The Writer’s Life Interview with Annette Leeds
Annette Leeds is a literary journalist. Born Annette Marie Guardino to her mother who is Belgium and father who is Sicilian, she is a native Californian and the youngest of six children. Being quite creative, Annette’s strong desire to write led her to her first book, a psychological drama, followed by two television comedy scripts. She has had other entrepreneurial ventures, including a logo sportswear clothing line. Website: http:/www.annetteleeds.com | Book Website: https://find1cure.com
Q: Welcome to The Writer’s Life! Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process. Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? When did you come up with the idea to write your book?
Thank you for having me! I get excited each time I talk about my book, The Other Side of Cancer: Living Life with My Dying Sister, because it keeps me near to one of my favorite people, my big sister Theresa. In 2015, my family received a devastating jolt. At fifty-four years old, Theresa was handed the biggest challenge of her life: advanced stage pancreatic cancer.
You never realize the strength you have until you are faced with someone’s life in your hands, and I learned that lesson firsthand. There was no doubt in my mind and heart that I would be her full-time caretaker. As a writer, I did the one thing I thought would have the most impact. I picked up a notebook and chronicled my journey with my sister, revealing the strength and inspiration of what an amazing woman she truly was.
Like most families, there are those times when relationships are strained or burdened by moments in life. Theresa chose humor in the face of death. Confronting her fate with grace, she taught everyone in our family and those who knew and loved her the true meaning of living life without regret. She gave us an amazing gift, by showing us how to move past the sadness and truly enjoy the precious time she was given, and boy did we enjoy it.
A week or so before Theresa died, she told me, “This has been the best year of my life.” Most people would have thought she was crazy, but I knew exactly what she meant. The Other Side of Cancer: Living Life with My Dying Sister is my tribute to my sister, showing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the best year of her life.
Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
When Theresa passed, I was at peace because I knew she’d lived life on her terms and no one else’s, but the loss etched a permanent crack in my heart. Day-in and day-out, I think of her through my tears, but writing this book wasn’t hard at all. For me, it was therapeutic. The writing process began when I started journaling our times together, and Theresa’s tremendous courage and strength during her battle with cancer. Knowing how she embraced her terminal diagnosis, made it easy for me to tell her story, the way I knew she would have wanted it told.
When I am ready to write, I go for it. When I started The Other Side of Cancer, I stopped a few pages into my first try. I just wasn’t ready to let go. Let myself be so vulnerable. I will admit, it was hard at first. Once I was ready, it flowed out of me like a fast-moving river. Trust your heart and allow it to dictate when you’re ready. You’ll get a nudge by way of an opening line to the first chapter that might pop up in your head, or something someone might say that will jar the process. Once you get started, though, don’t look back until you’ve typed “the end.”
Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
I self-published. A rejection letter I received led me to spread my wings and tell my sister’s story in a way I know would make her proud.
Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
From a self-publisher’s perspective, I surrounded myself with people who knew their stuff on book publishing and promoting. I did not go into this process wearing a blindfold. I knew I needed help. With their assistance, I was able to avoid negative surprises. However, the warm reception the book has received so far was a welcome surprise.
Q: What other books are you working on and when will they be published?
I will revisit Hands of Fate and I hope to release that in the future. However, right now, I am focusing on the company, Find1Cure.com. I know I can do good for those suffering from cancer. Whether it is donating proceeds of the book to cancer research or my goal of creating a home for those who don’t have someone to care for them. Theresa’s passion gave me a mission. A mission to make a difference. I have the potential and I feel it is now my job to make a difference.
Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?
Despite the book’s title, the story is filled with hilarious moments and high jinx. Theresa, as well as my other three sisters, loved to have fun, crack jokes, and tease each other. She refused to live her final year like she was dying. She lived it to the fullest and enjoyed every moment.
Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?
Theresa did not allow her cancer diagnosis to stop her from living and loving life. I knew I needed to tell her story when she was gone. Not just her journey through this callous disease, but also the life she lived leading up to it. She had such drive in her to succeed. A message for all women who struggle to the top; to know it is possible to make it.
Q: Thank you again for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Thank you! I appreciate the time you’re allowing me to tell your audience about my sister, Theresa, and The Other Side of Cancer: Living Life with My Dying Sister.
Theresa is the most important person in the book. She showed all those around her that she was still living her life while dying. Being told she had terminal cancer was the most difficult news. But, picking herself up and finishing her journey to the end was much more powerful. Theresa did it with such grace; I felt like someone let her in on the big question we all wonder, “Where do we go when we leave here?”
The Other Side of Cancer: Living Life with My Dying Sister by Annette Leeds
Listen to a reading from the book: http://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CP8kxyzX
Author Annette Leeds
Annette Leeds is a literary journalist. Born Annette Marie Guardino to her mother who is Belgium and father who is Sicilian, she is a native Californian and the youngest of six children. Being quite creative, Annette’s strong desire to write led her to her first book, a psychological drama, followed by two television comedy scripts. She has had other entrepreneurial ventures, including a logo sportswear clothing line. Website: http:/www.annetteleeds.com and Book Website: https://find1cure.com