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Area writer makes 'Mad Dash' her 17th novel

September 18, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - Patricia Gaffney knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she could read.

But it wasn't until she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39 that she decided it was time to write a novel.

Now a New York Times bestselling author, Gaffney recently published her 17th novel, "Mad Dash."

"It's the story of a marriage; mostly it's about the woman whose name is Dash," said Gaffney, who lives in Blue Ridge Summit.

Dash, who has been married to Andrew for 20 years, has a sort-of "mid-life" crisis after her daughter, Chloe, goes away to college and her mother dies, Gaffney said. The last straw is when Andrew will not allow Dash to keep a dog they find on their front porch, which prompts Dash to leave her husband and do some soul searching.

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"It touches on some real issues of long-term relationships," said Gaffney, who grew up in Bethesda, Md. "It's light-hearted, but it gets at some real issues."

Gaffney wrote her first book, a historical romance titled "Sweet Treason," in 1989.

"It took about a year to write the first book," she said. "It did real well and before I knew it, I was an historical romance novelist."

In fact, Gaffney's first novel did so well that she received the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for her manuscript.

"I was on top of the world," Gaffney said. "I hadn't sold the book at the time I got the award - about three months after, I sold the book."

Gaffney earned her bachelor's degree in English and philosophy from Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. After college, she worked as a 12th-grade English teacher for a year and then went on to be a freelance court reporter for 15 years.

Before she was diagnosed with cancer, Gaffney and her husband, Jon Pearson, were living in Washington, D.C. In 1986, the couple moved to southern Pennsylvania and Gaffney began writing her first novel.

"Who knows what I'd still be doing it I hadn't gotten breast cancer," Gaffney said.

After her first historical romance novel, Gaffney went on to write 11 more before switching to contemporary women's fiction in 1999. "Mad Dash" is Gaffney's fifth contemporary women's fiction novel.

"1999 is when 'Saving Graces' came out and was a real departure from what I'd been doing," she said. "I began writing romance novels for young love and passion. After that, I moved into women's friends."

Gaffney said her books are sometimes influenced by her own experiences and sometimes not.

"My own women's group inspired 'Saving Graces'" Gaffney said.

On the other hand, Gaffney said, "I frequently write about children and I've never had any."

Gaffney's current book has received good reviews from the Washington Post as well as other authors and is on the list of Booksense Notable Books for September. It took Gaffney two years to write "Mad Dash."

"It seems that the (writing) process never gets easier," Gaffney said. "It's very long and arduous."

Gaffney said once she gets an idea for a book, she thoroughly outlines and plans the book.

"I sit around and take notes," Gaffney said. "I end up with hundreds of pages (of notes) about characters, themes, plots, the setting."

Although writing can be a daunting task, Gaffney said it is very rewarding and she hopes to be able to do it for a long time.

Gaffney's reading group decided to read her book for September and they will hold a public discussion at the Blue Ridge Summit Library on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.

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