Welcome to my first ever author Q&A! I am so happy that Bree Housley, author of We Hope You Like This Song, agreed to answer some questions. I loved reading her book, see my review to find out why. Bree is a seriously talented and seriously hilarious writer.
And now, the questions!
1. How did you find yourself writing a book? Did you ever imagine that was something you’d do?
When Shelly died, I was lost. I was very quiet about it because I didn’t really know how to process what had happened. I’m a writer by trade (advertising copywriter) so I knew I eventually wanted to tell our story in my own way, but I did NOT like the ending I was given. It wasn’t happy. And if you knew Shelly, you know she wouldn’t have approved of that.
This is where the blog project comes in. After completing 52 Shelly-inspired resolutions in one year, I realized I had gone through an odd sort of therapy. I had learned so much more about myself, and in a way, what it must’ve felt like to be Shelly. Instead of writing a book about her death, I wrote a book about the LIFE behind our friendship.
Becoming an author was always a pipe dream of mine. It’s unfortunate that something so tragic had to happen for me to get my voice out there, but I’m truly honored to be able to introduce Shelly to the world and help raise awareness for preeclampsia.
2. Are you working on another/have any ideas for a second book?
Yes. I think. Maybe. I like my new idea every other day. I know I will never write anything as close to my heart as We Hope You Like This Song, but I love the process of writing so much that I’ll certainly keep trying to over share my life with anyone who will listen.
3. What is your favorite memory of Shelly? (If one is too hard, as I suspect it would be, then top three favorites)
I’ve been asked this a few times and you’re right, it’s hard to answer. But honestly, I just liked being around Shelly. It was the moments we were doing nothing at all that I loved so much. Riding in the car, hanging out on our shitty futon in college, eating Hamburger Helper, cleaning out her pig barn. We had a way of making every moment seem fun. Or weird. Or whatever. But since people like lists, here are my top 3 favorite memories in no particular order (these change daily):
1. The day we signed our lease for our college apartment, we were super giddy. We had never had so much space that was ALL ours. So we quickly reverted to ten year olds. We blasted my Paula Abdul CD and danced like lunatics. Then, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, we attempted that weird partner somersault thing where one person lies down with their feet up in the air and the other person holds on to those feet like handles and then the two people dive roll into one giant shitty gymnast. (Ahem, there might be pictures of this.)
2. Shelly and my friend Scott visited me in Florida around St. Patrick’s Day one year. We were craving Shamrock Shakes so we jumped in the car and hit McDonald’s drive through.
Scott: Three Shamrock Shakes please.
McD’s employee: What’s that?
Scott: Uh…the mint shake?
McD’s: Aw man, I wish we had that.
Scott (after a quick consultation with us): 3 twist cones please.
We pulled ahead and the guy gave us 3 vanilla cones.
Scott: Oh, we ordered twist cones.
McD’s (complete with a twisty hand motion): Yeah, I twisted it.
That became our new catchphrase. Whenever a conversation hit a lull, one of us would say, “Yeah, I twisted it.”
3. On Shelly’s wedding day, we all got our hair done at a salon in my hometown. The girl who was supposed to do my hair called in sick so I got a sub. I also got zig-zag cornrows, Alicia Keys style. This is not a style I can pull off. I’ll never forget Shelly’s face when she walked up to check on me after I had been in the chair for two hours. She usually laughed with her entire body, but she knew it would be rude so she bottled it up. She looked like she was about to explode. When we left the salon, she laughed harder than I’d ever seen her laugh. And I gave myself a poor man’s up do.
4. I’ve read that music really helped during the writing process, what is the best writing music you’ve found?
Oh yes, I cannot write without music, period. I’m a moody writer and have certain artists that help me write in certain ways. In regards to WHYLTS, when I needed to dig for more emotion, I’d drown myself in Iron & Wine. (Trapeze Swinger kills me.) When I needed to focus but still needed noise, Explosions in the Sky. And when I needed to feel Shelly’s presence, Patsy Cline.
I also listen to a lot of Sigur Ros, Amy Winehouse, Ryan Adams, and Bon Iver when writing.
5. Who’s your favorite musician?/What’s your favorite band?
Such a tough question so I’ll cheat and give you lots of answers. Mason Jennings, Stuart Davis, Fiona Apple, Cory Branan, Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst, Andrew Bird, Ben Kweller, and Nellie McKay have been favorites for a long time. I jump around a bit more with bands. Right now I’d say: Frightened Rabbit, the Milk Carton Kids, M83, Architecture in Helsinki, Wild Flag, Band of Horses, Grouplove, Metric, the Nadas, the Avett Brothers.
And I’ll never not love when a Barenaked Ladies song plays on shuffle.
6. I loved your dirty mouth, it gave me as a reader a real sense of your personality (and it was often hilariously timed). What is your favorite combination of swear words?
Haha! Thanks for the compliment. (Mom? Please skip this answer.) It’s not exactly a combination of swear words, but I’m a big fan of The State and am constantly tempted to say, “I wanna dip my balls in it!” (I promise I don’t have balls.)
7. What are you currently reading? Do you have any favorites?
I’ve been on a big memoir kick lately. Currently reading Moshe Kasher’s Kasher in the Rye. Recently finished Ophira Eisenberg’s Screw Everyone. (I reviewed that too, GREAT read!)
Both are A+ reads.
Favorites include: A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving), A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers), Julie & Julia (Julie Powell), High Fidelity (Nick Hornby), and Timequake (Kurt Vonnegut)
8. I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about having a ritual to put them in the mindset to write. Do you have one? (If no, what would your ritual be?)
If I’m day-writing, I usually get on the elliptical and listen to a comedy podcast like Who Charted? or Comedy Bang Bang. If it’s late at night, I go for whiskey on the rocks and listen to music until I feel inspired. Taking a walk outside helps when either of those things fails. Or um…Facebook stalking.
9. What advice do you have for others who have experienced sudden and profound loss? (Besides writing a book)
Grief is a strange thing. It’s almost as if you feel like you’re not doing it right. So my advice is to grieve in whatever way that feels natural to you. I was pretty closed off, but had a few people I’d open up to. And that always helped. I probably should’ve done that more.
As I mentioned in WHYLTS, it really helps me to go to the cemetery to talk to Shelly. It’s not so much that I think she’s hanging out there, but it’s the one place I can go and totally focus on her and how much I miss her. The weekend after the first copy of my book arrived in the mail, I took it to the cemetery and read the prologue to Shelly. It only seemed right that she’d be the first one to hear me read it out loud. I couldn’t get through it without crying, but it felt absolutely right.
10. Since May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, tell us more about the disease/how to get involved.
Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs during pregnancy. It’s characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine and affects both the mother and unborn baby. Symptoms include: swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision. There is no cure, but if it’s detected early and monitored, mom and baby have a high chance of survival. Basically, if something just doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about it.
The best way to get involved is to participate in one of the nationwide Promise Walks. Find one near you at: promisewalk.org. You can also donate to the cause at preeclampsia.org. (Extra Bree-points if you donate in memory of Shelly Bridgewater.) At the very least, just talk about it. I had never even heard the word “preeclampsia” until it killed my best friend.
So…that was a sad way to end this.
I’m gonna go dip my balls in something.
See how she ended that? THAT is why you need to go read her book right now. If this short Q&A did convince you, check out my review of the book, We Hope You Like This Song.
Bree’s giving away a copy on Goodreads, click here and enter by tomorrow! You can also use the link below to buy a copy!
What are you waiting for?