This week I'm very excited to introduce you to Rea Frey, who is a woman that I went to school with at Columbia College Chicago and I admire greatly not only for her writing, but also for her healthy lifestyle, which she will talk a bit about in our interview along with her new book, THE CHEAT SHEET: A CLUE BY CLUE GUIDE TO FINDING OUT IF HE'S UNFAITHFUL. Let's meet her shall we?
Q: Tell us about THE CHEAT SHEET. What can readers expect to learn from it and what inspired you to put together this book?
Rea: Despite the title, The Cheat Sheet is for anyone in a relationship or just thinking about getting into a relationship. I find it fascinating that 60% of people who get married will be divorced and that half of men and women are said to cheat at some point in their committed relationships. I feel like we’re doing something wrong. I come from a very committed family. My parents, who have been married 34 years, are so blissfully happy, it was almost confusing growing up. While my friends’ parents got divorced as easily as going on vacation, I was guarded by my parents’ love. I wanted to emulate it. Relationships began to fascinate me. I studied them in school and in psychology. I became the kind of relationship guru – the person people always came to for advice. Confidently (and naively) I got married at 22 and found myself vastly unprepared. Seven years into that relationship, I separated, had an affair with my male best friend and realized that infidelity can happen to anyone at any time. We can convince ourselves of anything if we want it badly enough. After that experience, I really began talking to people about their relationships. Everyone I know has a story about infidelity. So, I decided to write a book about it. This book provides real stories of infidelity, tools to discover cheating, how to get through infidelity with our without your partner and most importantly, how to affair-proof your relationship. It is a book based on reality. Being in a relationship can be tricky. I feel like we get so much pressure from society to grow up and get married, but we’re not provided with the right tools to live happily ever after. I’m hoping this book will provide some accessible tools so people can make their own relationship rules.
Q: Many of my readers are younger, in high school or college, but you and I discussed how hard those first few romantic relationships can be (mine sure as hell were!). Can you share some wisdom about teenage/college-age relationships and what those readers will find beneficial from your book even if they don't necessarily think their partner is cheating on them?
Rea: Your first relationships are often the most intense and impressionable of your life. You’re not yet bombarded with paying bills or having a steady job – you can enjoy each other – you can focus on your feelings and not much else. As we grow older, this is what we often lose sight of: each other. This book reminds you of what’s important at any stage in relationships – focusing on what you appreciate about the person, not what annoys you.
Early relationships can be filled with drama, insecurity, and heartache. First of all, realize that you will change. Your wants will change, your preferences will change, your feelings will change, and your needs will change. We can feel so deeply at such a young age – but when you imagine your life five years from now, understand that the type of people you love now often get complicated with the demands of life. So, enjoy your relationships when you’re young, but don’t cling too tightly to them.
When I think of all the anguish I could have avoided (I was actually a cutter, dealt with an eating disorder and rape), it baffles me. I was so consumed, so lost in myself and other people, that I didn’t see every decision I made was setting the stage for all future relationships. Just as importantly as figuring out what you want is figuring out what you don’t want. Sometimes I think those early relationships can often teach you what you don’t want, so you can figure out what you actually need for the long-term.
This book is a great “prep” tool for the world of adult relationships.
Q: Normally I ask my fiction authors for a soundtrack for their book, songs they were listening to while they were writing. Since your book is a bit different, can you share with us 5 of your favorite songs about infidelity or healing from it or hell, maybe even about love and healthy relationships and tell us what you like about them?
Rea: I hate to break it to you, but I don’t like mushy love songs (I’m so not girly that way)! But, my favorite songs to write to are the following, which happen to deal with love:
1. Tool – The Pot (This song’s lyrics deal with the pot calling the kettle black. I think it’s so easy to play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our actions a lot of the time. So many issues in relationships have to do with little resentments that build up over time. Talk. Talk a lot. Talk about everything. It works every time.)
2. Esthero –I Drive Alone (This song starts out “Can’t move on but I can’t go home,” which I think speaks true to places we get “stuck” in from time to time – especially with love. I used to listen to this song a lot when I was single, and the fact that I was driving alone listening to a song called “I Drive Alone” gave me an immediate calm. I think it’s so important to spend time with yourself before you get into serious relationships – to make sure you know what you really want, not what you’re taught to want. We’re always in such a rush for love (especially when we’re young). Enjoy being alone. It is such a gift.)
