Guest Blogger – Amber Lea Easton on How To Write A memoir

Embracing the Unexpected

Amber Lea Easton

AmberinSantaMonica

 When I set out to write Free Fall, I had only one intention: to let anyone else experiencing the same circumstances know that they weren’t alone. You see, when my husband committed suicide, I had just turned thirty-seven and had two young children. Every book on widowhood that I discovered only focused on the elderly and none touched on surviving suicide. There I was—suddenly a single parent who had put my career aside to be a stay-at-home mom who worked for “fun money” and who inexplicably wore a scarlet S for suicide on my forehead—and I needed to navigate this new normal without any guidance.

Despite having a good intention for writing it, I hesitated. People close to me asked an important question, “Why dredge all of that up again?

Good question.

It took me eight years to be strong enough to open the journals written during that timeframe. Tearstained pages filled with raw anger, confusion, and sorrow slammed the past into my face. But the more I read, the more I knew I needed to write Free Fall for other reasons. I also needed to face that horror again so I could finally let it go.

I didn’t expect to feel that. I’d thought that I’d come so far in my journey, accomplished so much, and had truly moved beyond it. In most ways I had…but those journals reminded me how lost I’d been, how much I’d stuffed inside for the sake of the children and social expectations, and I couldn’t ignore the pain I felt.

But the pain was different than what it had been during the time. I read my words as a compassionate observer to the woman I’d been then. I felt the fear again, but now I experienced it from a place of peace. I traced every tearstain with my fingertips and felt my heart ache in sympathy for the scared and sad woman I’d been.

That’s when I knew I had to go through with writing it. Compassion filled my heart, not just for myself, but also for my husband who lost his battle with his demons. Suicide carries such a stigma—compassion is a word that’s often lost in discussion, not just for the person who died, but also for those closest to that person. Even today, I receive questions about how much I loved him and if I’d ever let him know. Blame. Not compassion. The idea of shedding light on a dark subject pushed me toward the keyboard.

Now my compassion extends to readers who have unexpectedly reached out since Free Fall’s publication with stories of their own about loved ones lost. The fact that they feel so free to share with me after reading my memoir expands my heart in ways I’d never anticipated.

Writing a memoir is bittersweet. I’m sure it’s that way for most people who dare relive the past without blinders on about their behavior. The trauma of surviving the suicide of a loved one is something I would never wish upon anyone and hope to never experience again, but it has strengthened and deepened me in ways I never expected.

Thank you Amber for sharing this with us. What do you as a reader think when you reflect on your life, could you go through the most painful episodes again? Relive them and turn them into a book worth reading?

Amber did with FREE FALL

FreeFallFinalCover

Featured Author – Amber Lea Easton

AmberinSantaMonicaAmber Lea Easton joins me today to talk about what drives her. What, Amber? Yes, of course you also get to talk about your book. 🙂

But first I’d like to thank you for taking the time to hop over and answering my questions. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Coffee, or tea? Cookie or chocolate, or a chocolate cookie?

Tea, please. I’ve never been a coffee drinker. Oh, and I definitely want the chocolate cookie.

I know you’ve been through a lot, can you tell me if you ever thought of giving up?

Yes, I’ve had very dark times where I wondered why I even bothered trying anymore. Despair is very real and hard to navigate. After my husband’s suicide, we experienced a lot of fallout from family and friends. It’s true that you find out the characters of people during a crisis. There were days when I felt like giving up–but I am all the family that my kids have. I’m IT. Knowing that always pulled me back from the edge and made me keep trying.

Do you think you could have done anything to prevent it from happening?

No, I don’t go there anymore. I dealt with a lot of guilt after Sean’s death, have played out all the scenarios, and honestly don’t think I could have stopped his plan. And that’s what it was–a plan. After the fact, I found notes he’d stashed away that spoke of his great love for the kids and me…and also his struggle with addiction and sorrow. Those notes have been extremely painful to find, usually because they fall out of a book or a drawer when I least expect it, but they’ve also given me insight that I didn’t have at the time. He kept a lot of his sadness hidden from me–from everyone–and thought through all of the details of his death. Because of things he said to me during our final family vacation together, I think he had second thoughts about his plan, but he was also methodically filling me up with stories about how much he cared about our family. I think in his own way–in his dark place–he thought he was doing us all “a favor” by killing himself. That makes me cry right now as I write those words because I’d give anything to have him alive today–and would have fought so hard for him if he’d given me the chance–but I do believe that is what he thought.

