Hello one and all! How are you today? I'm back and hope everyone is doing well and happy! It’s so great to be with all of you again. Welcome back to my writing blog page where I try to share whatever I think may interest you. I love meeting other authors and promoting them, especially new ones. It's so much fun. Why talk about myself when there are so many wonderful authors out there and everywhere waiting to share with us.
Today I interview another fellow author, but instead of fiction, with me this time is Lene Fogelberg as she discusses writing and her first book Beautiful Affliction which is set to be released on Tuesday, September 15th.
Here's a little about Lene from her website:
“Growing up in a small town on the Swedish West Coast, Lene developed a love of poetry and reading, nurtured by the enchanting surroundings of my childhood; deep woods, fields, and ocean. She went on to study Foreign Languages at the University of Gothenburg: among them English and French as well as Literature and Creative Writing. She also studied German in Germany and Creative Writing at the Stockholm Academy of Writing.
Always curious, I’ve embraced opportunities to live abroad, in Germany and the USA. Shortly after moving to the US it was discovered, by luck of circumstances, that I was in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. (No wonder I felt like a ninety-year-old for many years!) Within weeks I underwent two life-saving open-heart surgeries and began the long battle of recovery. Now I am well and grateful for every day with my husband and two daughters. We are currently living in Jakarta, Indonesia.
An award-winning poet in Sweden, I always felt drawn to writing in English and switched language when writing my memoir BEAUTIFUL AFFLICTION, to be published by She Writes Press 2015.
Born in Sweden, she currently lives with her family in Indonesia where she is working on a novel taking place in Jakarta.”
Welcome Lene and thanks so much for joining us here. You’ve lead such a well-traveled life. Shall we begin to learn more about you and your writing?
SJ: If it‘s all right with you, Lene, I‘d like to begin with the obvious: You’ve done a great deal of traveling and lived in various places, but it wasn’t until you moved to the USA that your life really changed. How did you react when you first learned that you were in the last stages of a fatal disease? You must have had some mixed feelings when you received your diagnosis.
Lene: Yes, that is true, very mixed feelings. I had been feeling unwell for such a long time that it was a relief to finally get to know what was wrong with me. But it was also a nightmare, to face the serious treatments I would need to save my life. I didn't want to think the worst, but I had to prepare for it.
SJ: Can you tell us, when did you decide to take your experience and turn it into a memoir? Was it a difficult decision for you to open your life to others? I’ve heard from many in the industry that unless one is famous or infamous, one shouldn’t write a memoir. Did it surprise you that someone wanted to publish yours?
Lene: I wrote the book I would have wanted to read before, or after I got my diagnosis. It is my whole heart-breaking, at times funny, crazy, miraculous story. I was so shell-shocked after my life was saved in the US that it took three years before I even contemplated writing my story. But by then it just had to come out and I guess it hasn't really hit me until now, shortly prior publication, that people will actually read my story. There are some shocking scenes in there, but I didn't want to withhold parts I felt are important to the story. Well, stories like mine are very rare, simply because the people to tell them die before they get the chance to do so. But if my story can help and give hope to one person struggling like I did it will be worth it.
SJ: What did you learn in your experience of getting a fatal diagnosis? Without giving too much away, is there anything you’d like to share with others about your experience?
Lene: One thing I learned is the importance of kindness. I was so weak, I was like a ninety-year-old, knowing I was dying, but no doctors believed me, and people would treat me like I was just lazy... I was so grateful for the smallest acts of kindness shown to me. I think most people are waging a difficult battle in privacy, but we all put on a brave face for each other. That's why kindness is incredibly important.
SJ: Can you tell us a little about your latest writing project? I understand it’s a novel that takes place in Jakarta.
Lene: It is an equally funny and heart-breaking story with an unusual point-of-view. I am working on the last tweaks of the first draft, so I still can't tell you much about it, I prefer to keep it to myself while working on the story.
SJ: What do you love most about being a writer? Least?
Lene: Well, everything in my experience has two sides to it: I love sitting at home writing, getting lost in the words... But after a while, like a couple of days, I get restless and long for company. But if I have many appointments, errands and people to meet for days, I long to go home to sit in solitude with my words... I am happiest with some variety I guess.
SJ: What writer inspired you most and how?
Lene: Growing up I read Swedish author and Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf (Gösta Berling's Saga) and her writing inspired me tremendously. She was not afraid to let her stories take on mythical qualities, with paranormal things going on, long before this was a whole genre. She did it in a unique way, where she would leave the judgement to the reader what was the force behind the story. It was magical, and I remember wishing I could write like that.
SJ: If you could only write one book in your life, which book would it be?
Lene: Write that one and pour your heart into it.
SJ: Excellent advice! In closing, Lene, what is a favorite book you enjoyed reading and would recommend without hesitation? Why?
