IndieView with Emily Page, author of Fractured Memories

My dad was my best friend. He embraced the ridiculous, looked for the good in people, and mentored and helped people whenever he could. Following his diagnosis, when people asked how he was doing, he’d answer, ‘Not bad for a demented guy.’ He looked for the light hiding amidst the pain. He chose to be very open about what he was going through in the hopes that it would help other people cope with their own diagnosis or a loved one’s diagnosis. Writing this book seemed a fitting way to honor that legacy.

Emily Page – 4 May 2017

About the book

What is the book about?

In 2009, my father was diagnosed at the age of 65 with frontotemporal dementia, a form of dementia that strikes earlier and progresses more quickly than Alzheimer’s, and for which there is no treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Being so young, I hadn’t had much experience with dementia, but I began documenting, in writing and art, my family’s heartbreaking and hilarious experiences.

As a professional artist, I had often turned to art as a self-prescribed therapy to help deal with life’s trials. Eventually, I created 40 paintings that are included in the book. I also began blogging about the range of issues that arose daily as the disease progressed, documenting everything from my own fear of getting dementia, to my dad’s transition to diapers (and the various places he opted to drop his drawers and just “go”), to combating his compulsions like the need to “clean” the cars with steel wool, to an exploration of how he might have gotten the disease, to finding the right dementia care facility, to the best ways to make him giggle. I approached the disease from the fresh viewpoint of a younger caregiver. As my blog following grew, so did the suggestions from readers that I turn the blog into a book.

My dad was my best friend. He embraced the ridiculous, looked for the good in people, and mentored and helped people whenever he could. Following his diagnosis, when people asked how he was doing, he’d answer, ‘Not bad for a demented guy.’ He looked for the light hiding amidst the pain. He chose to be very open about what he was going through in the hopes that it would help other people cope with their own diagnosis or a loved one’s diagnosis. Writing this book seemed a fitting way to honor that legacy.

I tried not to shy away from the ugly, raw emotion of life with dementia, but I also looked for the laughter where it could be found. Hopefully, you will love my father as much as I do when the book is done, and perhaps gain some insight about how to cope with your own loved one’s dementia or how to support a caregiver.

When did you start writing the book?

I began blogging about the paintings I had been creating about dementia at the end of 2014. So, in a way, I started writing the book back then. But I didn’t sit down to assemble it and fill in the gaps until my father died in February 2016.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took me about 2 months to complete the first manuscript.

Where did you get the idea from?

Honestly, I don’t consider myself a writer. A friend insisted that I start a blog as a way to promote my art, and I did so under duress. But writing about what my family was experiencing turned out to be fairly therapeutic, so when my blog readers started encouraging me to turn the paintings and writing into a book, I thought that that might also be therapeutic – not just for me, but for other people going through the caregiving experience. I included the paintings because visual art can often convey emotion for which there are no words. We can find our own meaning in what we see beyond the artist’s original intent.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

A better question might be if there were any parts of the book where I didn’t struggle! Again, I don’t consider myself a writer. I enjoyed it in high school, and wrote a fair amount of poetry back then, but as an adult, writing was never a calling. So, sitting down to write isn’t much fun for me. It’s not that it’s hard, but it’s not enjoyable. I tend to stress eat if I’m working on anything lengthy. And because I was writing about a pretty painful journey, I had to relive some things I would rather not go through again.

What came easily?

The art. I created about 40 paintings over the course of about 5 years. There is some written word incorporated into the art, and that seemed to come easily enough, luckily.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Because it’s a memoir, it’s all true, though I changed the names of the staff and other residents at the dementia care facility where my dad lived for the last few years of his life.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Jenny Lawson was a big influence on me. She helped me see that I could write about painful stuff but make it more accessible with humor. I would have been afraid to put one long, sad memoir out there, and it wouldn’t have been a good way to honor my dad. Jenny Lawson helped me see a way to be true to who my dad was and who I am and look for the laughter where it can be found. Oddly, I’ve tended not to read a lot of nonfiction historically, but that’s been changing some as an adult. These days, I read whatever I can get second hand from my mom or neighbors or friends, lol.

Do you have a target reader?

