AN INTERVIEW WITH SUZANNE

By Bob Sparrow and Suzanne Sparrow Watson

We’re changing our format a bit this week.  With the publication of the book Suzanne co-authored, Before All Is Said and Done, Bob thought it might be interesting to learn a bit about the writing process and how the book is faring now that it’s been on the market for a month.  So, the following is a discussion we had about the book – how it was written and how it’s doing. 

Bob:  How is it you came to write a book with Pat?

Suzanne: Pat is a good friend and for many years she was my next-door neighbor in Scottsdale.  After her husband died, she experienced many problems, most of which she had not anticipated.  As she spoke with other people, she discovered she was not alone – either they had similar experiences or knew someone who had.  Pat is a seasoned journalist who has won numerous awards for her in-depth interviews, so her natural inclination was to talk with people and write about the problems widowed people encounter, and perhaps more importantly, with experts about how to avoid those problems.

Pat knew that I had previously written a book, and of course is a loyal subscriber to this blog, so once she decided to write a book, she called me and said, “Here’s my idea and I’d like you to help me write it.”  It was a daunting thought at first, but I love to write, plus it was smack dab in the middle of the Covid lockdown – what else was I going to do?  So, I agreed to give it a go.

Bob:  How long did it take to write the book?
Suzanne:  All told it took two years from that first conversation to the publication of the book.  When we began the process, we weren’t certain what format the book would take or how it might all come together.  We did some market research and learned that most books for widowed people either focused solely on grief or were written from one person’s perspective.  We knew we wanted to include stories from a wide range of people on a variety of subjects.  We began interviewing people to see what kind of information we collected.  I conducted a couple of interviews, but it became clear that interviewing people was Pat’s forte, while writing was more in my lane.  We sort of fell into dividing up the work that way and it worked out perfectly.
Bob: What was the writing process like?
Suzanne:  It was a real eye-opener to me that how people express themselves in conversation during an interview is much different than how one reads.  When you are speaking with someone you might jump from topic to topic, circle back to something previously discussed, or not discuss things in their logical sequence.  That’s just how we all converse.  But when you are reading a narrative there needs to be clarity and a logical order to the information.  Pat would write the draft of the introductions and then sent me the transcripts of her interviews to weave into narrative form.  That was challenging, but once I got the hang of it, it became easier over time.
Bob:  How are sales going?
Suzanne:  Really well!  We won’t get firm numbers until the end of the quarter (this is standard in publishing), but we became the #1 “bestseller” on day one in the Estates and Trusts category on Amazon and have remained there for the past month.  Recently we have also been ranked #1 in the Grief and Bereavement and Love and Loss categories.  The book is definitely striking a chord with people and we’re very happy that people find it helpful.
Bob:  Why do you think it has resonated with so many people?
Suzanne:  People have asked me that a lot this past month.  The feedback I’m getting is that the book provides a vehicle to have conversations with a loved one or family members on a subject that typically has not been a comfortable topic of conversation.  As a Baby Boomer myself, I’ve now come to equate it to when The Joy of Sex was first published in 1972.  Prior to its publication no one really talked about sex in the way the book suggested.  It became a huge best seller so clearly people were willing to read about it, even if they didn’t openly talk about it.  I think we have done the same thing for preparing for a death.  Certainly not as fun, but just as thought-provoking!
Bob: Can people only order the book on Amazon?
Suzanne:  People can order on Amazon, or they can order through their local bookstore.
Bob: This is your second published book, what was your first one about?
Suzanne:  My first book, In the Enemy’s Camp, was really written as a gift to my mother-in-law.  She was a beautiful writer and kept a diary during her three years as a detainee in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.  Her strength and courage were remarkable, especially considering my father-in-law was very sick much of the time and she had to care for her two children, my husband and his brother, who were one and four years old when they went into the camp.  I took her diary and turned it into a book that incorporates the historical events occurring at the time.  I published the book before my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday and she had a ball going to book signings and speaking at clubs about it.  By far the best gift I’ve ever given! Amazingly, 17 years after publication people are still buying it on Amazon.
Bob:  Any future books in the works? 
Suzanne:  Well, as they say, “never say never”!  Pat and I have joked about writing a sequel.  There are a lot of people who struggle after the death of a loved one with moving forward and creating a new life.  We heard that a lot from widowed people – the “what do I do next?” problem.  At this point we have no plans to write the sequel, but as we’ve learned, you never know what the future might bring!
If you are interested in learning more about the book, or purchasing it, here is a link to the Amazon page:
If you do buy the book from Amazon, please take a minute to give it a review.  It really helps!