Lene: Sometime during my years of illness I stumbled upon William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust. It blew my mind on so many levels; the story, the setting, the writing, the characters. I loved his stream of consciousness, and reading it set something free in me: I realized the language and the words are tools to use the way we want, not rules to abide by.
Thank you, Lene, for allowing use to take some time out of your busy schedule and interview you about your writing. Best wishes for much success with your first book. Keep writing. Readers, take note you may purchase a copy of Beautiful Affliction at on-line book stores: Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, and from all major and Indie US book stores.
Lene Fogelberg is dying―she is sure of it―but no doctor in Sweden, her home country, believes her. Love stories enfold her, with her husband, her two precious daughters, her enchanting surroundings, but the question she has carried in her heart since childhood―Will I die young?―is threatening all she holds dear, even her sanity. When her young family moves to the US, an answer, a diagnosis, is finally found: she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. But is it too late?
Unflinchingly honest and often harrowing, Beautiful Affliction is an inspiring account of growing up and living on the verge of death―and of the beauty, harshness, loneliness, and, ultimately, unbending love that can be found there.
Interested? Want to learn more? Here’s an excerpt from Beautiful Affliction. Read on and enjoy:
There was this photograph, a small piece of paper, which disappeared a long time ago, maybe hiding in a box in my parents’ attic or some old forgotten album.
I don’t know why my mother brought the camera. Maybe she thought to herself: this might be an important moment. One we will need to remember.
Closing my eyes I can still see the photograph’s faded colors, square shape, thin white border. I can see my strawberry blonde hair around my pale face and my blue eyes looking right back at me. I’m six years old, lying on a narrow bed covered with a strip of hygiene paper. Chin to my chest, I’m smiling at my mother, who holds the camera. My thick winter coverall has been pulled down to my feet, like a molten skin above my heavy boots. My chest is naked. White cords run crisscross over me and onto a machine. The machine is measuring something, I don’t know what, only that I need to lie still.
“That’s good . . . And a big smile!”
I smile as wide as I can and the camera flash lights up the small examination room. Blinking away the stars in my eyes, I can see Mom putting the camera back in her purse.
“Okay, we’re done with these.” A nurse removes the cords from my chest. They are attached with stickers, pinching my skin. I don’t complain. If I’m good, I will get to choose something from the toy store downtown. Maybe even the white teddy bear I saw in the shop window, the one with the fluffy fur and the black, almost-real eyes.
A doctor comes into the room. “I’m just going to listen,” he says, “if you can sit up.” He presses something cold as ice to my chest. I know what that is, it’s a stethoscope, my mom told me earlier. I’m sitting with my legs over the edge of the gurney, dangling my heavy boots and shivering from the cold. And then I remember. I need to be good. Be still.
He listens and listens, leaning over me. The stethoscope wanders across my chest. He sighs. The stethoscope climbs onto my back.
“Breathe heavily,” he says.
I do. I inhale as heavily as I can. Hea-vi-ly.
I-i-in and out.
“One more time.”
I do as he tells me. I am a good girl.
“Yes, she has a distinct heart murmur,” he says. And then he is silent and listens again. I can see Mom is holding her breath, I don’t think I have ever seen her do that.
I’m just as still as the white teddy bear in the shop window. Later I will be walking through the store, looking at all the dolls and the toys, making up my mind. But it will be the white teddy bear with the black, almost-real eyes. I know it. If only the doctor could be done. He has come here especially for me, from a big hospital, maybe even the biggest in all of Sweden.
My feet are getting warm in the boots. I accidentally squirm and my coverall rustles.
“Shhh,” Mom says.
And then she is silent. Everything is silent. I stay completely still so that the doctor can hear better.
“Okay, we’re done.” He removes the stethoscope from my chest, turning to Mom. “You’ll never have to worry about this ever again. It’s a harmless heart murmur.” He smiles and looks into my eyes. “Just like your mother’s.”
The words grow and linger in the room, in my mother’s smile, in the sounds of the doctor’s steps toward the door.
You will never have to worry about this ever again.
Ever again. The opinion of a specialist. A dismissal. I can still feel my mother’s relief, as I examine the photograph in my mind.
You will never have to worry about this ever again.
Fascinated like I was? Want to read more? Here’s the purchase links for your convenience:
For more about Lene and her writing, remember to check out his website at:
Or feel free to connect with her on social media. Lene is all over the Internet.
Thank you all for visiting with us. Until next month...every one please stay safe. Smile. Be happy. Show compassion. Be nice to others. Put a little love into your heart. Please speak up for those without a voice, whether it be a dog, cat, elephant or monkey. One person, one voice can make a difference.
S. J. Francis
Advocate for the underdog, and cat, et al.
In Shattered Lies: "It's All About Family." Coming this fall from Black Opal Books.
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