When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing as soon as I could form words with a pencil. My dad has saved almost everything I’ve ever written, from preschool stories about my teddy bears to letters to my grandparents to college essays. A little embarrassing at times, but mainly it’s a fascinating record of my evolution as a writer.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I gravitated toward memoir because most of the writing I did after grade school was non-fiction, either in school essays/reports, letters, or my journal. I really enjoy

I gravitated toward memoir because most of the writing I did after grade school was non-fiction, either in school essays/reports, letters, or my journal. I really enjoy first-person, it just flows more easily for me. I’ve always preferred reading non-fiction, too, I find it fascinating (truth is stranger than fiction), and it’s something I can learn from, whereas a lot of fiction seems more entertainment oriented. I also don’t seem to have the imagination I did as a kid. I took a poetry class recently and the feedback I got from the instructor was that everything I said in my poems was true, and that wasn’t the point of poetry! So I’m sticking to memoir. I am a slave to telling my story as honestly as I can, to write each sentence in a way that is clear and rings with the truth.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?

I don’t think of myself as a professional writer. I write in my spare time, more as a reflection of my life than as my life itself, if that makes sense. It’s a form of therapy, a way of listening to myself, making sense of my experiences. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve never had to rely on writing as a way to earn a living, I think that would take away the pleasure I get from it and the freedom to write what and how I want.

Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?

Five Hours: How My Son’s Brief Life Changed Everything is about being the mother of a baby boy who was born with a genetic disorder and died in my arms not long after birth. It sounds like a tragedy, and in some ways it is, but it is so much more than that, too. It’s about motherhood, grief, community, support, and finding out I could handle a whole lot more than I thought I could. It has quite a bit of suspense and humor, too, but I always call it a love story first and foremost. Readers tend to find the book surprisingly uplifting.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing this book?

I felt a very strong urge to share the story because it was such a crazy and unexpected experience, not at all what I would have expected if I’d known ahead of time that I was going to have a baby die. The way I actually got started was around six months after he died. I wanted to write the birth/death scene before I forgot the details, so I sat down one day and did that. I think it was around thirty pages. I showed my sister Maud, and she was blown away, and said, “This is the heart of your book!” So I decided to build from that and turn it into something I could share with others, especially people who’d lost a baby or people who knew someone who had and wanted to know what it was like. It made sense to expand the story in both directions, so I went back to my journals from the pregnancy and added relevant passages, and then I added journal entries from the grieving period. I ended up with hundreds and hundreds of pages, mostly in journal form. I found an editor to help me tame all that material, and she had me take each journal entry and turn it into a scene, with dialogue and so on. She also wanted me to go back and begin with my earliest reproductive experiences and give a bit more background on who I was before all this happened. So I added those scenes. After a lot of editing and hard work, I had written a memoir!

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

It was hard to cut it down to 325 pages. I think it was 450 pages when I finally finished the first official draft, so that was quite a lot of polished material to take out. Not only was finding scenes to cut hard, it then meant having to go through the whole document and make sure there were no threads tied to the cut part that might not make sense anymore. And after so many read-throughs, I’d lose sight of the whole picture, and couldn’t see it with fresh eyes anymore. So that made it even harder to determine how the book would seem with or without certain scenes. By the time I got it down to 350 and still had 25 pages to ax, I couldn’t go any further. Every word felt vital to the story. I told someone that cutting anything else would feel like sawing off my own arm, so I asked my editor to do it for me. She did, bless her, and I love how it came out!

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I’m so happy I got the whole crazy story captured in one place. It was the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to me, and the central motivation in writing it was to articulate it fully and honestly and make it available to anyone who might be interested. When I received the first copy from the publisher, holding it my arms was quite similar to holding one of my newborns in my arms. It felt like a miracle, like, wow, this really happened, this being came through me and into existence, and I love how it turned out!

I also love hearing from readers, especially other parents who have had a child die or gone through reproductive losses. Each time I hear from someone, I am so deeply touched, and I think to myself, it was worth all the trouble of writing and getting this published for this moment alone.

What is your next project?

I’m working on a book about my mother, who has always been a character, and one I’ve had a very rich and complex relationship with (who hasn’t with their Mom, right?) I’ve also got a draft of a book I’m co-writing with my second husband, but it’s the story of how we met and fell in love while we were both married to other people, so I’m not sure it’s ever going to be published. Believe it or not, that story has been much harder to write than Five Hours, maybe because grappling with the shame, guilt, and fall-out of divorce is a more disenfranchised form of grief. And maybe because we’re still living the story, it’s turning out to be quite the unplanned adventure!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Memoir is a tricky genre. There is one part of me that burns, to tell the truth, in as much detail as possible, that believes it’s a powerful act not just for my own healing but to mirror others, to let people with similar experiences know they’re not alone. And there’s another part of me that is private and doesn’t want to air my dirty laundry or say anything negative about anyone in my life. For example, I share in Five Hours that I chose to have an abortion early on in my marriage, and I think of that experience as a very important part of my reproductive journey and my grief about Theo years later. The truth-teller in me won, but I still have cringes of shame about sharing that very private decision in the book. And I worry about upsetting loved-ones by reporting things they said or did that might make them seem fallible in some way. So far, only one person has reported being really hurt, and a few others have apologized to me for things they said or did in the book. I didn’t share those things to make them look bad or get an apology, I only kept things in the book that added meaningfully to the story. Okay, I did have one scene in the first draft that tried to make a person I know look bad, but I took it out! And I got permission from everyone else before I published. Only two people declined, so I changed their names, and fortunately, they had very small parts anyway. Still, being completely honest about myself and others can be a big challenge.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I think the most influential writer for me would be Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Like me, she was a lifelong journaler and wrote almost exclusively first person narratives. I read her account of her son’s death soon after Theo died and felt deeply moved and understood. Reading her and other writers on grief (Elizabeth McCracken, Molly Fumia) inspired me to share my story, too.

I think the most influential writer for me would be Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Like me, she was a lifelong journaler and wrote almost exclusively first person narratives. I read her account of her son’s death soon after Theo died and felt deeply moved and understood. Reading her and other writers on grief (Elizabeth McCracken, Molly Fumia) inspired me to share my story, too.


 

Lucinda Weatherby book cover.png

How can you connect with Lucinda?

Website | Blog | FacebookTwitter | Linkedin | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

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