Featured Interview With Geralyn Ritter
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was born in Louisiana, and both of my parents were raised there. We moved around Louisiana, Colorado and Texas when I was young, and my father was early in his career. Eventually, we settled for good in Houston, Texas.
I will always have Texas in my heart, but I wanted to explore a different part of the country when I went to college. I went to Duke University in North Carolina, got my law degree at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, California, and got a masters in International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies in Washington DC and Bologna Italy.
I started my career in Washington DC and moved to my current home in New Jersey when I got a great job at a leading healthcare company in 2008. I absolutely love to travel and am fortunate that my career has allowed me to explore so many fascinating places, both in the U.S. and around the world.
I have been married for almost 25 years, have 3 terrific sons, and two adorable (but poorly trained) mini goldendoodles. The dogs are my writing and working companions and sit at my feed in my office all day when I work from home.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
As a child, I loved to read. I was the kid that would finish the classwork early and pull out a thick novel for the rest of class. I remember a teacher in elementary school calling my parents when she saw I was reading Roots by Alex Haley. The teacher wanted to make sure my parents “were ok” with that. My career as a lawyer and a health policy advocate has always required me to write, but I never considered writing my own book until 2015.
2015 was the year that I was in a massive train derailment when Amtrak 188 hit a curve at 106 mph that was designed for a maximum of 50 mph. Eight people died and I was not expected to survive my injuries. I was in the ICU for weeks and to date have had dozens of surgeries. I spent over 2 years on total disability from my job. Notwithstanding all the love and support around me, trauma recovery is often a lonely and alienating experience. I learned so much on my recovery journey, and there is so much that I wished I had known at the beginning. I wrote my story in hopes that it would help others suffering an unexpected injury, illness or setback in their life. I was given a second chance at life. Writing Bone by Bone is my attempt to pay that gift forward and salvage some tiny silver lining from the wreckage.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I love historical fiction. Transporting myself to another place and time through the power of story is simultaneously relaxing and incredibly stimulating. I also love memoirs that are real, raw and insightful. One of the most recent ones that I have read is by Kate Bowler, called “Everything Happens for a Reason – and other lies I have loved.” She tells her story with grace, intelligence and an amazing sense of humor. I love Anne Lamont for the same reason. I find her works inspiring, and they never fail to make me laugh out loud.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
Bone by Bone: a memoir of trauma and healing describes my journey back to a life of purpose and joy after suffering near-fatal injuries in a massive train crash in 2015. The title refers to a poem by Emily Dickinson called “there is a pain so utter” that perfectly describes the dissociation that comes with trauma.
I learned the hard way that the most difficult part of survival comes after survival. Every relationship I had – including with my own body – was profoundly affected. I now understand better the connection between physical injuries and mental health. I relate my first-hand experience with opioid dependence and the painful weaning process. Today I live with chronic pain, insomnia, and I seem to be hospitalized every year for some kind of unusual complication – but I also work full time as a senior healthcare executive, will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary this year, saw my oldest son graduate from college, and laugh and drink wine with my tribe of wonderful friends.
My book is a story of hope and light at the end of the tunnel. Although it is overused, I love the tunnel metaphor. You don’t come out of a tunnel in the same place you entered. Life is different on the other side. But it is good.
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