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"I was writing about that time, I wasn't living in it anymore. That conversation helped unlock so much"
By the age of thirty, the average person has spent a lot of time searching for themselves, sometimes through relationships and drug usage. Eva Hagberg Fisher was no exception. However, when she discovered a cyst on her brain that led to a dramatic surgery, things in her life did change in a drastic way. Through the exploration of her illness, Hagberg Fisher was forced to examine her life and admit to her vulnerability. This memoir chronicles that experience, including a very important friendship.
Eva Hagberg Fisher discusses the process of writing her first book with us, including one of my favorite writers who gave her advice along the way!
You have a background in architecture. How did you become interested in writing?
I've always wanted to be a writer - my parents are all professors, so I had access to seeing that sitting at a desk and writing was a job that you could have, which is something I feel really lucky to have been able to witness. And I also wanted to be an architect, but learned pretty quickly (like second week) of sophomore studio that I actually can't draw at all. Writing about architecture became a way in to writing - and writing very very frequently and to deadline as an architectural journalist taught me so much.
How to Be Loved is your first book. What were some of the challenges you faced when sitting down to write it?
The challenges were all creative / structural. I wasn't sure how the book was going to end when I started writing it, and I wasn't really sure who was going to be in it or what the arc was going to be ... I didn't know how it would sound or what the emotional notes would be, so the challenges were really about finding the rhythm and the pacing and then also getting the dialogue right ... In writing a memoir, were there any issues you had with talking about deeply personal situations or any points where you wanted to put up boundaries and relive situations?
Not once I got used to doing it - when I first started writing it, I started in what is now the middle, in my relationship with Cameron, and reliving some of that (and writing 95 pages about it - which were cut down to two paragraphs!) - felt really tough. I got amazing advice from the writer Melissa Febos (author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me!) to remember that even though I was writing about that time, I wasn't living in it anymore. That conversation helped unlock so much - and then it felt like a creative exercise, not one of emotional re-living.
A large part of the book involves the aftermath following your discovery of a brain tumor. Do you think writing about this situation helped you understand it better or differently than you did in the moment?
Technically it was a brain cyst, not a tumor.... I don't know that I'll ever understand the event. I've written about it in so many different ways - I think writing about it helped me process it much less than, say, the therapy that I was doing at the time and later. Now that it's been published I feel a new and stronger level of completion with that story. It feels like recovering from that event is no longer the main thing that I'm doing.
Isolation is another theme of the book, touching upon how even in a cyber-connected community we can feel very alone. Why did you want to write about this?
Because I'm always surprised by how lonely I am when I have so many extraordinary friends, and by how lonely my amazing friends also say that they are. It seems like there's just an epidemic of loneliness, and I don't know how much it has to do with cyber connection as our really intense late capitalist culture. My only real cure for loneliness has been long stretches of time with people that feel relaxed - and that long stretch of time is really hard to get when everyone feels so pressured to work all the time. I think universal basic income would be a better solution to loneliness than getting off of facebook. Your friends are also a major part of the book. Did you talk to them about it as you were writing?
Well, one of them is dead - and I definitely talked to her. I didn't talk to the others about it while I was writing. The only person who saw drafts was my editor - I really kept it close while I was working on it. You are going to be promotional events for a the book, and on your website have a note about the importance of buying books from independent stores. Why is this important to you?
My opinion is that a certain major online retailer is a city-destroying quasi-monopoly that does all kinds of awful just-this-side of legal things to their workers. Meanwhile, independent bookstores are lighthouses in their communities, and deserve our financial support.
Follow Eva Hagberg Fisher on Twitter and Instagram. How to Be Loved is available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is the Creator/Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Creature.