Nationally Parked

by Bob Sparrow

Is that finger pointing at me?

Based on its popularity with our readers, Suzanne’s blog last week obviously got a lot of you thinking about antiques you have stuffed away somewhere that you inherited from your parents and haven’t yet tossed. Or you may be thinking about all the stuff you have that will become ‘antiques’ that your kids will stuff away somewhere until they get tossed. That old spinning wheel lamp of Mom’s got me to thinking about an old antique that I’m not quite sure what to do with . . . me!

You may have noticed that I’ve changed my photos on Facebook because I looked at them over the weekend and thought to myself, “Who is this guy?” He looks like a real adventurer, a regular Indiana Bob”. I think I vaguely remember someone like that, but lately he congers up California Fats. That person in the old pictures used to go on hikes to exotic places and travel to the far corners of the globe. Not so much anymore. As I sat and perused my previous blogs this year, I noted that I’ve written about bank robbers, sitting in the desert, watching the Oscars, walking (not running) on the beach, pontificating on heroes, eulogizing Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and proffering a ponderous philosophical tome on New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t gone anywhere!  I’m surprised I didn’t write about going to Nashville again, an adventure I wrote about last year, but didn’t actually go on. So I regrettably changed my photos.

Il Volo

Two weeks ago I did venture into Los Angeles, which in fact can be an adventure in itself, to see the singing group Il Volo. They are a trio of nice-looking, mid-20s Italian tenors, who made their U.S. debut on American Idol in 2011, not as contestants, but as guests, where they sang O Sole Mio. Their concert was awesome, possibly the best that Linda and I have ever seen, but the adventure to Los Angeles was without any muggings, murders or even traffic delays, thus my adventure consisted of simply sitting in a venue in another city.

My adventurous instincts were buoyed last week when I read that April 15-23 is National Park Week.  During those two weekends one can get into all National Parks for FREE. The 16th is Easter so there will be lots of tourists that day hunting for bear eggs and the 22nd is Earth Day, where we acknowledge . . . the earth . . . or something. The old me, or perhaps I should say the former me, which is the younger, thinner me, would have booked a hike in Yosemite or Yellowstone, but the new me is looking to Nationally Park my butt in an chaise lounge and watch the grandkids get frustrated trying to find the Easter eggs that I was too lazy to hide this year. I haven’t yet quite decided how I’m celebrating ‘Earth Day’, perhaps I’ll purchase a globe; on Amazon of course, so I don’t have to leave the house.

My newfound pastime of sitting also takes place when I’m plying my trade of selling Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (the old reverse mortgage, which I’ve heard had a bad reputation and my mother always said to stay away from things with bad reputations – I thus missed out on a lot of good times!) I really do enjoy working with my fellow seniors to help them with retirement financing when I can, although it seems to be making me heavier, but I’ve rationalized that it’s for a good cause. I have found that rationalization goes hand and glove with idleness.

The latest insult occurred recently when I stepped on one of those scales that print out your ‘fortune’, mine said, “One at a time please!”

But alas, summer is coming and my hip is fully healed (it’s actually been fully healed for about 5 months, but I’ve relied on it to limit my physical activity), so there are some adventures planned of which you’ll once again be coming along vicariously.   Once I’m feeling better about my increased activity level, I’ll post some more adventurous photos on Facebook as I’m not quite ready to go the way of that old spinning wheel lamp yet!

 

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