Big thanks to Stephanie Barbe Hammer, author of THE PUPPET TURNERS OF NARROW INTERIOR: A NOVEL IN STORIES, for tagging me in the Good Reads project, THE NEXT BIG THING. Below is a first for me; a self-interview about my memoir.
What is the title or working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I used to be a teen services librarian, and, while in that job, I served on a committee that put together themed booklists for teens. One year we did a themed list about illness, so I read a lot of books about illness, including memoirs. It was a lot like when I was in high school, and got obsessed with books about the Vietnam War. Only this time, I could do something other than get depressed. I could write my own illness memoir, about my health problems related to a tumor I had on the outside of my intestine. So that’s how the book started out.
And then one of my closest friends, Beth, died of cancer. We had talked about writing a book together about our experiences of tumors, surgeries, trading roles of patient and caregiver. But it was one of the many experiences I didn’t get to share with her. Instead, I wrote about my experience of having her die, about her illness, my illness.
I started doing triathlons as a way to celebrate my health, and then as a way to honor Beth. So it all came together: illness, health, loss, strength, friendship. Swimming, biking, running. Though illness is still a big part of the story, I don’t think the book belongs in the category of “illness memoir” anymore.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Me – I don’t feel like I can choose a character to play myself, even sarcastically.
Matt (my husband) – Ryan Gosling (hey, a girl can dream, right?)
Beth – Jessica Chastain (she was that redheaded, that pale, that beautiful)
Kevin (Beth’s husband) – River Phoenix (they really do look alike)
Caleb (my five-year-old) – Jay Mello (played Brody’s youngest son, Sean, in JAWS)
Helen (my four-year-old) – Shirley Temple
A friend, who appears in one sentence of the book, has asked to be played by Daniel Craig. I’ll see what I can do.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
How do you survive a serious illness, the death of your best friend, and getting kicked off the course during a triathlon? It takes GUTS.
[That’s two sentences. Forgive me.]
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It depends on what you mean by “first draft.” I started this project in 2005, and had a manuscript together in 2012. I’m still drafting, and revising. I don’t like to think about what draft I’m on now.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the desire to try and make sense of my experiences, beyond a simple recording of “this crazy thing happened to me.” A lot of books were inspirations to me too, including THE TENDER LAND by Kathleen Finneran, a beautiful memoir about Finneran’s family that centers around her brother’s suicide when he was fifteen.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Parts of it are funny, and also medically graphic. You learn more than you might want to know about my large intestine. (Wait, did you say “pique” or “put off”?)
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m currently seeking representation.
Next week, look for NEXT BIG THING blog posts by fabulous authors Tanya Chernov, Claire Gebben, and Mandy Manning.