There are times when we long to escape aliens and vampires and come back to reality. We find a quiet place to sit, open our book and begin to read a true, emotional, uplifting story that many of us can only try and identify with. Such is Micki Peluso’s “And The Whippoorwill Sang.”
With America being overwhelmed with the stories of children who leave this world much too early, at times we forget about the family they left behind. .
No matter how hard we try, until it happens to us, we cannot know the grief, the pain, or the overwhelming loss a parent or sibling feels.
Married to her high school sweetheart, with six, healthy, happy children; a drunk driver will change Micki Peluso’s family forever. In between two heart attacks and a memory loss, “And The Whippoorwill Sang,” took over twenty-nine years to complete. Micki Peluso, however, never forgot her promise; the pledge she made to her fourteen-year-old daughter, Noelle, before her daughter passed on.
Light a fire in the fireplace or, if you live in a warm climate, go out on your deck with Micki’s book and be prepared to laugh so hard you cry and cry so hard it hurts.
“And The Whippoorwill Sang” is a story about a family; a family that did everything right; a family that, like so many, didn’t deserve to lose a daughter and a sister. Yet through the strong bond of the Peluso family, Micki’s promise to Noelle became a story that will live on forever.
Welcome, Author Micki Peluso to People Like Us!
Kimberly: Please tell us about yourself.
Ms. Peluso: I was born in North Carolina, moved to Texas, then to Easton, Pennsylvania where I grew up in the suburbs. I married my high school sweetheart, Butch, eloped in a crazy double ceremony with my own mother and moved to Long Island, New York. I knew it was a stupid thing to do, but my parents had recently divorced, my plans for college were dashed, and I felt backed into a corner. Since I was about to graduate high school, we kept the marriage a secret — we were so afraid of me becoming pregnant that we kept a platonic relationship for four months. Good thing — first night of passion — pregnant. I was living with a friend and Butch lived at home. Telling his Italian Catholic parents that their son married a feisty Scottish Baptist was all we expected and more. I moved into Butch’s home and, was coerced into taking lessons from a young priest. Rumors had it that after counseling me he was sent to a rest home for frazzled priests —a just reward, I thought.
We had six children almost two years apart and it was a wonderful, hectic time, but I was alone a lot with no one to talk to that was more than 3 feet tall. We moved west to Las Vegas in a camper resembling the “Beverly Hillbillies”, due to the drug situation in New York. Work was difficult to find for my restaurant manager husband, so we limped back east and settled in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a safe place, we thought, to raise children. Time would quickly prove us wrong.
Kimberly: Tell us about your career as a writer..
Ms. Peluso: I actually loved to write from the time I was five and crayoned my Raggedy Ann doll’s face – making some sort of statement, I suppose. I wrote my first poem in fifth grade and it had perfect meter. I loved writing book reports, essays and stories all through high school. I was writing ala Erma Bombeck, at the same time she was, except she got famous and I got honorariums. I put writing aside with so many kids, but did keep journals and blogs of their comical antics and our two trips out west. Butch was like the father in “The Sound of Music”, and made them toe the line like a Drill Instructor. Our “vacation” driving west was worth everything to see Butch struggle trying to make things go perfectly when Murphy’s Law was always one step ahead of him. I never let him see me grin.
I began writing again after losing one of my six children to a DWI vehicular homicide, as a catharsis for my grief. This led to a first-time publication in “Victimology: An international journal” and a 25 year career in journalism. I have published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in colleges, magazines, contests and e-zines. My first book was published in 2008 and reissued as a second edition in 3/2012: a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called . . . “And the Whippoorwill Sang.” Writing saved my sanity since I was unable to handle my deep sorrow through any other avenue.
Kimberly: Do you remember an ‘aha’ moment in your career that you knew you were an author? Was there an article you wrote, or a short story that turned a passion into a career?
Ms. Peluso; There were several: the first was when I wrote a short story of the DWI tragedy costing my 14-year-old daughter’s life and changing our family forever. The next was when I made an attempt to write fiction. My oldest daughter, Kim, then grown, insisted I write about her dad’s constant objections to my house plants. I said it was impossible to do and began writing to prove it. Somehow a muse took over and “For the Love of Houseplants”, a killer plants horror story, was published first time out in a large woman’s newspaper giving me my first big sale of $100. But when I really knew I was an author was when my book appeared on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. I remember holding the original first copy in my hands – and I cried.
Kimberly: Tell us about your book “And the Whippoorwill Sang.”
