1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into this book?
When I was sick, I couldn't find any straightforward, kind, funny, literary books about hysterectomy. When I realized that over 600 thousand women have hysterectomies every single year in America alone, I decided that would write the book I wish I'd been able to read when I was unwell.
2. What is it about and who is it for?
Well, on one level it's about infertility and hysterectomy. But it's also about how the women who came before me in my family have given me courage and strength and drive. It's also the story of a happy marriage, which is not an easy story to tell, really, because happiness is so subtle and un-dramatic. It's also about the way an ailing artist's mind works, and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, though, I think that FLESH AND BLOOD is about what we do when our dreams elude us. We all have dreams that we can't make come true. I like to think that my great great grandmother would be proud of me for trying to make something beautiful out of my sorrow and illness.
3. What takeaways might the reader will be
left with after reading it?
There are endless wonders to lean on during hard times, from the natural world, to friends, family, and even strangers. I had monks down the road who gave me a place to walk as I was recovering, and I also had a praying mantis living in my sunroom that I spent hours watching. The unexpected gifts from my illness were legion, and so I'm glad that what happened to me happened to me. It's a book about hope, I think, and that's what I want readers to be left with - hope, and the knowledge that, if you let it, the world wants you in it.
4. How did you decide on your book’s title and
I had a working title that the publisher thought was too dour, so we spent time brainstorming and came up with a title we could all get behind. The cover art was pretty much done without my input, but I think that's because my editor showed it to me and I fell immediately in love with it. It's from a detail of a larger painting by Raul Colon, and I tried to get the original painting, but sadly (for me) it had already sold. I especially love the way they made the leaves in the painting weave around my name. Makes it feel magical.
5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have
for fellow writers?
I say that we should all write from a place of abundance, that we each have a bottomless well of stories to tell, so if you're struggling with one and can't seem to make it work, it's ok to move onto another story, and another. I have a failed novel in a drawer and I'm grateful I tried to make it work AND that I failed. It taught me so much about how to write, and about the kind of writer I really am. Writing that book, and failing to make it work made me into a successful writer. Giving up on it was important, and I could do that because I knew that I had endless other stories to shape and write for the world.
6. What challenges did you overcome to write
Well, I'm 57 now, and being an older female feels challenging. I got my MFA at 49, and there were plenty of 20-something students in my classes who were visibly uninterested in what I was writing about. Ultimately it was good for me because it made me double-down on the stories I have to tell, and it gave me license not to pander. I am not writing my books to please everyone on earth. I am just telling my stories as beautifully as I can, and I trust that my work will find its audience.
7. If people can buy or read one book this
week or month, why should it be yours?
Well, I think that the best books are a combination of being 2 things - entertaining and meaningful, and I think Flesh and Blood is both. It's both a straight-forward tale of illness, diagnosis, surgery, complications, and ultimately recovery, so it keeps readers reading to find out what happens. But I've also worked to make it meaningful. I want this book to feel like a friend to readers, both men and women, and the outpouring that I'm getting from readers tells me that at least some people out there are finding great joy and connection from the book. It's also a quick read with some teeny tiny chapters of a page or less, so it's a book that you could read if you weren't feeling well, because you could read a tiny bite of it and then put the book down and come back to it.
ABOUT N. WEST MOSS: N. West Moss has published a collection of short stories, and her award-winning essays and poems have appeared in the New York Times, Salon.com, McSweeney’s, and many other publications. She has a certificate in narrative medicine and works at a university in NJ, where she lives.
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