Getting to know authors of of ‘The Year We Turned Forty’ Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Talking with Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is like getting together with a girlfriend, or two. They are smart, articulate and easy to talk to. And it’s obvious that they are best friends from the way they glance at each other when answering questions to the way they finish each other’s sentences.

Just like their debut novel -- Lisa and Liz are long-time best friends

Liz and Lisa use their names interchangeably on their website (lizandlisa.com), their twitter handle (@lizandlisa), and their Instagram account (lisaandliz). Their writing pattern is similar. One will start the story and send it to the other, who edits that chapter and then writes the next one. She then sends the edited chapter and the new chapter back so the other can edit the new chapter and write another one. It works.

For “Your Perfect Life,” their debut novel, they each chose a character and wrote that character’s part. They loved writing that book because they were the same age as the main characters when they wrote it. Lisa commented that the characters in the book — “it was us. It was a chance to look back on experiences and reflect on the fact that you can be friends with someone for 25 years and still learn new things about them. You’re friends, but do you really know what makes them tick?”

And that is the question that is the heart of “Your Perfect Life.” It’s about two longtime best friends (just like Liz and Lisa) who switch bodies to learn what they didn’t know about their best friend. The story is beautifully written, funny and poignant.

The author/best friends are weirdly similar. They showed me their phone covers — both are black with white polka dots. They both have rescue dogs. Liz has three and Lisa one. Each has a dog named Lily. Equally strange, they are both from California but their husbands both have family in the Quad Cities and lived there.

But Liz and Lisa have their differences. They admit that Lisa is the assertive one and detail oriented while Liz is more a “big picture” person. They complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses just like most couples do in a successful marriage.

Now, Liz still resides in sunny Southern California where she lives with her very understanding husband and two children. Her daughter is obsessed with animals, and Liz has been known to bring home a stray dog needing a LOT of love. How did her husband find out? She texted him a picture with the words “Hi Daddy.” Understanding indeed. Her recent rescue is from the San Diego Humane Society.

Liz also works full time. Her husband takes the kids out on Sundays so Liz can write her share of the book that she and Lisa are currently working on. Understanding husband times two! “I could not do it without him,” she told me.

Lisa lives in Libertyville, Illinois, where she resides with her husband, three children and one rescued dog. Her rescue is from Save A Pet in Grayslake, a no-kill animal shelter. While Lisa misses the fabulous California climate (and make no mistake, she misses it terribly), she loves Chicago and says the city is “fantastic.”

Lisa and Liz wrote their second book (they are under contract for three books) and just published their third. The second book is “The Status of all Things;” it’s about a thirty-something woman who is jilted at her rehearsal dinner. She comments on her life on Facebook, and comes to realize that her posts are coming true. How does she use that? Does it bring her happiness? Their third book is “The Year We Turned Forty” and suffice to say there’s not only magic in the story but also in the writing.

In all their books, the two focus on what is important in life.  Is it more important to look perfect or to be happy? And no one, really, has a perfect life. They both are very focused on having their children grow up with good values. Liz explains that she tries to teach her kids to be kind to others. “They need to know they are not better than anyone else and they need to have empathy for others.” Lisa strives to show her kids the value of working hard and not taking things for granted. “Be thankful and appreciate things you have.”

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