Linwood author Kathleen Schoonover writes to fulfill a passion - she's been writing in journals since age 8 - but ideally, she works to spark new ideas and conversation.
On Jan. 19, she will visit the Otto Bruyns Public Library in Northfield for the first time to present her latest novel, "When Collagen Fails," a fictional tale that touches on plastic surgery, greedy corporate America and living in a narcissistic society.
"In an ideal world for me, I could just moderate a discussion," she said, sitting in the dining room of her old red farmhouse, the original cover art of her latest book hanging on the wall in front of her. "I would want to see how other people feel about the issue (I present in my novel).
"As a writer, you never have all the answers. You do a lot of thinking about a lot of issues. But, what you really want is to raise questions and get people thinking."
Schoonover, 53, received a degree in sociology from Rutgers University with a minor in art, and immediately following graduation, worked for a second degree in biology from Richard Stockton College.
Soon after, she enrolled at Drexel University to pursue science writing. A semester in, with a newborn son and husband at home, she realized "the forces just weren't there."
When a job in teaching fell through at the last minute, career options seemed sparse - until her husband, Sam, the great-nephew of American illustrator Frank Schoonover, suggested getting into the art business.
For nearly 13 years, she owned and ran Renoir's Nephew Fine Arts and Framing on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City.
But ultimately Schoonover wanted to write. She had contributed to a few local papers, including the Mainland Journal and the Atlantic County Journal, but the upkeep of a business in a declining economy proved unsuitable for a writing career. It was her father's death at an early age that also got her to close up shop.
"It made me question how I wanted to spend what time I might have left," she said.
Schoonover wrote "When Collagen Fails," her second published novel. Her first, "The Pony Tail" was published in 2000.
Her latest follows protagonist Jillian Eyre, in her late 40s and a managing editor of a New York science magazine.
Readers experience the character's personal struggle - navigating midlife in a humorous fashion - through hot flashes and drama in the workplace. The subplot, however, deals with the less funny topic of corporate greed, as a conglomerate represented by 20-somethings takes over Eyre's magazine.
Schoonover's novel is strictly fiction.
"Part of the joy of writing fiction is creating something entirely new," she said. "I like creating a character from the ground up."
Her inspiration for the piece was threefold, a frustration stemming from society's shallowness, the backwardness of modern aging and her background in science, she said.
"I've always felt that society is so obsessed with people's appearances," she said. "In this country, they almost make aging out to be something that has to be fixed, rather than the natural process that is it."
The author also touches on nanotechnology, a science with recent developments that she fears go under the radar, involving the manipulation of matter on a molecular scale, she said.
Schoonover commented that plastic surgery is not something she's against, if it's done for the right reasons.
"If it improves (a person's) quality of life and it's a decision that they arrive at on their own, then I have no right to judge that. What I'm against is surgeons preying on the insecurities of people as they grow older," she said.
She worked to incorporate science into a female-driven comedic tale intended to attract an audience of women ages 35-75, but men have even caught on, she said.
"A lot of my friends' husbands have read it and loved it," she said.
Paul Brunner, the library's program coordinator, is responsible for bringing Schoonover to Northfield and was excited to have the local author present on such a relevant topic.
"All of us are going to get wrinkles and get older," he said. "I think it's going to be of a great interest to a lot of women around - hopefully, from high school onward … because it's true."
Schoonover, who is working on her third novel and a collection of funny short stories, only hopes that her baby boomer generation won't be remembered as the "vainest."
"I thought, 'How would our world be different if even a portion of (what we spend on cosmetic surgeries and procedures) was directed to something else?" she said, offering green energy resources, education and hunger as examples.
"Would our frown lines be so bad if we were directing our energy outwardly, instead of inwardly?"
Contact Caitlin Honan:
If you go
Kathleen Schoonover presents 'When Collagen Fails'
1 p.m., Sat. Jan. 19
Otto Bruyns Public Library of Northfield
Call 609-646-4476 or see whencollagenfails.com. 'When Collagen Fails' will be available for purchase for $19.95 hard copy or $8.95-$9.95 for an ebook.