Most obviously, this is a book for people who are caregivers, whether it’s for someone with dementia or not. But I think I wrote in an accessible enough way that people who haven’t been through the caregiving process can still relate to it. It’s a story about being human and coping with all the junk that gets thrown at you and trying to make it all as bearable as possible. It’s irreverent, and stupid, and playful, and hard, and embarrassing and all the things life is. I’m hoping that people in their 30’s and 40’s will read it even if they haven’t had to be caregivers yet, in hopes that when the time comes, it’ll help remind them to look for the light and be honest about their struggles so that they can get the support they will need.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

First, I make some coffee. Then I play with my cats. Then I stare forlornly at my blank computer screen. Then I make something to eat even though I’m not hungry. Then I play with the cats some more. Then I check my emails. In other words, my process is to avoid it until the last possible minute, then sit down and let my brain explode onto my keyboard. I don’t do an outline or anything like that. I tend to stream-of-conscience write, then go back in and edit as necessary.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

For the book, I printed out all of the relevant blog posts I’d done, then laid them out on the floor (while constantly begging the cats not to play with the pages) and grouped them together in the proper chronological order and/or by subject matter. Then I just had to connect them and fill in any missing backstory.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

A little of both, I guess. But mostly I wait until the end and then go back in and cut or modify sentences to fit with whatever theme I’m working on.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I did hire a copy editor (not an editor editor), but honestly, even after that, I found typos. My mom turned out to be a really good copy editor, though, as did my husband.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Absolutely not. I can’t think if there’s music playing. I’m the kind of person who is incapable of hearing music and not singing it. It probably drives my husband crazy. If I’m walking through the mall and I hear a song, I have to start humming it. And I’ll keep humming it until I hear the next song in the next store. That being said, I like having CNN on in the background while I write. It’s on right now, actually. For some reason, I like the background noise because it makes me not feel lonely, but I can easily tune it out. There’s a lot of repetition on 24 hour news, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything if I’m not paying attention to what they’re saying.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

I ran a fundraising campaign on Publishizer.com, and they submit your work to different publishers when you hit a certain number of preorders. Most of the publishers were vanity publishers, though a couple did offer traditional publishing contracts. I read a lot of horror stories about authors not making any money after agents took their fees, and publishers took theirs, and bookstores took theirs. And there were tons of stories of authors who were basically ignored by their publishers so the author ended up doing all the marketing work him/herself but still had to give a cut to the entities that should have been doing that work. So, this seemed like a decent option.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I was offered a contract with a small publisher, but as mentioned above, I was wary. I knew some other people who’d had good luck self-publishing, and I had managed to sell over 500 preorders in less than a month, so I decided that I was willing to take on the task of publishing and marketing my book myself and keep 100% of the royalties.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

Because my book includes my own artwork, I was able to easily take one of my paintings and use it for the book cover. That was probably the easiest part of creating the book!

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

A little of both. I am targeting caregiver support groups first as well as trying to get reviews by indie book reviewers. I’m sending out press releases and contacting everyone who has any link to dementia in any way whatsoever. Basically, I’m starting with all of the free stuff first. Then I’ll move on to some paid advertising.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Don’t be afraid to ask anyone and everyone you’ve ever met for help. Worst case scenario, they say no. Not the end of the world. Some people will say yes and be insanely generous. When they do, figure out how to return the favor – and don’t forget to say thank you! Consider running a fundraising campaign in advance if you’ll be self-publishing. Indigogo and Kickstarter are great options.

About You

Where did you grow up?

I was born in California but grew up mostly in Charlottesville, VA.

Where do you live now?

I’ve lived in Raleigh, NC for about 6 years now.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I’m primarily an artist and I work in a wide range of styles. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of photorealist work. You can see my artwork at www.shop.emilypageart.com. You can find my blog at www.emilypageart.net where I blog about anything and everything. I’m a little ridiculous and there’s a fair amount of humor on the blog. And you can follow me on Twitter @EmilyPageArt23 and Facebook @EmilyPageArt.

My favorite way for readers to buy the book is at http://shop.emilypageart.com/products/fractured-memories (I make more money per book and readers save a couple dollars, too) but it can also be found as a hardcover, paperback, and eBook on Amazon (US or UK) and as an iBook on iTunes.

End of Interview:

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