1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into a book?
After recovering from a rare and frequently fatal lymphoma, I knew I needed to write Blood Brother: A Memoir, but couldn’t articulate why. So, I just kept going. Around draft 30, I decided to ask my brother—who donated his bone marrow—to tell me “his side of the story,” why he left the family, and what it was like seeing a sister after 30 years.
I’d always blamed our parents for his disappearance and was astonished to learn that he had no animosity for the abuse he suffered at their hands. I could not let go of my ill feelings towards our mother and father, but he had.
This led me to really question the nature of forgiveness, which, in retrospect, may have been my motivation for writing the book although I didn’t realize that at the beginning of the 12-year process.
I began to accept that my parents’ lives might have been more complicated and painful than I’d imagined. It was not a momentary experience, but a slow recognition that forgiveness does not happen in a moment but may take a lifetime.
I now have a photograph of my parents in my office—when they were young, still married, and not destroyed by pills or alcohol. I see the photo every day and say hello. I ask them how they are and feel a warmth towards them that had been missing for a very long time.
2. What is it about and who is it for?
Blood Brother: A Memoir is the story of my treatment for Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of the disease. At diagnosis, my bone marrow was 98% cancerous. A heart attack or brain aneurism was imminent. I had one chance at survival: to find a bone marrow donor. But two of my brothers were not a match nor was there anyone in the international database of donors. The only other person who might enable me to survive was my youngest brother who had vanished 30 years earlier. Blood Brother: A Memoir is about how to rebuild family, how to forgive, and how to embrace a glorious second chance at life.
Blood Brother: A Memoir has three distinct reader audiences, each with a different takeaway:
§ People who have had cancer or members of their family, friends, and caregivers
§ Readers who enjoy memoir, especially those that delve into philosophical/spiritual questions
§ Healthcare providers across the spectrum
3. What do you hope the reader will be left with after reading it?
People who have had cancer—and all those who have been touched by it—will find hope and perhaps even the possibility of healing miracles in their own journey. They may find courage in reading my story. I also delve into amazing visions I had after my diagnosis and during the depths of treatment. These provided me with a profound sense of peace and the idea that everything would be okay.
As many people love a true story, the memoir genre is robust. Blood Brother: A Memoir asks philosophical questions such as, “Why me? What is death like? Is it the same for everyone? How do I make the most of a second chance at life?” and “What is forgiveness?” I explore and attempt to answer these questions. These types of queries appeal to a philosophical/spiritual group of readers who are looking for a great story as well as a deeper experience in their reading matter.
Healthcare providers from food service staff to the presidents of hospitals, HMOs, and any other medical service entity will gain insight into the experiences—good and bad—of a patient being treated for serious illness. These professionals do not need to be focused only on cancer. The lessons provided in my patient journey will instruct and resonate across medical specialties.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
As with most books, writing Blood Brother: A Memoir took much longer than I’d anticipated. I began in 2010. I was working full time and so writing was squeezed into the hours I could take to do it. I had about 12 single-spaced pages of journal notes that I’d written at the time of my illness and hospitalizations that I used to jump start the process.
I also requested my medical record, which came to me on a CD-ROM of over 1,200 pages. Doctors say some amazing things in their patient notes!
I belonged to a wonderful writer’s group that helped me with draft after draft. A number of times, I thought the book was finished and began pitching it. No luck. Then I read the phenomenal memoir, The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs and realized my book had a very long way to go.
I rewrote and rewrote until I thought it was as good as I could make it. I then subscribed to Publisher’s Marketplace and found that TouchPoint Press was accepting pitches for memoirs. They took on Blood Brother: A Memoir in July of 2020 and published the book in August 2021.
5. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
I have no tools to prognosticate what the publishing world is going to do but I do know from spending the last sixteen months marketing Blood Brother: A Memoir that a clear picture of your audience is critical for an author. I’m well into writing a novel entitled FLASK. It’s about a young woman who struggles to tell the truth—to the people she loves as well as herself.
I also think it’s important to have a good sense of how you might market your work. For FLASK, a book about alcoholism, there is a ready-made audience of individuals and organizations that deal with substance abuse.
Clearly my answer is not about creativity, passion, or vision (which are all fundamental) but with all the time authors devote to their books, most of us want them read.
6. What challenges did you overcome to write this book?
I had to overcome a sense of shame in writing about ugly events in my childhood and young adulthood. But the more I revealed, the more freedom I felt. I became unleashed from experiences that had defined me for far too long.
I began to release my own fears of abandonment and inferiority that my childhood created. This release has been a long process but writing the book and being painfully honest about my experiences has brought me to a place of acceptance unknown to me before.
I also had to ask my brother to read the memoir and give me his blessing on publishing it. The book contains intimate details of his life that I would never have included without his approval. He has read a number of iterations and has rarely asked me to change anything.
7. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?
Blood Brother: A Memoir grapples with essential questions about life and death wrapped up in what has been called a compelling story. This is not just a cancer journey; it is a story of the human condition. It mulls the universals of our existence. It is hopeful. It is funny. And, I think, it is brave.
For more information, please see: www.susankeller.com
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2021. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America. For more information, please consult: .