Q & A

Q. What is your writing about?
A. Family, relationships, me (it’s all about me…), transformation, choice, grace, and hope.

Q. It’s very personal. Was your first book, Behind These Doors, hard to write?
A. At times. It revived memories forgotten or dismissed, and there were untold family stories that brought me to my knees. Sometimes I’d laugh, sometimes I’d cry. It was hard on me physically. When I get stressed, it shows up in my body. I ended up with two frozen shoulders, my stomach issues kicked in, and I was a mess through parts of it. My computer also crashed twice, and then I lost the motherboard. Apparently it was experiencing techno-cosmic sympathy pains.

Q. Were you abused as a child?
A. No, I’ve never thought of it as abuse (some don’t agree, but abuse is subjective). There was a period of time when I was neglected, among other things, but those stories are in the full memoir.

Q. What does your family think about your book?
A. My siblings loved it; then my sister Liz had a change of heart and asked me to take out a story about her. She was dying of cancer and I didn’t want her to die upset and angry with me, so I put the book away for awhile. Then there are my two sons. We live in the same town and they are somewhat horrified that personal is now public. Proud of me, happy for me, but for them, it’s too much information.

Q. What was your inspiration?
A. I wrote a story (Queen Bee) in a personal growth workshop that connected me more deeply to my siblings. Subsequently, I wanted to know more about my mother, so I had a family reunion. Four generations of family sat in a circle in my living room and introduced themselves with stories about her; these were the beginnings of the memoir.

Catherine Sevenau - Queen BeeQ. Are you planning to write another book?
A. This edition of Behind These Doors is a broad sample of the complete book. The full version is in the process of being publishing as a web serial. This seems to be the most confusing piece for readers. Passages from Behind These Doors, A Family Memoir is composed of twenty stories from the full memoir. I created an audio, eBook, and paperback (54 pages) versions of those twenty stories. The full book is much longer. I also published Queen Bee, Reflections on Life and Other Rude Awakenings, a compilation of 88 stories from my blog and beyond.

Q. Why did you decide to record some of the stories from Behind These Doors?
A. When my friend Reva Metzger was dying of cancer, I went to say goodbye toward the end of her life. I had a bound book of sixty-something stories and I left it for her. Reva could no longer read, but she could listen, and her sister read her one of my stories every night until the day Reva died. They made her laugh and distracted her to different destinations. Touched to participate in her dying process, and I wanted to honor her in return. I was going to record sixty stories, but it turned out to be an extensive and expensive undertaking, so I completed the project at twenty.

Q. Where can I read more of your work?
A. My blog includes excerpts from the book, a few historical family poems, pieces about my friends, parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, a chicken, a dog, death, money, religion, and more than anyone would want to know about me. http://sevenau.com/blog/

Q. How frequently do you write?
A. Whenever I’m inspired, which is often. My schedule is flexible so I split my free time between writing and working on genealogy.

Q. What/who has helped you most in your writing?
A. Two mentors and friend. Stephanie Moore helped me find my voice. I spent five years in her Monday night writing group, writing and getting feedback one story at a time. The other was Michael Naumer, the teacher with whom I worked for five years in Beyond the Game. Being immersed in the transformational work he taught (along with many other courses and workshops I’ve done) gave me another level of perception, a different way to see the events in my life and the world. Studying the Enneagram, an ancient model of personality and study of the human psyche, was also invaluable in helping me understand myself and others.

Q. What makes your writing appealing?
A. The stories are universal, so people relate to them. Most of us have difficult family relationships or have experienced challenging situations. Our past experiences make us rise to the occasion and become who we are—or—descend to the occasion if one chooses the slippery slope. I try to write transparently, and am able to tell my story without “being” my story. For a woman who was seldom in touch with her feelings, the practice of writing allows me to tap into and translate them onto the page. I’m also pretty funny. You’re either going to feel a kinship and say, “that’s my family, too,” or “my family isn’t as bad as I thought!” For others, Behind These Doors may beckon; personal reflection isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Q. What was the biggest gift for you in this process?PhotoFunia
A. There were three:

1. Gaining a larger picture and an understanding of my mother.

2. A reconnection with my siblings and a sense of keeping the family together. Writing this book, along with all the genealogy work I’ve compiled, has done that, and then some!

3. In the five years I lived with my mother, I was raised by omission—by neglect—and neglect doesn’t leave a scar, it leaves a hole. Time, understanding, and writing Behind These Doors transformed this hole into a kind of wholeness—and out of this wholeness, a kind of holiness emerged. Therein lies the grace. Also, my mother wanted the same things I want: to be seen and to be heard. Writing this memoir did that, for both of us.

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Comments

  1. Daphne Matthews says:

    I appreciate that you take the judgement out of your experience. That makes it available for everyone. Well done!

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