Amber, hearing that from you makes me cry too. I admire you for being able to find a way to cope with it.

Can you honestly say you are at peace now? And how do you manage to keep smiling?

Yes, I am at peace now, but it took me years to get here. As for smiling, I love life and don’t take anything or anyone for granted. I find great joy in nature and my work. I have my moments when I’m sad, when something reminds me of this great love I had that is no longer, or when something fabulous happens and I wish Sean were here to share it with me. However, I’ve accepted that that will always be the case, which is where the peace comes in. When my kids get married or when I have grandchildren, I’m sure Sean will drift across my mind and I’ll have a moment of sadness for what he’s missed. I do smile a lot and I love laughing. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t die, that my life wasn’t over. Once I realized that and gave myself permission to be happy again, the smiles came more frequently.

And on a lighter note, if you were a dog would you chase cats or ducks?

I’d chase cats because they are very clever and would put up more of a challenge.

Which I think says a lot about the kind of person you are. I challenge the readers to tell us what kind of person they are. Take on the challenge, or go for the easier thing?

But what you are really here for is to talk about your book of course.

First, what is the title of the book you would like the readers to know about?

Well, since we’ve been discussing Sean’s suicide, I’ll talk about my memoir ‘Free Fall’. I wrote this book because we did experience a lot of judgment and fallout after Sean’s death. We felt very alone. As a young widow, there weren’t many resources to help me with my particular journey. Books about widows were targeted to the elderly (at the time that’s what I found) and people assumed I simply knew how to “deal with it”. I never want another person to ever feel that alone while they navigate grief. ‘Free Fall’ is to shed some light on a dark subject and hopefully create understanding.

FreeFallFinalCoverAMAZON 

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

No. I felt as if I’ve been in free fall ever since the moment I found him hanging dead.

If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?

It’s a memoir so I’m not sure–I suppose it could be easily made into fiction by changing up a few things, but I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t believe it then. Ha! This is one of those real life stories that seems stranger than fiction–but is all too real for too many people.

Sometimes telling the real thing is better than any fiction could ever get, from a reader’s point of view. I can imagine from where you stand, you’d rather seen it had been fiction.

Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?

I didn’t celebrate anything about this book. It was incredibly painful to write, in fact I cried throughout every revision. I had to essentially relive the experience in order to write it accurately. When it was finally published, I felt a great sense of relief that I’d done what I set out to do. I don’t plan on writing another nonfiction book–it’s back to fun fiction for me! 

Right with that out of the way and to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now.

What don’t you like about writing.

The pay. LOL

Hahahaha, you could say that. But I’ve heard you just signed a contract with a publisher, so that might change in teh near future. 🙂 Let’s hope it does, because you deserve it.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I do what everyone does–twitter, Facebook, blogs, blog hops, ads here and there, radio appearances. I honestly don’t worry about it much. I keep writing more books. I think word of mouth amongst readers carries the most weight at the end of the day so I keep producing work that I hope they like.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Rum and coke seem to be my characters’ favorite drink in every book I write, which is probably because it’s one of mine! I do it unconsciously, but did catch it in my work in progress and am trying to switch it up a bit. I should be getting an endorsement fee from the rum industry!

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

image found on The Sweetery.com

image found on The Sweetery.com

Sorry. I’m not a great chef these days. I like grilled chicken with slices of green chiles on top covered by melted pepperjack cheese–either wrapped in flatbread or on a sandwich. I add a fresh tomato and some lettuce. Yum. It’s simple and I love Southwestern American food. I have that at least once a week.

Amber! You tell me you have no recipe and then give me a thing I am going to have for lunch today! Sounds delish!

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Again, I’m going to disappoint you. I write every day, even on vacation. I feel like I’m letting you down. I guess I’d have to be dead not to write every day—or in a coma. Or, God forbid, had my hands amputated in a horrible accident and needed to learn to type with hooks! That would probably take awhile to learn and I can’t see myself talking aloud into a recorder or something like that. Wow, that would be a nightmare! I honestly write something every day, even if it’s short and simple. Now I’m going to have nightmares about hook hands, though.

And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?

