I’m just about to leave for the airport to catch my flight home. I’ve worked really hard this trip to Hawaii–haven’t gone to the beach or pool once, not even out for a walk as I put in 10-14 hours a day, every day for 9 days–but my dedication is nothing compared to my friend Teri Brown’s, who writes as T J Brown.
I will let Teri tell her story, but know this–I’ve known her for years and she isn’t just an angel…she’s a warrior!
Scoring a contract from one of the major publishers is a dream come true for an author. Getting two in the space of eight months takes the dream, sprinkles it with glitter and serves it up on a cloud of cotton candy. That’s pretty much where I was last spring after Gallery Books made me an offer on the Summerset Abbey series. I had already sold a young adult series to Balzer+Bray; this new opportunity propelled me forward into stay home and write status, especially since I had rapid-fire, back to back deadlines for the next eleven months. So I did what most self-respecting authors would do; I rearranged my life, quit my job and prepared to live the dream, baby.
Except that days after signing the Gallery contract, I was diagnosed with throat cancer.
In my dream, no one gets cancer.
As far as cancer goes, I guess I was lucky. The lymph nodes in my neck did their job and stopped the evil cells from spreading. The cancer was of a type very responsive to treatment, I wouldn’t have to have chemotherapy, blah, blah, blah. No, really, that’s kind of what it’s like when you’re diagnosed with cancer. You know you need to listen carefully, but shock turns everything into a blur. Honestly, after I heard that my chances of complete recovery were very high, I only had one thought.
Throat radiation treatment is brutal. You get sores in your mouth. Your neck gets scorched. Your throat burns and swells. It hurts to swallow and eating is a nightmare. And at some point you’re on pain meds 24/7. But still, all I could think was my deadlines. So I put my head down and did what I had to do.
Looking back, the eight weeks of radiation treatments and three months of recovery is a blur. My pain, fear and uncertainty were off the charts, but so was my creativity. I went to treatment, I slept, I wrote. My God, how I wrote. Through a morphine and pain induced haze, I crafted sentences, checked historical details with my fact checker, worked with a freelance editor, and wrote scene, after scene, after scene.
As Jane can probably attest, there is a certain kind of creative craziness that develops when writing a novel in a short amount of time. It’s hard to describe. You know, of course, that things are going on in the real world all around you. You may even participate in taking care of your children and all the details of life, but on some level, your mind is a ferment of ideas, concepts, characters and plot problems. It’s like being two separate people, or maybe being one person with two minds.
I wrote two books during that time, Summerset Abbey and Summerset Abbey: Bloom in Winter. All my books are special to me, but Summerset Abbey can be credited with keeping me positive and focused during an incredibly tough time in my life.
In retrospect, I probably learned more about myself and my creativity in those five months than I ever have. I list a couple of them here even though none of them are new… they’re just truth.
- Human beings are AMAZING and relationships really are the only things that matters. My family and friends gathered round and took care of life’s details so I wouldn’t have to think of anything but fighting the cancer and writing my books. And in the end, when you’re gone, the only thing left of you is in the memories of your loved ones. Your possessions will NOT remember you.
- My work matters. Whether or not I ever become a bestselling author does not, but to have respect for myself and my process keeps my art honest and honesty is what keeps it art.
People have said, “Oh, you’re so brave!” But it isn’t true. All I knew is that I was not going to allow cancer to define the career I had worked so incredibly hard for. I just did what I had to do. Women who raise children in sub-Saharan Africa, people who live with HIV, people who work long hours in a sweatshop to send their children to school–those people are brave. Or maybe, like me, they are just doing what they have to do. Maybe that is what bravery is all about.
In celebration of the launch of SUMMERSET ABBEY, the first book in an awesome trilogy, I’m holding a book lovers contest. And get this; the prize is your choice of one of the following-a Kindle Fire, A Nook HD, or a Kobo Vox! All you have to do to enter is pre-order SUMMSERSET ABBEY through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or through your local independent bookstore and then forward the e-receipt to: Teri(at)teribrownbooks.com. My contest runs from January 3rd through January 14th. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on January 15th, the day Summerset Abbey comes out! Is that an awesome way to celebrate or what?
TJ Brown is passionate about books, writing, history, dachshunds and mojitos. If she could go back in time, she would have traveled back to England, 1910, Paris, 1927 or Haight-Ashbury, 1967. She resides in the burbs of Portlandia, where she appreciates the weirdness, the microbreweries, hoodies, Voodoo Donuts and the rain.
Thank you, TJ, for sharing with us today. You are such an inspiration, and a joy to know. I really adore you and am so proud of you, too! xoxox
Readers, I’m giving away five copies of Summerset Abbey, Starbucks drink cards, and lots of fun JP reader goodies. The contest runs through Jan 9th and I’ll announce the 5 winners on Thursday morning, the 10th. But if you don’t win—you can still pre-order your copy now (and enter Teri’s contest!) and the books will ship January 15th. What a wonderful way to start a new year!