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!