Because I lost my mind long ago and am trying to find it through my Muse. 🙂

Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

When I was 22, my friend Michelle and I were in Paris drinking too much wine. I’m sure we probably drank other things, too, but we were definitely drinking wine at the end of the night. We were with a bunch of guys from Long Island, NY, and some Puerto Ricans. This was part of my roaming through Europe tour I did after college to avoid getting a real job, much to my parents’ chagrin. I admit that we were being a bit wild (uh-hem), but I’m not exactly sure what happened on the street outside the bar. I know one of the New York guys asked me put a half-full bottle of wine in my purse while we were on the street, saying we shouldn’t be carrying it in the open like that. So I did. (It was corked.) One minute we’re waiting for a taxi to take us back to our hotel, the next some woman is screaming at us and the only word we understood was “police”. What?! We laughed it off and kept waiting for the taxi, but then we heard sirens! Sure enough, the crazy screaming French woman had called the police on us. I swear to God to this day I have no idea what we did to commit a crime. So we did what any drunk 22 year old American would do–ran like hell. Michelle and I took off with the Puerto Rican men racing through the streets of Paris, laughing so hard we could barely breathe. Just when we thought we escaped, more police came. Sirens sounded everywhere!What did we do? We don’t know, but running sounded like the best option. By now we’re all incredibly lost. We found ourselves in a residential area in the middle of the night. We started discussing our predicament when another French woman starts yelling at us from an open window–I assume she told us to be quiet. So we took off running again. The Puerto Rican guys found a taxi for us, but then they got into an argument with the cab driver. They’re screaming in Spanish, the driver was screaming in French. Michelle and I decided to part ways from the men at this point, and leapt out of the taxi. We had no idea where we were…but we had a half-full bottle of wine in my purse. 🙂 So we wandered around, drank wine out of the bottle, sang some songs, lost in Paris. We were still laughing in between sips when we finally found our cheap hotel where others from our group were hanging out on the steps wondering where we’d been all night. We never told them–mainly because we weren’t certain if we were officially wanted by the police or not! We outran the Paris police, ditched the Puerto Ricans, and finished off a fine bottle of wine. Ah, those were the days… 🙂 True story. We left for Amsterdam later that day and I haven’t been back to France since.

Maybe the police weren’t after us, but we were drunk and young enough to believe it. 

All of my misadventures in Europe as a recent college graduate (which took place over 20 years ago) will serve as the basis for a new adult romance series I’m doing with Entangled Publishing. There will be five books so far based in the following cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and the Greek Islands. These will be fiction, but will make me smile with certain secrets as I write them!

Thank you Amber for taking the time to be with me and answering all these questions. Congratulations on the series and I’m looking forward to seeing them come to live. Please remember me when it’s time to promote them. 🙂

For now I’ll leave the readers with links to where they can find you online, and ask them if they would think they’d ever be brave enough to write about such a life changing experience as you did.

Amber can be found online at Facebook, Twitter as @MtnMoxieGirl, and on her website.

Free Fall by Amber Lea Easton

FreeFallFinalCover

This gripping story of a survivor of suicide is available on Amazon (both paperback and kindle) and Smashwords

To give you a taste of it, I invite you to read the following short summary.

“Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He’d been the center of our universe, but then he was gone.

Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word ‘suicide’ to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood.

Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children’s anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words ‘widow’ and ‘single mom’ without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn’t understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of ‘suicide’, forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos.

Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We’re there now. We’re looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, “hang in there, you’re not alone, and you’ll get here, too.”

AMAZON | SMASHWORDS

photo-2

Author the Author:

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction. She spent years working in journalism and advertising with a brief detour into the financial sector. She has three published romantic suspense novels—Kiss Me Slowly, Riptide, and Reckless Endangerment—with a fourth, Dancing Barefoot, due to release later in 2013. She’s also published Free Fall, a memoir of surviving the suicide of a loved one and reclaiming life on her own terms.

Easton is also an editor and professional speaker. Links to radio interviews can be located on her website, http://amberleaeaston.com, and her videos about romance writing have been showcased internationally on the Writers and Authors television network.

Easton currently lives with her two teenagers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. She gives thanks daily for the view outside her window and healthy children. As long as she’s writing, she considers herself to be simply “a lucky lady liv’n the dream.”

“Be good to yourself.” – Amber Lea Easton

Should you want to reach out to Amber, she can be found at: http://www.amberleaeaston.com

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberLeaEaston

http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Lea-Easton

Http://www.barnesandnoble/AmberLeaEaston

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305522

http://www.bookstrand.com/AmberLeaEaston