Interview – Suzette Brown, author of Alzheimer’s: Through My Mother’s Eyes
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Suzette Brown, author of Alzheimer’s: Through My Mother’s Eyes. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Suzette.
Suzette Brown: Thank you so much for having me! I am honored indeed.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
SB: I was born in Newfoundland Canada and first came to this country when I was about six years old. I have been a resident of Virginia ever since.
My husband and I live in Tidewater, Virginia. This year, we celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. We have a calm and quiet life that we enjoy immensely. Our son recently got married, and we were so lucky to gain the wonderful new family of his bride.
I have worked for school systems for 30 years – which is an interesting caricature of human nature in itself.
We have two dogs to complete the family unit. One of them is Flower, a certified Therapy Dog International. She is an amazing canine – we volunteer bringing love and comfort to hospital patients, convalescent center and assisted living facilities as well as rehab centers, retirement homes and reading programs for children. It is my way of “giving back”.
My husband and I enjoy walks, updating our bird feeders as we continue to learn about the different species of birds to our area, watching movies, relaxing, playing board games and merely enjoying each other’s company.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
SB: When I started writing my book about being a caregiver for my mother, my workspace was a very important factor. I choose the back room in our home, which we call the “guest room.” A desk was already assembled, I got the morning sun from the window, and there were no distractions. There was no phone or TV in the room. This room contains pictures and knick-knacks that are all very special to me – providing further comfort and serenity. A big overstuffed chair, coffee, and water were all I needed to start my writing journey.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
SB: As I took care of my mother, the scope of information I learned was enormous. I started keeping journals that I wrote in daily in order to keep up with Mom’s needs, appointments, and care. These journals provided me with valuable information.
After my Mother passed in 2004, I took all these journals and put them in a big box along with calendars, notes, medical information, doctor’s/medical notes, information from Adult Protective Services, Elder Attorney, etc. The box remained sealed for many years.
Soon, many friends and co-workers asked me questions about caregiving that I was easily able to answer. They relayed to me that I need to put my experience to good use and write a book to help others. Hence, I realized that readers needed to understand and feel the daily battles faced by caregivers – that would not be depicted as a glamorous story.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style that you do?
SB: In order to fully comprehend the enormous responsibilities that come being a caregiver, it was important to let the readers actually KNOW the tide of emotions that are involved.
My story is not say – “sugar” coated, they are my actual daily emotions that ranged from frustration, confusion and rage to compassion, love and empathy for my mother.
I also provide many resources, suggestions and sites for readers. My I “should” have done and what I “could” have done provide the reader with the “ah ha” moment – as I experienced.
SPS: Can you take a moment to tell us all about your debut release Alzheimer’s: Through my Mother’s eyes?
SB: “Alzheimer’s Through My Mother’s Eyes” was released in December 2013. I learned a lot about the self-publishing industry through a trusted editor. I was a proud and honored first time author indeed. The moment I saw my book cover for the first time via the “proof” copy was a very happy day! My work, in a book – to help other caregivers and families.
My cover is actually a picture of my mother that I took while we were in Newfoundland, Canada. We wanted to get mom to her place of birth one more time. In the cover picture, mom is sitting in her sister’s living room. She is unaware that I am taking a picture of her. Mom is calm and serene – during this private moment. This is one of my favorite pictures that I have taken.
SPS: How did you approach the challenge of talking about a subject so close to many people’s hearts?
SB: Many books written by medical professionals are available to caregivers. My experiences are from daily life as I took care of Mom, my husband, and son, and worked full time. Just a regular person with a hectic lifestyle.
Since my story is relatable to so many, the only approach I wanted to take was that of honesty and living it, daily. As people read my book – they can easily relate to excessive phone calls on a daily basis, memory slipping away, the confusion their loved one’s experience – etc.
It is indeed, a look at the whole family unit. Many range of emotions and frustration beyond human endurance at times.
SPS: How cathartic did you find the writing process?
