co-authored books, and was even the executive editor of three publications at one time. Every gig I ever got was an accident, and that’s the truth. Although talent and persistence are very important, I believe there’s also a little luck involved in building a writing career. Very often it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time and recognizing an opportunity when it comes along. You can’t be afraid of rejection, that’s for sure.

What genre do you write?

I don’t write in any one genre. My last book, written with Carolyn Huebner Rankin and titled ‘Falling through Ice’ is a narrative non-fiction book – meaning, it reads just like a novel but it’s a true story. I’ve also co-authored a book with Jeanette Jaffe-Longoria, entitled ‘Aphrodite and Me: Discovering Romance and Sensuality at Any Age,’ among others, and just finished editing a hilarious book of true short stories written by a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer.

What work(s) are you best known for? Could you please tell us about them?

Even though I’ve been writing for years and have been published many times, I don’t think I’m known for anything yet. Hopefully that’s about to change. But even if that doesn’t change, that’s not the important thing. I love to write and that’s what it’s all about. I’ll write until my brain fries or my fingers fall off – or both.

Can you tell us if you are working on a new project?

I’m working on the first novel in a mystery series (entitled ‘The Switchback Series’) with a paranormal slant, and this is the first time in a long time that I’ve worked alone. As an editor (which I’ve been for many years), I work with other writers – and I love that. As a co-author, I work very closely with an individual who has something really incredible to say and just doesn’t quite know how to say it. But what I’m doing now puts me alone in my office with just me, my computer, and my imagination – and that’s such a treat.

What your goals for the future?

My goals are: 1) to work with Carolyn Huebner Rankin to push ‘Falling through Ice’ just as far as we can, 2) to increase my freelance business as much as I can, and 3) to have my first mystery completed and accepted by my chosen agent by the end of 2011. I also want to participate in seminars and workshops throughout the year, preferably on author panels but also as a student.

How did you start writing?

I began writing when I was in the second grade. Because I was an only child, I lived alone in my own imagination and made up stories to keep myself entertained. But when I was a senior (with the English teacher I mentioned earlier), our term paper assignment was to write a very detailed, convoluted book report – and I selected Leon Uris’ fabulous ‘Exodus’. I wrote mine in such a way that I had to dissect that novel (and made a 99% on it with an accusation of plagiarism to boot) and by the end of that assignment, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’d never had so much fun in my life.

I began writing seriously in 1976 when my daughter was a toddler learning to talk because I was afraid my brain was turning to mush. I felt a desperate need to return to my creative roots, so my husband (bless his heart!) bought me an electric typewriter (I still have it!) and I went to work on a western novel. I never really did anything with it, but my main goal was to finish it and I did that. I also attended my very first writers’ conference at that time and met some wonderful writers/teachers/agents who became good friends and mentors. From that point in my life, I’ve never really looked back.

How do you write? (That is, where do you get your ideas, do you write in an office at home, do you write full time or do you have a fulltime job other than writing?)

I get my ideas from everywhere: television, the Internet, my friends, my family – anywhere and everywhere. I carry a notepad around (the old-fashioned way) and write down whatever interests me. I have a wonderful office at home and of course a computer, but I also talk into a tape recorder and even write longhand to get my thoughts organized. Writing is my full-time job.

My life is my other full-time job: I help my daughter home-school my grandchildren, ride along with my husband whenever I get a chance as he pilots/escorts oversized truck loads around the country, and play with our dogs as a means of keeping my blood pressure down. My mother (now 85 years old) still lives alone but requires help, so everyone in our family pitches in to help ‘GG’ as she needs us. So, I stay pretty busy.

Are there any particular authors who have inspired you in your own writing career?

Oh, absolutely! My favorite storyteller in the world is Leon Uris, and I’ve read everything he’s ever written. Another is Susan Howatch, who writes wonderful first-person family sagas and descriptive prose that’s just breathtaking. Pat Conroy, who authored the fabulous ‘Prince of Tides’, is another favorite of mine, and Larry McMurtry of ‘Lonesome Dove’ fame has written some of the greatest westerns of all time. Each one of those authors, among others, of course, has brought something special to my life and work.

What themes do you pursue in your writing? What are your concerns?

That’s a really good question. I seem to focus on the underdog. ‘Falling through Ice’ deals in part with the ramifications of child abuse on adult survivors. I’ve written many articles about wildlife preservation: the wild buffalo in Yellowstone National Park that are under siege by the cattlemen and our own government, wild wolves still fighting for survival in our country, and condors that are struggling to make it in the Grand Canyon area. I’m also very interested in Native American history and how they’re fighting today to get out of the poverty our government seems determined to keep them in. (That’s part of the plot in the novel I’m working on now.) There’s always an underdog situation in just about anything I’m interested in writing.

What is the goal of your writing?

On the one hand, I’d like to have an impact and make a difference, but I also want toentertain. There’s a lot of angst in this world right now, and I’d like to do something to alleviate that if I can. I want to bring hope to readers. I want them to know that God is all around us andtheir lives can get better.

Do you have any useful tips you might offer other up-and-coming writers?

I don’t know how useful or original it is, but this is what I’d say: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Perseverance is the key. Never give up. Study and write every single day. Read a lot. Send your stuff out, everywhere, once you have it as clean as you can. Someone’s going to bite.Never stop believing in yourself.

Have you won any awards for your work? If so, which ones?

I have won many local and state-wide awards, for both fiction and non-fiction, but probably nothing that you’d know.

Have you had literary failures? What did you learn from them?

