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.
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.
Brother: A Memoir has three distinct reader
audiences, each with a different takeaway:
who have had cancer or members of their family, friends, and caregivers
who enjoy memoir, especially those that delve into philosophical/spiritual
providers across the spectrum
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
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
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
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
July of 2020 and published the book in August 2021.
What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book
publishing industry is heading?
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
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.
What challenges did you overcome to write this book?
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
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.
If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?
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
Please Contact Me For
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
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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
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