As it turns out, one of my twitter friends is a features editor for a newspaper, and she asked me if I’d be willing to be interviewed about my book.
My first thoughts were, “Well, that sounds horrifying!” and “Does she expect to talk to me on the phone? ‘Cause I’d rather be mauled by that bear in The Revenant than talk on the phone.”
I asked if I could respond by email and she immediately agreed. Curse my slow thinking! I should have countered that I’d only do it if the paper agreed to fly me and my husband, Fran, to a tiny deserted island, (where I could respond in comfort), with a butler and a stocked bar … and also, a twenty-four-hour breakfast buffet with one of those “build your own omelet” stations, because omelet stations usually close at some preposterously early hour … like the ass-crack of noon.
So, shit. I had to answer the interview questions without anyone building me a delicious custom-made omelet first. #FML
Below are the original questions and my unedited answers (written while hiding in my pillow fort after drinking two martinis … that I had to pour for myself like some kind of fuckin’ homeless person!):
Please tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I was an incredibly successful software development mogul living in Silicon Valley, until my husband, Fran, reminded me that having a WordPress website doesn’t make you a successful computer software developer, and that we live approximately three thousand miles from Silicon Valley. So, since he wants to be all technical about it, I was a Silicon Valley-adjacent software mogul.
Okay, none of that is true. This is going to sound weird, but for someone who wrote a freakin’ memoir, I really don’t like talking about myself. I’m gonna try to keep this brief. My undergraduate degree is in Computer Information Systems with a minor in Finance & Accounting and my graduate degree was in Business Administration, also with a minor in Finance & Accounting because apparently, I hate myself. I worked for almost twenty years as a typical desk jockey and am now a retired and very bitter underachiever. Spoiler alert: When your boss says “all boats will rise with the tide” what they really mean is “their boat will rise exponentially with the tide, while your boat should expect a contract renegotiation as soon as you start making too much money.”
I’m also a former swimsuit super model.
In my head …. Shut up, Fran.
Did you have ambitions for a writing career? Is writing your full-time job?
No, I can’t say I ever thought about writing as a career. As the saying goes, I like to write, but I also like to eat. And surprisingly, there’s not a large market for writers who use f-bombs in every third paragraph. No, it’s true … most publications discourage cursing. I’m as shocked as you are.
Which writers inspire you?
Well, of course, Jenny Lawson is my hero. She is effortlessly hilarious, whereas I have to work really hard to be mildly amusing.
Why do you write?
Much of the content of my book started out as emails to family and friends to keep them up to date on what I now refer to as, “The Great Cancer Scare of 2014.” Every step in the process of determining whether or not I had breast cancer was terrifying to me. (Did I mention I have anxiety issues? I have anxiety issues.)
I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I Could. Not. Even. I literally lost all capacity to even. (And anyone who uses the phrase “I can’t even” to complain about some barista spelling their name wrong on a paper cup, should be ashamed of themselves for cheapening this phrase.)
Throughout “the troubles,” I didn’t want friends or family calling me on the phone—or gawd forbid, knocking on my door—to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t okay, but I prefer to be not okay in the privacy of my own home, while googling my prognosis.
So I started writing emails. I wanted to let everyone know that yes, I was freaking out a little, but also that I recognized how ridiculous it was that I was so scared. On a scale of one to crazy, all of my fears are slightly ridiculous. And making fun of them helped me enormously.
That last sentence is a lie. Making fun of my fears doesn’t even help me a little, let alone enormously, but I would crack myself up writing these emails (I’m easily amused) and often friends would write back to tell me how funny my email was, which made me want to write more entertaining emails. Eventually, one friend, Beth Evangelista, who is a published young adult author herself, started hounding me to turn the emails into a book. So basically, we all have Beth to blame.
That was a very long winded way of saying, I think the reason I write is to avoid talking to people, to amuse myself and to try to make others laugh. Maybe so they won’t take it personally that I don’t want to talk to them.
How long did it take you to write your book?
I technically started writing emails that formed the basis of the book back in December 2013, after a wonky mammogram, then began compiling those for the book around June of 2014, and I published the final eBook in August of 2016, so if my math is correct, it took me way too fuckin’ long.
Tell me why you chose to write about breast cancer and anxiety.
It was basically a business decision. I figured there’s a humongous untapped market out there for another memoir by a completely unknown author about breast cancer and anxiety. I knew these topics would land me on Oprah’s book club list, so my husband and I could retire and I would finally become the filthy rich eccentric hermit I’ve always longed to be.
Naw, but really, those subjects picked me. I guess it worked out because you’re supposed to write what you know … right? I don’t know much about breast cancer, but I know A LOT about breast cancer scares plus anxiety.
About twelve percent of women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. I have aunts on both sides of my family and one grandmother who had breast cancer. Most of us know someone who has been touched by this disease, if not a family member, then a friend. I’m sure most people who are dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer, or even those who simply had a core needle biopsy that turned out to be benign, can tell you how frightening and at times utterly confusing their medical treatment could be. I often used humor as a way to cope with my fears. Not only to make fun of myself and my anxiety, but also to vent my frustrations with some of the ridiculously pompous and patronizing medical professionals I came in contact with.