Sure. If you haven’t had literary failures, you’re not a writer. What did I learn? Keep moving forward. Get better. Never quit. I love the story about F. Scott Fitzgerald: He got so many rejection notices that he actually wallpapered his bedroom with them. Leon Uris started out by writing pornography. ‘The Thornbirds’ was rejected more than 40 times. These are important facts for writers to remember!

What difficulties, if any, did you face in writing a fact-based book?

‘Falling through Ice’ was incredibly difficult to write because I’m very close to the woman the book is about and I was involved in much of the story. That meant we both had to re-live very painful parts of our lives and tell the truth about what happened, but it was cathartic, too. The research was also mountainous -legal documentation, diary entries, letters, etc.-and I had to be sure that was accurate as well. Writing a fact-based book-if you’re going to admit it’s fact-based-is much more difficult than just writing a story straight from your imagination.

Read an excerpt from Falling Through Ice:


I was uneasy. This morning was too beautiful, too sunny and warm, for what was going to happen today in New Orleans, Louisiana. This day – September 9, 1987 – demanded heavy gray skies and buckets of rain splattering against steaming, narrow streets. The bustle of unconcerned people going about their everyday affairs, the tooting of taxi horns, the gusty exhaling of air brakes on slow-moving buses – all this cheerfulness and normalcy seemed almost a sacrilege. Still, in a perverse sort of way, I welcomed it. The situation in which I found myself was so unreal that it somehow appeased my confused sense of order to see that the world was still functioning right on schedule.

Now, sitting in the New Orleans Federal Courthouse and waiting for the arrival of the Honorable Morey L. Sear, I gazed longingly at the exit sign over a side door, then looked around the courtroom and struggled to come to grips with why I was here. Reporters leaned nonchalantly against the walls, already scribbling away on legal-sized note pads; I recognized two from my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Like vultures, they had swooped in to cover this story. They were circling their prey, waiting until Carolyn Huebner was helpless and vulnerable so that they could rip her from the pedestal upon which they had placed her themselves.

Carolyn and I sat close together in the front pew, thighs touching, and I could feel her uncontrolled shivering, as if her body was turning to ice. I gripped her hand and winced at the cold, clammy texture of her flesh – like that of a dead woman left for days beneath the murky waters of some Louisiana swamp. Carolyn’s terror was an insidious, contagious force in the tense, restless courtroom. I could feel it swelling in my own throat, filling my lungs until every breath was a struggle. Like Carolyn, I was choking on it.

“Do you think I could step out for a minute?” I whispered to the elderly man seated on my other side. “I just need to…”

When retired Texas Ranger JeromePreiss shook his head and held up a warning finger, I subsided in automatic obedience. I never argued with Jerome. There was something about his snapping dark eyes and the set of his thin lips that made me feel like I still needed a babysitter, yet I had never known anyone so gentle. We even called him PoPo, like his own grandchildren.

JeromePreiss had come to New Orleans to lend affectionate support to this young woman he called only The Kid. Six-foot-two, less than one hundred eighty pounds, Jerome was all leather-skinned and mahogany-tanned, as wiry and taut-muscled as an adolescent but showing every one of his sixty-five years. To me, he was the only person in this courtroom who made sense, whose quiet stability in the midst of our shared terror and confusion was as soothing as a walk by the beach. Instinctively I reached for his hand and forced back tears of gratitude as I felt his rough and calloused fingers close over mine.

“All rise for the Honorable United States District Judge,Morey Sear! The federal court for the Eastern District of Louisiana is now in session!” The bailiff glared around the room, apparently on the lookout for anyone not willing to give the elderly, black-robed judge the respect due him. Finally satisfied that his audience was properly awed, he added absently, “Please be seated.”

As the courtroom quieted and came to order, the interminable docket-calling began. In a last-ditch attempt to control my shrieking nerves, I forced my mind to wander into the past, allowing it to flit through one scene, then another, then another, focusing on nothing in particular as I tried to understand how this could have happened and wondering, as always, what I could have done to stop it…

Ah, now there was a question. As close as I was to Carolyn, as much as I knew about her past, why hadn’t I told anyone? I had seen it coming, but I hadn’t tried to stop it. I had simply removed myself from Carolyn’s bizarre environment and counted myself lucky to be out of it.

Still, who would have guessed that the beautiful Victorian mansion on Elm Street in San Antonio could have housed so much inner misery, so much torment? Certainly not me – not in the beginning, anyway. In the beginning I had actually been intimidated by the younger woman’s intelligence, experience, and the respect she had earned from her peers in her chosen field of locating missing children. Her office walls had been lined with gold-edged ‘Awards of Appreciation’ from a dozen grateful charities and certificates of completed college hours in the study of criminology, investigative techniques, and child abuse.

Carolyn and I were very close friends before I learned that she had never even graduated from high school.

It seemed that I couldn’t open a newspaper without seeing Carolyn’s face somewhere in it. I couldn’t turn on the television without hearing her voice. Carolyn was San Antonio’s Golden Child, a champion for abused children upon whom reporters could always rely for a statement that rang with truth and power and conviction. Carolyn Huebner seemed obsessed with the limelight, reveling in any kind of attention at all, devouring media worship with the greed of a starving child. She was a reporter’s dream, a fellow ‘crusader’s’ role model – and her own family’s nightmare.

Even as late as last night, at the candlelit restaurant in the Canal Street hotel where we were all staying, Carolyn had agreed to give one last interview to her close friend, San Antonio newspaper reporter Bobby Edmonds. In spite of the fact that Bobby had brought along Brian Wood, an old pal of his from New Orleans whom no one had ever met before, Carolyn had spoken openly and with great emotion, determined to present her side of the story before “all the other journalists have it garbled and unrecognizable, resembling nothing even close to the truth.”

It would probably be her last terrific quote.




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