3. Billie Holiday – There Is No Greater Love (One of my favorite artists of all time, Ms. Holiday was a troubled soul. But, I love this song because it’s about pure love in its simplest form; it’s about feeling a great love for the one you’re with. Nothing more. Nothing less.)
4. Martina-Topley Bird – Phoenix (I saw her in concert and just fell in love with her voice and shy nature. This song talks about “round and round we go,” which is like life, love, and everything in between. Sometimes it feels like we’re just having one giant relationship with the world: hopping from person to person, experience to experience. This is why it’s so important to know who you are. Don’t play games.)
5. PJ Harvey with Thom Yorke – The Mess We’re In (The title says it all. How many times do we feel like that? How did we get here? What do I do? Love is a powerful thing – it can lead us to bad decisions, but at the core, it’s a good emotion. Remember that relationships are supposed to make you feel good. Don’t stay in something negative because it’s convenient.)
Q: You aren't just a nonfiction writer. We met of course in a fiction writing program and you are a Jill of all trades. You were a boxer, work as a personal trainer, and write a lot about healthy habits. Can you talk a bit about that side of yourself and give us some links as to where we can find more about that side of you because I think that will be something cool for my readers to check out. I know I love the links and recipes you share on facebook.
Rea: Since I was young, I’ve been active. Thirteen years as a gymnast, five years as a boxer and going on my eleventh year as a personal trainer and nutrition specialist, fitness has always been a vital part of my life. I approach health the same way I approach relationships: there’s no “one size” fits all. It’s all about the individual.
But, as a society, I think we have become really unhealthy and confused. What are we supposed to eat? Which workout is best? How long will my relationship last? What does this text message mean?
Look at our obesity rates. Look at the crap schools feed kids. Look at all the divorces. Look at how sedentary we are. To me, wellness is about being healthy in all aspects of your life: relationships, job, romantic life, and personal life. Hundreds of years ago, we weren’t married to technology. We moved our bodies and we ate food from the ground. We actually talked to each other instead of texting.
Your health is one of the only things you can control, and the healthier you are, the happier you are. It really does feed into every aspect of your life. It’s so important for younger people to realize this – by developing healthy habits, they can virtually erase disease later in life.
In terms of writing, I write for Martha Stewart’s Whole Living site for their Meatless Monday series. I write a weekly vegan column for Cheeky Chicago and contribute to YumUniverse.com. I have my own blog, Clean Convenient Cuisine hosted by the Tribune. I write several relationship columns as well.
Q: Who are some of the people that inspired you and/or continue to inspire you to write--or as an athlete, perhaps other artists, athletes or people from your own life? On WWRW we like to hear about inspiring women in particular, but feel free to include guys too!
Rea: One of the earliest women that inspired me was the boxer Lucia Rijker. I remember going to this little independent theater in Chicago, and watching this beast of a woman box on screen. It wasn’t barbaric. It was grace in motion. It was a ballerina on pointe. It was music every time her fist connected with its target. Alice Walker was another inspiring person growing up. I loved the stripped down version of her work; the way she manipulated words and often left them in their basest form. The first time I saw Maya Angelou speak was breathtaking. Suddenly, I was jealous of her, at such an advanced stage in her career, reflecting, laughing, sitting up there in her rocking chair with her cane, so many decades older and wiser. She had the look of a writer who knew her words have literally changed and shaped lives.
I love the bravery of a writer who sticks to the page; who believes that if they are good enough people will read them, and if not, then perhaps they will make their mark on a select few. I feel like we’ve lost that authenticity a bit these days, and for the younger generations, I worry they won’t read good novels. They won’t peruse the shelves of bookstores and inhale the scent of paper. They won’t be as affected by true artists… we’re so over stimulated, it’s hard to distinguish hard work from a quick payday sometimes. But, I know there’s good everywhere, and keeping our eye on successful, inspirational, positive men and women is always a step in the right direction.
