EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a Q&A with Amy Welborn about her new memoir Wish You Were Here, which chronicles a trip to Sicily five month after the death of her husband, Mike. Read the first part here.
This was your 24th book and it appears very different in nature from previous ones. Was the entire process different?
The process was different. Most of my other books are an extension of a teaching mindset and just sort of spill out of me. This, of course, was different. I journaled extensively both in the months right after Mike died and then during the trip. I couldn’t have written the books without the journals. It would have all been just a blur.
Most of my other books only require one or two writings. I’ve never taken more than four months to write a book before. This took two years and some deep rewriting. My first drafts were just too stream-of-conscious-y. I had to really think harder in the writing of this one.
I see the book came out days after the third anniversary of Mike’s death. How did its arrival affect that anniversary?
I hasten to say that was not planned. The book was originally supposed to come out in the spring of 2011, but in the fall of 2010, we ran into a number of problems and conflicts with cover art and title issues and there were certain aspects of the writing that weren’t coming together either. It was decided that the book would get lost with a fall release – that would have been the next publishing season to shoot for – and so early spring was decided upon. The purpose was really to coincide with Lent and not the anniversary.
I had been talking with Random House for a while, trying to find a topic for a book with them. It is bittersweet and frankly a little aggravatingly ironic that this was the subject that finally brought me to them. (The division is Doubleday Image now.)
How have sales been?
I don’t know how sales have been. I’ll know in a few months when I get a statement.
Have you heard of any conversion stories inspired by your book’s vibrant portrayal of Catholicism?
Oh heavens. No, and I can’t imagine that happening! I mean, it would be great, but I still can’t imagine it.
What I really wanted was to simply bring comfort to people who have experienced loss. I have been helped by various things I have read, and I hoped to bring that kind of comfort to someone else along the way.
I also have a bigger point to the book, a point which I have always hoped would make it appeal to a broader audience. The point of my book is that we all live with death, whether we have directly experienced it or not. It waits for all of us, whether we admit it or not, and everything we do during our daily lives is, at some level, a response to that reality – we are either accepting it or avoiding it.
Being a Christian adds another dimension to that, of course, and I want to encourage people to think about life on earth as being lived in the midst of the passion and resurrection of Christ, in loss, suffering, and ultimately, hope and trust.
Your writing is beautiful. What advice would you give to CatholicMatch members who are writers or aspiring writers?
Thank you very much. I’m the worst about that because my writing process is fairly intuitive, much to the aggravation of my editor. I could never teach writing. I don’t know how to do it, really.
I will say what my editor had to tell me pretty constantly: be specific and concrete. There’s no power in abstractions or generalities. Power and truth emerge through stories with strong imagery and detail.
And also: do not be afraid.