We would like to introduce Darlene Maslek Colaianni, author of Hi. My Name is Fanny, and True Medical Documentation Fails. She also writes a blog called Fanny is our Diva Cat. This lady is formidable, and if she sets out to do something—she does it.
BBE: Welcome. Let’s get to know you first before we talk about your books. While my team alter the bright lights to shine—just so, tighten the thumbscrews and hook up the polygraph; why don’t you start at the beginning and tell us about your early life and upbringing?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: My grandparents were immigrants from Serbia on my father’s side and Lithuania on my mother’s. My grandfathers both died before I was born, and my grandmothers did not speak English. We lived on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, and my father also worked in a steel mill. He started in the mill at age 15 in 1926 and worked there for 44 years. My sister is much older than me, so I pretty much grew up like an only child. I was a tomboy and loved to work the fields alongside my dad. As a little girl, I drove tractors, worked on machinery, and helped build things. My mother was a superb homemaker. I helped her around the house, but I never liked being inside. My sister was in nursing school when I was little. I followed in her footsteps and became an RN in 1972 as well.
BBE: Where are you from, and where do you live now?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I grew up on a farm outside a small city called Aliquippa, Pennsylvania and lived in the area until 1980, when I followed my future husband to Torrance, California
BBE: how did you perform at school, top of the class, or the child they said would never amount to anything as long as he had a hole in his—inkwell?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I was a member of the National Honor Society and Latin Club. Latin helped me when I went into nursing. I loved journalism and English classes. I’ve always been inquisitive. I would have considered being a newspaper reporter or private investigator if I hadn’t gone to nursing school.
BBE: Where are you now? Tell us a bit about your life, work, family?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: 1980 was a banner year for me. I met my husband in January, moved to California in May, started working at a hospital in June (I worked there for 40 years) and got married in November. That year flew by. It surprised me as much as it did my family since I had never been impulsive. I made three excellent life-changing decisions that year. I believe things happen for a reason. My husband is my best friend, and the staff at the hospital I worked for were my second family. I had mixed feelings about retiring. But at 70, I felt it was time to step back and take care of myself.
BBE: Where do you go when the world gets scary?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I don’t scare easily, but I must say I have no interest in traveling outside the USA. However, I don’t want to travel inside the USA either because there are so many unhinged people around. I’m content staying home with my hubby.
BBE: What is your method for writing?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I don’t think I have a method. I have to be in the mood, and then the words flow. I can’t make myself write.
BBE: Favourite food, drink, pet, film and book?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: My married name is Italian so as you can imagine, we eat a lot of pasta. To offset the carbs, I try to eat a lot of salads. I like old musicals from the 30s and 40s. I don’t have a favorite genre of book. I like anything that keeps my interest and maybe a little bit of humor. And of course—cats are my favorite pets. I had so many when I lived on the farm. I was blessed to have had unique pets as well—a pet raccoon and rooster. And my father raised exotic birds, including peacocks.
BBE: What makes you different?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I can’t rest until I figure out a solution to a problem. As a nurse, I worked in ICU, ER and supervision. Those areas of practice really test you. You have to think on your feet.
BBE: And how did you come to write?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I’ve had a long history of back problems. In April 2020, I retired shortly after lockdown due to the COVID19 pandemic. I developed complications from back surgery in June 2019. Walking was difficult because of the nerve pain, and I couldn’t do much. I needed another surgery (#6), but it kept getting delayed due to COVID19 restrictions.
During the summer of 2020, I used the time to explore writing. My husband bought me a Chromebook, and I spent my time in bed typing. I saved five years worth of funny documentation from work and turned the best examples into a book. I am self-taught and have learned everything myself: formatting, inserting objects, headings, subheadings, table of contents, covers, self-publishing, pricing, advertising—the lot. I published it in August. It’s a short book, but I was so proud of myself for learning the process independently.
After I published the documentation book, I was still mostly in bed, so I thought about what I could do next. I wrote the book about Fanny in 3rd person, then 2nd person. Finally, the words just flowed when I changed into 1st person. I had it done in five weeks. I didn’t care that it was short. It tells the story the way it was meant to be told. We lost our other cat, CC, in July, and she was such a big part of Fanny’s story. I published Fanny’s book in October and had successful back surgery in November.
BBE: What are your influences and your writing ethos?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I can’t answer this question in a few words. I come from a background of hard-working, dedicated parents. My father worked the farm as well as rotating shifts at the mill. My mother gardened, canned fruits and vegetables, sewed, baked and made sure we had three hearty meals a day. My goal was to work for 40+ years like my dad and I did. I ended up working 48 if I count the years I lived in Pennsylvania. I want to do the best I can, and I enjoy figuring out how to do something on my own. Writing is my new challenge.