I think seeing the humor in an enormously stressful situation can help defuse some of the fear. (Of course it’s possible I’m confusing morbid nervous laughter with a healthy coping mechanism, but let’s assume I’m not.) If you can look at a terrifying situation, and poke fun of it, you take away some of its terrifying-ness. (Yeah, let’s make that a word.) Because I was writing emails to friends to make myself, and them laugh, I started looking for the humor during each scary and often painful medical test I went through. Looking for hilarity, meant less time focusing internally on my anxiety. (Kind of. Not gonna lie, I was still scared shitless, but at least I could laugh at how ridiculously afraid I was.) I hope anyone who reads my book comes away from it looking for the funny in any anxiety-provoking situation they encounter. Because at the end of the day, it never hurts to laugh. Unless it hurts when you laugh. Then don’t laugh.
What was the hardest thing about writing your book?
Probably the hardest thing is that I’m terrible at writing, but I don’t realize just how terrible I am, until I get my draft back from my editor. It’s been a very humbling process involving a great deal of shame and self-loathing. Even now I cringe whenever someone tells me they’ve started reading my book. I also recently listed it on GoodReads. I’ve heard the reviewers on that site are incredibly critical and can be very hard on authors. (Hold me?)
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Complaining about doctors and shitty medical procedures. I don’t like to brag, but bitching just comes naturally to me.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
Oh, my editor is a lovely and very talented woman who I met around six years ago on an online forum. I call her Lola, in the book. I don’t think she’d want me giving out her real name because, honestly, what idiot would want to put their name on this book? I, on the other hand, am a dumbass, and didn’t use a pen name.
If it wasn’t for Lola, this book would never have been finished. Any passages in the book that don’t sound like they were written by a ninth grader, are all thanks to Lola.
Tell me about the cover and how it came about.
I do all the drawings in the book, so at first I wanted to do a drawing for the cover. But my drawings aren’t very polished and I thought it would make the book look too unprofessional. My avatar on twitter is a nipple wearing glasses, so I decided to try cutting out the shapes of a nipple and glasses out of paper and took a picture of it. I handed that to my friend who I’ve known since childhood, Tonnie Seery, who also happens to be a professional graphic designer. Tonnie used that picture and designed the final book cover for me. (I’m not a big proponent of having friends in real life, but in this case, it worked out well.)
How are you publishing this book and why?
I decided to take a short cut through the very arduous process of finding an agent, submitting the manuscript and getting laughed out of publisher’s offices, and went directly to the why-don’t-I-just-publish-this-myself phase. (You’d think with my five hundred plus twitter followers, I’d have publishing houses calling me daily with book deals, but astonishingly, I didn’t.)
Honestly, I didn’t think any publisher would be interested in a humorous memoir, by an unknown person about not having cancer, so I self-published the eBook on Amazon. I’m now in the process of formatting a print book and will use the CreateSpace Print on Demand (POD) service for the paperback edition.
I’ll also be publishing the book on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and a few other places, hopefully in the near future.
The very best thing about self-publishing is, I don’t have to do any book tours or read in front of people. I can do all my promoting from a couch, in my pajamas.
Your book’s title includes “Volume 1.” Can we expect more books from you?
I certainly have enough material for a second book. I went through another major cancer scare in 2015 with a large mass in my abdomen that turned out to be an ovarian tumor. I had a hysterectomy in May of 2015, then after another wonky mammogram, I had another breast cancer scare and lumpectomy in September of that year. (All my lady parts are definitely trying to kill me.)
Having said that, writing a book requires a lot of work, and editing and graphic design costs money. So no, in all honesty, I think it’s destined to remain a “sprawling” one volume series.
Of course, I would totally change my mind if this first book sells a hundred thousand copies. In other words, Volume 2 should be hitting bookstores never.
How can readers discover more about you and your book?
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?
That I could actually finish a book. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who is shocked. I think my husband thought it was all an elaborate ploy to make it sound like I was doing something productive with my time. Jokes on him though, ’cause I spent two and a half years “working” on a book that should have taken me six months to complete. What? Those Netflix movies on my queue weren’t going to watch themselves.
Who should read your book?
Well I can tell you who shouldn’t read it: definitely not my first breast surgeon, or my oncologist, or any of my doctors, really. Oh, or that nurse I talk about in the book: Vampire Dave. That fuckin’ guy. Eeeesh. I’ll be seeing him again in February for my next follow-up MRI, so don’t anybody tell Dave about the book. I don’t want him to destroy my arm with his needle any more than usual.
So, I don’t know … you asked who should read it? I guess everyone in my immediate family, because I’ll be expecting book reports from each of them. And yes, that includes you, Fran. Also, people who aren’t offended easily, people who laugh at just about anything, and for sure anyone who has boobs & anxiety.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Well, you forgot to ask me if Hollywood has approached me yet, about turning my book into a movie, and the answer is: Oh my god I can’t believe you thought Hollywood would approach me about turning my book into a movie! That’s so flattering! But no. They haven’t.
Someone please call Hollywood.
PS – If you have a good JPEG of your book cover and/or a photo of yourself I can use with the story, please send them my way!
I won’t send you a picture of myself for reasons of personal privacy, and also because I’m hideous, but I will send you a drawing of the back of my head. You’re welcome.
Here’s a link to the newspaper article: http://www.wiscnews.com/bdc/lifestyles/article_db6820ec-04b1-50e5-8ef0-b6434cfe8654.html
And here is the final paragraph in my email to Amanda, @lootsfoz on twitter who is the newspaper’s features editor:
Thank you so much, Amanda! This was really fun/nerve-wracking. But mostly nerve-wracking. I totally understand if your boss tells you that there is no fuckin’ way this is going to get published in your paper. I wouldn’t publish these horrible answers if I had a paper. But, maybe now that my book is done, I should tell Fran I’m starting a paper. That sounds a lot better than working on another book that won’t sell … no?