Rie Rie Teaches Isabel About Publishing and Adulthood
She was always just Rie Rie to Isabel. That’s Aunt Rie Rie.
Isabel is Marie’s only niece on her Sullivan side of the family. Isabel is the daughter of Marie’s brother, George, and Team Jack member Holly.
Isabel says she and Marie got along so well she always considered “Rie Rie” her second mother, albeit a strict one. Even though she was strict, Isabel remembers Marie being funny about it and she was always “super fun to be around.” Isabel was young when Marie lived in Spain, and Isabel says Marie has repeatedly said she was afraid Isabel would forget her while she was there. Forget about it…she didn’t. Not even for a minute.
Isabel, now 23, was a teenager and Marie was writing Treading Water. Even then, when she saw those close to Marie reading her book, which was printed on computer paper and fastened with binder clips, Isabel didn’t realize the magnitude of Rie Rie’s ability.
She did know, however, that Marie’s one of the most generous people she’s ever met. “She’s constantly gone above and beyond for me in every way that she can.”
Isabel needed to spread her wings and left the family’s home state of Rhode Island to move to Florida with her boyfriend when she was 19. Aquidneck Island, the area of RI where the family lives, was feeling too small for her and she wanted to be independent, to get a job without the help of her family. She lived in Florida, waiting tables and going to school, for nearly two years. She came back when she was eight months pregnant. At this time Holly had already begun to work for Team Jack. When Harper, Isabel’s daughter was about three months old, Marie asked Isabel to join the team. Isabel jumped at the chance to work with Marie, a job that allows her to stay at home with Harper.
“The opportunity that she’s given me to be with Harper doing what I’m doing now is just incredible,” she says.
Isabel formats Marie’s digital and print versions of books and coordinates some of the travel for the team, including Marie’s family trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2014. She takes classes now and then but her real classroom (and boardroom) is with Team Jack, where she says she has and continues to learn so much. Sometimes she takes Harper, who’s the light of Marie’s eyes, to work at Marie’s house. She said she didn’t realize the extent of Marie’s work or how popular she’d grown with her readership until she got to see it firsthand.
Isabel praises Julie, who taught Isabel graphic design and is “incredible.” As a result of her work with Team Jack, Isabel has improved her computer skills and learned so much about the publishing world. “Doing what I’m doing has sort of shown me a career path.”
For now she’s taking a break from school and says, “I feel like I’ve learned so much through what I’m doing,” adding she wants to concentrate on her job before finishing school, where she’s studied numerous topics, the most recent being business. Learning the publishing industry, especially self-publishing, an industry trend in which Marie has been involved since the early days of her career, is incredible.
Isabel’s read every one of Marie’s books. Hmmm…how does that work out, reading steamy and erotic romance books written by your aunt and then discussing them with her and your mother, for goodness sake?
When Isabel jokingly protested about the TMI factor in the Team Jack ‘office’ (Marie’s house), both Marie and Holly told her she’d had a baby so her naïveté gig was up.
“She [Marie] definitely has no filter around me,” Isabel admits. “I can’t even repeat some of the things she says.”
She loves Marie’s books, all of them. And she said Marie loves the fact that she loves them.
Holly remembers Isabel’s early days on the job.
“When Isabel first started working for Marie, we would be at the house doing stuff and talking to her about certain things and we’d start talking shop and she (Isabel) would say, ‘I’m so proud of you, listening to you and learning what you’ve learned.’ She thought that was super cool.”
And the other shop talk?
“Oh, we talk sex all the time,” Holly says with her characteristic giggle. “It’s weird, but it’s old hat now. We all curse like sailors, except now we’re not allowed to around Harper. Especially me and Marie, we’re such potty mouths it’s awful.”
But more than the potty mouth, more than the sex talk, more than the business of writing award-winning books, Marie and Holly have taught Isabel other life lessons.
Isabel says Marie’s always supported her, even when she was a crazy teenager or announced she was pregnant. Isabel says she’s become so much more mature since working with Marie and Holly.
“The three of us have so much fun together, and they’ve taught me so much about how to be a mom and how to be a grownup.”
written by Cheryl Serra, Marie’s director of publicity—and one of her bridesmaids 23 years ago