BBE: How far have you come, and where are you going with your writing?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I inched into publishing and am proud of what I have accomplished. It’s been less than a year, and I have two books on Amazon. While I was a nurse, I never thought I would get a chance to do this in a million years.
BBE: Ready—Set—Go. Tell us about your books in order of publication?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni:
The book about clinical documentation fails was my first attempt at writing. I gathered the information for it over five years. I don’t know what made me do it. People told me I should write a book, but I never thought about it seriously. I had to teach myself how to create a book. I think the best part of this project was making it humorous with memes and graphics. I had fun with that.
This was my second attempt. I told the story from my cat Fanny’s point of view and added photos of my cats. CC was 20 years old, and Fanny was 17. I had some great material to work with. Mutchka was another cat of ours that features in the story. He lived to be 18. I think it’s a great story about friendship in the animal world.
BBE: Which is the favourite of your books?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: My favorite is Hi. My Name Is Fanny because it runs the gamut of emotions. You have happiness, love, friendship, despair and grief. We had to have CC put to sleep right before I started writing the story and her death was the endpoint and a tribute to her. Our Veterinarian loved the book so much that she read it to her kids.
BBE: Tell us about your writing achievements and about things that haven’t worked so well for you?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: Well, as a new writer, I have to absorb a lot of information. I didn’t seek any help with my books. I have joined several writer’s groups and read many different ideas and suggestions. Sometimes I feel that I need to step back and not get confused or overwhelmed by so many influences. I need to keep it real and trust myself.
BBE: What are you working on?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: It’s a true story based on my father’s life. I have never known anyone work so hard. He came from such humble beginnings and never shied away from challenges. He was smart and resourceful, even though he only had an 8th-grade education. He always made sure we never wanted for anything. I have a notebook full of facts and anecdotes. While doing some research, I found out more about my dad than I knew before. I took so much for granted when I was young. He died in 2002 at age 91.
BBE: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: My husband and I plan to move to Georgia within a year. I have a niece that lives there, and I love the laid back lifestyle. It’ll be a perfect place to live out our golden years.
BBE: Which is your favourite cover? How did you come up with it, and did you do it yourself?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I like my Fanny cover best. She has a big personality, and I hope I captured that. I recently updated the cover to give it a fresh look. I have done both covers myself. They may not look that professional, but I had a heap of fun doing them.
BBE: How do you market and promote your work?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: I advertised the Kindle and paperback editions of both books on Amazon in the beginning. I was happy because I had good sales between September and December as people bought them for Christmas gifts. I was surprised because the paperbacks were doing much better than the ebooks. At the beginning of the year, I tried Facebook and got a small bump in sales. I didn’t see much profit and quit paying for advertising. Now I depend on self-promotion with my author page, posting on groups, business cards and word of mouth. I have some experience under my belt, and I’d like to save money to spend on more mainstream publishing and promotion for my next book.
BBE: Tips for other writers?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: Not everyone is going to be a famous writer. If you like to write, then write. It’s so rewarding to see your finished work published.
BBE: What will your epitaph say?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: She was strong-willed with good work ethics.
BBE: Anything we haven’t covered? Write your own question and use the last one to say anything you’d like to say.
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: Here’s a 5-star review on Amazon for:
Hi. My Name is Fanny: How a stray cat became part of the family. Kindle Edition
Reviewed in the United States on May 26, 2021
Being a huge pet lover of two rescue cats and a dog, Fanny’s personal story tugged at my heartstrings, and I celebrated her adventures of rescue and life with her loving family. Having known and worked with her mom, Dar, made it an even more special read. I highly recommend this sweet book for all cat lovers.
And here is a 5-star review on Amazon for:
True Medical Documentation Fails: How a Clinical Documentation Specialist Found Humor Reviewing Physician Documentation Kindle Edition
Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2020
Darlene’s collection depicts the brighter side of the Clinical Documentation Integrity (CDI) role. It brings laughter to every medical professional. Lessons learned in this EMR age. Definitely a must-read!
BBE: What do you like to do in your free time?
Darlene Maslek Colaianni: My husband and I like visiting Palm Springs. We often ride the tram up to the top of Mt Jacinto to take in the beautiful view of the desert. We visit our favorite casino and hang out at the pool. We enjoy going there even when the temperature is over 100 degrees.
I’m a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers and watch all their games. I grew up watching them with my dad when I was young, and I’ve carried on the custom with my husband.
BBE: Thank you for taking our interview. We hope you’ve enjoyed it. Best Book Editors wish you every success with your career, with life and with you.
Born in South Shields, Tyne & Weir, Katherine Black lives on the tip of the beautiful British Lake District. She lives with her partner, father-in-law and 4 dysfunctional but co-mingling pets. She is mother, grandmother and secret keeper of all. She is Best Book Editors’ principal editor.