One person in particular who has been such an inspiration to me is a man named Byran Smith. When I was living in Nashville, I signed up to teach adults to read. Byran was 42. He was from Jamaica. He had a wife and four kids, and he was at a second grade reading level. By the time we were done, he could write checks, read his children bedtime stories and help work colleagues spell words. Working so diligently to try and explain our hard (nonsensical) language was one of the toughest and most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s a constant reminder that without words, we have so little, and with words, our lives can become richer and more beautiful than we could have ever dreamed. I think of him and his perseverance whenever I get tired or don’t feel like doing much. His ambition is an ongoing lesson to never lose mine.
Q: You've got so much cool stuff going on. What are the next big things coming down the line for you? Any fiction? Were you serious about that cookbook you mentioned on facebook? (I really hope so!)
Rea: I’ve had my novel sitting in my drawer for years. Now that I’m a nonfiction writer, I panic that fiction might not see the light of day. But, my fiction has always fought with the truth, which is why I naturally gravitate to nonfiction. Since I just wrote a book about relationships, I would love to write a book based on living a balanced life. As I mentioned earlier, health means paying attention to what you feed your body, how you move your body, and who you share your body with. I think they all work together to create the definition of wellness. And yes, I am serious about a cookbook! I want to show people how easy, healthy, and delicious eating a plant-based diet can be. No fake meat. No complicated recipes. Just quick, simple recipes that mimic a lot of regular American fare.
Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!
Rea: I can’t believe I can’t remember the first album I bought. This could mean a couple of things: I had so much music around, I bought more than one, or I have early onset Alzheimer’s. I grew up in a house full of music; on Saturdays, my parents would put on a Police record or Sting and we would clean for hours. My brother introduced me to all types of music. One of the first was probably a Faith No More album. The first concert I can remember attending is Korn. It was at this little hole in the wall place in Nashville. From that moment, I was hooked to going to shows. Every weekend, for the majority of my teenage life, I would get lost in the thrum of local bands, popular bands, any type of band. Every boyfriend I had through high school was a musician. I loved watching that passion onstage – I would try and emulate that when I wrote. It was and still is so inspiring.
Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!
Rea: I don’t know if this qualifies as a rock star moment, but after my divorce, I moved back to Chicago. I had lost my house, my pets, my relationship and any semblance of a normal life. I didn’t know which way was up, but I knew I wanted to write this book (The Cheat Sheet). However, I didn’t have an agent yet. I moved in with roommates in a loft in the West Loop. I went from a 3,000 sf home to a room without walls. All my belongings were shoved in a closet. I was stripped to the bones. Everyday, I would get up, work out and go to a coffee shop to write. I kept saying, “I need to go to Europe. I need to go to Europe for free. There has to be a way to get there for free. I need to be in Europe.”
A week later, I got a call from a woman I was ghostwriting for. I had written a proposal for her that had landed her a deal with Nestle. She wanted to finish her book and decided to fly me to Switzerland first-class in order to do it. I stayed for 10 days. I climbed the Swiss Alps. I stayed in a hotel outside of Zurich and wrote until my fingers ached. I drank cappuccinos and ate rosti and gelato (pre-vegan days!) and breathed the crisp, fall air. I played by the water and jumped on a trampoline on the side of a mountain and spent days outside constructing someone else’s sentences. At such a lost time in my life, it was exactly what I needed. I’ve always loved helping writers and getting excited about their ideas. Through the entire trip, I think I spent $100. It was an unreal experience – one I will always cherish. It was a definite rock-star moment, for sure.
After hearing more about it (and how awesome Rea is; she's definitely one of my inspirations!, I'm guessing you want THE CHEAT SHEET and you are in luck! Rea is offering up a copy!
This contest is open to international entries!
To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. However you can gain additional entries:
+1 for tweeting or posting on facebook about this interview
+1 for tweeting or posting about THE CHEAT SHEET
+5 for blogging about THE CHEAT SHEET
Note your additional entries in your comment as well as giving me an email address or some way to contact you if you win. I will be drawing the winner on July 21 (taking next week off because it's my birthday!) when I bring you my second ever Guys Rock, Too! Interview, which will be with another of my writing heroes, Jon Skovron!