Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Author Q&A With Carrie Host

I recently had the great pleasure of reading and reviewing Carrie Host's memoir, Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer, for a site that I contribute to every few months. Her story is an amazing account of how the power of love and positive thinking can help anyone through the worst possible ordeals. Carrie agreed to do the first author interview for Adventures in the Writing Life, and was nice enough to answer a few of the many questions I had for her:

AITWL: You talk about a lot of deeply personal experiences in your book. What was the writing process like for you?

CH: I love writing as a fish loves water. I don’t know more than while I am swimming I am free of all thought and burden. I belong there in that water. Also, I am breathing and seeing like never before. Writing is less like a project, but more like a part of what I must do to be who I am.
While I was writing this book however I had unique moments where I knew that what I was capturing was going to deliver deep emotional rescue to the reader. I was healed in the process of trying to be there in my pages for each person who would eventually hold my book.

AITWL: In your book, you talked at length about how writing short stories with happy endings in your head helped you get through your illness. Did you keep a journal throughout your treatment and recovery?

CH: No. I did not keep a journal. Never have. Well, that’s a lie. I did keep one single journal and that was as a seventeen year-old, as part of a required piece of an “Outward Bound” experience in the Mexican Desert, the Sonoran Desert to be precise. We did what was called a “Solo” where we spent three days and two nights alone, with a sleeping bag, a book of matches (very generous) and three quarts of water. No tent. No lie. Anyway, I still have that journal. I wrote about the non-stop flies that attacked me endlessly and the piece of cherry pie I couldn’t wait to eat when I returned to civilization.

That said, isn’t it curious that I can tell you what I wrote in that journal some thirty years ago? That answers the memory piece of this. I have an excruciatingly accurate memory. I think the nuns slapped that into me.

AITWL: What was the most challenging part of writing a memoir? What was the easiest?

CH: Letting go of the idea that my description of someone might hurt their feelings, was the most challenging. I knew that I was revealing the personalities of others which is a little bit like talking behind someone’s back, but on a microphone. I got over it. Especially when that person would read something where they were featured and say, “Well you nailed me there.”
“Sorry.” I always answer with a smile.
The easiest part was the pure joy of writing itself.

AITWL: I can imagine that your book has helped a number of cancer patients, families, and medical professionals as they go through their own challenges. What kind of response have you gotten?

CH: I have gotten the most incredible responses from all of the above. I have cried as I have read some of the individual letters. I can only say that it is one thing to write a book it is entirely another to read a letter from a mother in New Jersey, saying that my book “saved her 35 year-old daughters’ life.” That is beyond any “review” that I will ever garner for my work. It doesn’t get more profound than that. She was serious. Her daughter has the same cancer as I have and was struggling with depression and wanting to give up. Then she read my book. What?
So I cried.

AITWL: How is your health these days?

CH: Very good, I think. See? I always have to have a question in my own mind after I answer that. But I continue to have a monthly treatment for which I am grateful. Three tumors on my lung. More than I feel like counting on my liver. But I love living life so I guess I’m hard to kill, try as the cancer might.

AITWL: Writing-wise, what’s next for you?

CH: I am planning to do some magazine writing of the essay nature and also travel related. But I definitely have some book ideas. What writer doesn’t? Also, I secretly desire to co-write a screen-play. I’ll need some screen-play writing workshops under my belt for that. See, I am always finding excuses to continue to learn a new angle of the craft, mainly because it can be quite entertaining to be around a bunch of other writers. We are all slightly insane. At least we speak the same language.

Many thanks, Carrie! Learn more about Carrie Host at

Author photo by Sue Drinker

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