SB: The grief that I had not yet experienced came through in my writing. My main objective was to maintain respect for my mother and her journey. Many instances were left out of my story simply because they were too private. I realized, finally, that Mom’s behavior was not personal – it was her disease “speaking”. I’m not ashamed to admit writing my book emotionally drained me.
My strength as a woman, wife and mother grew with every chapter I finished. My Mother would be proud.
I will always know that I did everything in my power to keep my mother safe and loved.
SPS: What would you like the result to be for anyone reading your story?
SB: To understand maybe a little bit more, empathy and love. Please know that this disease is so random and yet still so silent. Anyone can be affected. Watching through the years as my beautiful and vibrant Mother was swallowed by Alzheimer’s disease, allowed me the honor of telling others my story. I have given readers tools, resources and advice that have proven to be helpful. Legal aspects are important as well and must be taken into consideration.
My writing exemplifies as described by one reviewer: “for anyone who has a friend or relative that has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s”. “Alzheimer’s Through My Mother’s Eyes is a must read.” (The Daily Press Newspaper, Featured Local Author).
There are many aspects of this disease. I cover driving issues, caregiver/caregiving support, loss of independence, the need for an Elder Attorney (for your loved one), elder scams and fraud, criticism by others who complain rather than take over or help, assisted living and convalescent matters, testing for Alzheimer’s, dedicated doctors, family issues and care are among a few. These are real experiences. They are not glorified in any way. This is the story of raw emotions and feelings.
SPS: Have you received feedback from others that have gone or are going, through something similar?
SB: Yes, indeed. My book is receiving excellent reviews so far and for that I am grateful. I have had a couple of book signings which were very exciting. The feedback has been wonderful, and I am honored to know I am helping others. I have had numerous author interviews, and I have written several blogs relating to caregiving.
Many exciting plans are in my future, and I look forward to each and every opportunity.
I promised a BETA reader that I would “pay it forward” every chance I got, and that is precisely what I am doing.
I’m available for book signings or to speak to residents at convalescent centers – assisted living facilities to provide much-needed information to residents and patients. It is a learning experience and many facts that must be dealt with.
SPS: Did you find any sections of the book particularly difficult to talk about?
SB: The last chapter was difficult to write. Very difficult. My BETA reader was ready for my last chapter. I wasn’t ready to supply it yet. It took me several weeks to finish it. The tears fell as I remembered and wrote about mom’s last day. I kept asking myself….why? Why did this nemesis known as Alzheimer’s choose my mother?
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for yourself?
SB: I am currently working on book #2. Let’s just say it is the opposite end of the spectrum.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
SB: Yes it was. As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog on Self-Publishing companies so others can be aware of the nightmare they may experience. DO your research – some of these SP companies are expensive with 9 page documents to sign.
One of them that I almost used (thank goodness I didn’t) sent me the information of one of their published authors (with the authors permission). When I started reading her book, the grammatical errors started at page one. It was atrocious. Spelling, capitalization, paragraphs, sentence structure, commas and everything else you can think of – were incorrect. This was the hard copy of her published book. I made sure to ask her if her book had been edited. She informed me that it had. Her price for publishing her work was well over $4,000.00. I just couldn’t believe this sloppy editing had actually received payment.
I found my editor through American Society of Journalists and Authors. They referred me to “BiblioCrunch”. Wonderful company, I highly suggest them.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
SB: Yes it has. The writing, BETA reader, editing and publishing process has been incredible.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
SB: Just write. Write for you. Make sure you do your research and most importantly hire a professional editor. Edit, edit, and edit. Love what you do – and what you write.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
SB: There are so many wonderful people who have helped me – I don’t know that I can list them all! Everyone has been so kind and positive and for that I am grateful.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, Suzette, and all the best for the future.
SB: Thank you for the great questions. Please visit me on my blog, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. I welcome any feedback or information from others!
We all learn together and learn from each other.
SPS: For more information on Suzette Brown and her work, please do visit her Showcase Author page here where you can pick up a copy of the book.