Thursday, February 7, 2013

Author Interview #157: “It’s Cancer” by Jay Otterbacher

"It's Cancer"Our interview today is with Jay Otterbacher, author of “It’s Cancer” (memoir, 4.4 stars, 32 reviews). Before we get started, a brief description: “It’s Cancer” is the amazing true story of one ordinary, healthy couple whose world is turned upside down when they are simultaneously diagnosed. The book provides an unfiltered view behind the public façade into their home, relationships and treatment as they fight an inconceivable battle against two cancers at the same time.

Using an open and friendly style, the book allows the reader to be there with Jay and Karen, not only during treatment but also for the hidden battles outside of the hospitals. Humor and strength, struggle with fear, stress and uncertainty – battles that all cancer patients know too well. The implausible circumstances are re-created with a level of detail that allows the reader to experience the roller-coaster ride of emotions that the main characters experienced during thirty-two weeks in 2006.

1. Your story is amazing, how did it become a book?
I can’t take credit for the story, only telling it. My wife and me being diagnosed within weeks of each other was almost overwhelming. The events of the year that followed were hard for even us to believe. Between us we had 109 doctor appointments. My wife endured chemo and all the side effects, including memory loss. In order to keep up with everything, she kept a journal and I kept very detailed notes. Not just the medical stuff that you would expect, but antidotes and the funny things that happened to us. We did this out of necessity, so we wouldn’t forget when updating each other.
A couple years after our cancer year I finally got around to cleaning up the boxes of notes and records we had kept. As I was going through them I kept finding notes that would remind us of another amazing event. I started putting everything in chronological order and it was one heck of a story. With no intention of creating a book, I started to write it all down, connecting the dots from one story to the next. I worked on it for several years on and off in my spare time. In 2011 I retired from the corporate world and started allocating time to writing. I re-wrote a lot of what I had done and found that I was enjoying the process. It became a project for me. I wanted to see if I could write the whole story down from beginning to end.

2. Parts of “It’s Cancer” are intensely personal, were you tempted to gloss over some parts?
No, not really. Of course when I started I didn’t know it was going to be a book. I was just organizing all of our information. Once I decided to carry the project through, I had to think hard about it. People that know me well are a little bit shocked when they read it. I am a very private person. I used to be, anyway.

3. Why did you decide to publish your story?

About halfway through the writing process it became obvious that it was more than just a story about cancer. While it was very intense, it was still fun to read. It was not all doctors and treatments. It was something that we wished we had been given when we were diagnosed. It had entertainment value for anyone to read, but for someone who has been told they have cancer maybe it could help them through the process. For anyone with a friend, colleague or loved one facing cancer, perhaps it could help them better understand what they are going through. In the end it was published in the hope that people could get some value from reading it.

4. What was the hardest part about writing your book?

I’m a perfectionist. I felt that as a non-fiction work, a memoir, it had to be accurate. I researched weather, locations, dates, even appointment times. To be credible, I wanted it to be accurate. To have value for readers it had to be correct. This was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Quite often I would get stuck as I tried to sort out what happened back in 2006.
5. What have you found most rewarding about publishing your book?

Once it was published I was scared to death that it might stink. Then my doctor called and said he had read it cover to cover, without stopping, and was ordering copies for his friends and family so they could see what it was that a doctor does for a living.
I got my first and worst review from a person I did not know. One star, she was a cancer patient. Her family had been impacted by cancer and my book was about cancer. I had never considered that my book would bring people down. That was very depressing to me. But then we started getting reviews and notes from cancer patients and caregivers telling us they were inspired by our story. It was an incredible feeling that people were actually finding value in our shared experience. Thousands of people around the world have now read our story and we still celebrate every note we get from a reader who has found some inspiration in it.
6. “It’s Cancer” is your first book, what surprises did you find in the process?

How much I enjoyed writing. At first I struggled and would just stop for long stretches at a time. Then I woke up a couple of times late at night remembering an event from that year. I would get up and write for two or three hours without a break and have a blast doing it. Eventually I introduced enough discipline into my process that I would get up early every morning and write for an hour or two. Even if it all got deleted later, I had to write something each day. I write best after midnight and before noon. I have no idea why.
I have also really enjoyed learning the world of digital publishing and promoting. I find everything that goes into getting your story into the hands of people around the world fascinating.
7. Do you think there is another book in your future?

Yes, I think so. I have several working ideas and I have found I really like the writing process.
8. What advice do you have for others that may have a great story to tell?

Write the damn book!
9. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Thank you for reading and thank you, Anthony, for hosting my interview on Digital Book Today. I really appreciate this opportunity to share the story of my book with your readers.
Social media and buy links:
Connect: Facebook / Author
“It’s Cancer”: Amazon / Amazon.UK

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