Thanks to Noelle for hosting me today. I am honored to be here to talk a bit about my new book, How To Climb The Eiffel Tower.
Tell me a little about How To Climb The Eiffel Tower.
How To Climb The Eiffel Tower is the story of two women who forge a powerful friendship the day they are each diagnosed with cancer. That friendship gives Lara the strength and hope to confront her cancer and her past and learn to truly live a full life.
Those are some some pretty heavy topics. How did you handle that?
When I was writing the book, I was very conscious that cancer, child abuse, and betrayal are heavy topics and was purposeful about injecting a good amount of humor into the book. Lara is a snarky character that looks at the world through a humorous, slightly skewed lens. Her work life also allows for quite a bit of lightness and humor. Still, I understand that some people see the word cancer and simply refuse to read any further, yet How To Climb The Eiffel Tower is not a book about cancer. It’s a book about friendship and healing.
What inspired you to write this book in the first place?
Inspiration can come from anywhere – a person’s odd assortment of items in the grocery store line, a face in a passing car, or a snippet of overheard conversation. Part of the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower came from a comment I overheard in the chemotherapy room while I was going through cancer treatment. I was heavily drugged at the time, but I distinctly remember hearing a woman on the other side of the room say to her neighbor that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her. It’s a good thing I was pretty weak and tethered to a machine because I wanted to get up and smack that woman. Still, that comment stuck with me until I sat down to write a novel based on some of the people I met while going through cancer treatment. It prompted my ‘what if’ question of – How could being diagnosed with cancer be the best thing that ever happened to someone? What kind of internal turmoil would a person need to be experiencing for a cancer diagnosis to be a positive force in their life? From there, my brain kicked into gear and Lara Blaine’s story began. I have no idea what that woman was talking about 12 years ago, but I will be forever thankful for her making that comment.
You frequently write about the value of a critique groups on your blog. In fact, you and I initially met through a critique group. Why are you such an advocate for critique circles?
Writing is a lonely pursuit. A tremendous amount of time is spent sitting alone slowly tapping out the first drafts of a story. At some point, you need feedback and support from other writers. A good critique group can point out clunky dialogue, tell you if your characters are coming across as real people, and help you rein in a runaway plot. They can serve as a first editor that tells you if a story is working or if you have lost your way.
The actual critiquing is the reason writers join critique groups. The camaraderie is why they stay. The writing life is full of rejections and setbacks. There are points where you can feel like a boxer taking jab after jab in the ring of endless submissions. It helps to have someone in your corner to clean you up and give you pep talks between rounds. We all need support and encouragement.
Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.
Elizabeth Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse. Prior to the new book’s publication, Elizabeth was invited to attend the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference and has received excellent advanced reviews on her break-out new book.
Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. Her first novel, Overlook, spotlighted a housewife dealing with a cheating husband and the pressures of keeping up appearances. Elizabeth has published several short stories and is currently writing a novella and beginning to write a historical family saga about how love and identity effect four generations of women. She and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.
Book Trailer – http://youtu.be/hHGNcjuRndQ
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