Ms. Peluso: “And the Whippoorwill Sang” is a funny, poignant, sad true story of one family’s journey through grief to the other side of sorrow. It had to be a celebration of life rather than a eulogy of death. I did not plan on writing it, it planned on me writing it. It seemed the only way I could keep my promise to my child whose spinal cord was severed, leaving her on the with an intact mind, ears that could hear and eyes that kept darting around searching for me; I think she could see me vaguely. When I saw tears roll down her face it was then I vowed to make her story known to the world in honor of her life, and to prevent others from her fate.
Kimberly: Your book is a memoir; something you lived through. Would you share the difference between writing fiction and writing a memoir?
Ms. Peluso: Basically I write non-fiction, essays, commentaries, journalistic analogy, and slice of life humor and pathos. I was determined to learn to write fiction by teaching myself to write in all genres except screenwriting. I started by using writing prompts and went on to publish many short fiction stories. In fiction it’s difficult for me to identify with imaginary characters, but writing a non-fiction story of my own family just came naturally. My memoir is different in that it is filled with dialogue and descriptions, not an “about me’ book.
Kimberly: The inspiration for your book was a tragedy. How do you work through the process of going forward?
Ms. Peluso: Writing my book was twofold; it was a deathbed promise kept, and I thought it would, after so many years, bring closure. Bringing Noelle back to life was a delight. There were 20 years between when I started to write, and then continued, due to a trauma-caused memory block covering the five years before the tragedy. Once that broke, I wrote the second half, surrounded by paranormal events. A whippoorwill, like the one in the book, an elusive nocturnal bird, would sit outside by my open door on the late-summer nights leading to the end of the book. From dusk until midnight I wrote and the bird sang its sad song of summer’s loss — then left the night I wrote, “The End”. Yet instead of closure, I felt that I had lost my daughter once again.
Kimberly: Did you start writing your book and not stop until it was finished? If not, what were the pitfalls?
Ms. Peluso: After the memory block receded I finished the second half of the book in six months. I wrote my story in present tense, starting from the ICU waiting room, going back in my mind to the beginning of our lives. Eventually the past merged into the present. When the children were told of the death of their sister, they all went crazy. Their father had pulled all distributor caps from the cars of all those who drove. I wondered why but didn’t care. All those who drove ran for their cars and I stood amazed at the pandemonium. After the funeral, none of us could speak of it. Butch never said her name for five years and seldom does to this day. Kelly became suicidal, bulimic and locked herself in her room. She was the closest to Noelle. Dante raced his car in the hopes of dying too. Michael, the older brother had to be held back from heading to the home of the drunk driver. The oldest, Kimber, could not bear our grief and retreated to her apartment. The youngest, Nicole, suffered panic attacks and anxiety. After screaming at God for taking my child, I began to write . . . and write.
Kimberly: Do you feel that the loss of your daughter changed your life? In what ways?
Ms. Peluso: My life and the life of my family were forever changed on that sunny summer day when a drunk driver destroyed the life of a beautiful, funny girl who was the light of our lives. Our loss made us all aware of the fragility and brevity of life, but it was hard to continue enjoying a life without Noelle. I continue to fulfill my promise to her and will until the day I drop.
Kimberly: Tell us about children and husband and how they worked through losing a sister and daughter? What are they doing today?
Ms. Peluso: Today my children are grown, successful, with children of their own. Butch still cannot read my book and never will. Paranormal events continue to surround us especially where my grandchildren are concerned. Kim’s first child, Ian, was born two years after Noelle’s death on the same day. I felt it was Noelle’s legacy of love to help us celebrate that day rather than grieve. At two years old, Ian said to his mom that when “I grow up and become Noelle the truck will miss me”. At 14, the age Noelle died, he was in Rome with his grandma and in a narrow alley; a car with a wide rearview mirror missed him by inches. Dante’s wife felt her son, Mac, jump in her womb on Noelle’s death date. Nicole’s first son Nicholas told his mother that Noelle was in the room. It was her birthday. Kelly’s second son, Brandon, saw Noelle many times– once in the front seat of the car next to his mother. He said at four years old that he could not see her at Christmas because the skies were filled with so many angels. As I lay dying from back-to-back heart attacks, 15 years after her death, Noelle came to her dad, smiled and gave him a thumbs up – I lived. My publisher out of respect for Noelle released the book on the day she died, but what she didn’t know was that the time it went to print was the exact hour and minute that Noelle left us.
Kimberly: Is there another novel in the works? Tell us about it and when it will be published.
Ms. Peluso: At present, I’m working on putting together a collection of my short stories, slice of life, journalistic commentary and essays, into a book called, “Heartbeats . . . Slices of life” will be released sometime in 2013
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