We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Irving and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, how has your pespective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I started working my first “real” job, I was an ob/gyn resident. I was 27 years old, and while it wasn’t my first full time job (I’d had a full time job and a part time side job before medical school), it was my first job in my chosen field. I worked anywhere from 70-100 hours a week. Yes, there are “duty hour” restrictions, but I don’t know of any programs that actually follow them. Someone has to do the work and the work has to get done, so you just work. I met my husband right before I started, and he moved down to AZ from Canada about a year and a half after we met. My working life didn’t change after he got here. We were married a week after he arrived, and it still didn’t change. We had our first child about a year and a half later, and it still didn’t change. How could it? Then, I got sick, and I had to re-examine how I was living my life. I knew my husband, but we had both changed. We had the opportunity to relearn each other during my time off. I kept waiting for the baby’s parents to pick him up– that’s how little I had bonded with our older son. One advantage of having that time off was that I bonded with my child. While it was awful at the time, I am grateful for that experience. When I left my residency, I went to a position that worked 4 10-hour shifts a week. It was like heaven! I had another child and my experience was so different. I left that company and started in private practice working 4 6-hour shifts a week. I made significantly less money, but I knew my family. I got to really raise my children and stay connected to my husband. It left time to complete continuing medical education without straining any part of my life. I started writing again during this time. I’ve put out 3 full-length novels, 2 novellas, and 4 short stories in the past 5 years. I started teaching part time, and then I eventually left clinical practice to teach undergraduate pre-med students full time. I sleep well at night. My anxiety is less. My children know and love me, and I know and love them. My husband and I have “together” time. We go on a kid -free weekend getaway at least once a year. Without that illness, I’d still be killing myself working. I love my life as it is now. It’s great having time for me and us. It’s also taught my husband, my sons, and me that money isn’t everything. Your sanity is what gets you through and without a good work-life balance, you’ll lose it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I love when my husband tells people I’m a novelist. Even though I’m a physician and university professor, I get the most interesting looks and questions when people find out I write books. I’ve been writing my whole life. Most creatives never put their work out their for others to see. It’s so personal. It’s a reflection of you, and if you do put it out there and there’s a negative reaction, it’s soul crushing. I started off writing fan fiction with a group of friends. Many of these friends have now gone on to being professional authors, so the quality of the writing I was exposed to, as well as the critique, was probably better than average for a fanfic writing group. As a whole, we all started wanting to work more on our original stuff. One forward-thinking friend put together a Facebook group to make like a central repository of writing opportunities and information on how to get published. I’ve never been good at just writing whatever. Most of what was out there was short story-driven, where you get a topic and off you go. I found that intimidating until I saw an ad that inspired me. I wrote a short story. It was accepted by the publisher. I wrote another connected story. It was also accepted by the publisher. I had an idea for a book based on these short stories, so I wrote one. I didn’t have the patience to wait for traditional publishing to happen, so I looked into self publishing. I took the plunge, and here I am. It took some serious balls. I was so nervous. The bad reviews were gut wrenching, but now I look at any feedback as good. I have frustrated, annoyed, or disgusted people enough that they felt compelled to review my stuff. Not everyone can say that. If you have lukewarm feelings about something, you normally don’t say anything about it. But I evoked some great visceral reactions. My favorite review is entitled, “meh.” Love it. I just want people to know that they should never give up, even when faced with criticism. Take it in stride, and use it!!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In the Phoenix area? Well, if you come here, you have to go to Bobby Q. BBQ aficionados from all over the country eat there, and everyone just loves it. I’d also take them to Blue Hound or Arrogant Butcher downtown. Really neat New American cuisine. If during the spring or fall, I’d say they’d have to check out a Phoenix Rising professional soccer game, as well as an Arizona Coyotes NHL game. They’re the most inexpensive professional sports in the metro area, and it’s always a fantastic time! If they’re museum-goers, Id say they’d have to go to the Musical Instrument Museum and the Desert Botanical Gardens. Both are great experiences.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate this to my husband, Colin. Without his unfailing love and support, I wouldn’t be here. Literally. He saved my life and has encouraged me every step of the way ever since.
This is a selfie I took at Downtown Disney back in early December of 2019. I never take horizontal pictures, so sorry it’s on its side.