It’s another two-fer Monday!
Today we have an author who’s written an important book on a serious subject: coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Sonia Discher, originally born in England, came to Canada with her parents at age 10. She met her husband, Steve, in grade seven and they started dating in high school. They married in 1980 and the majority of Steve’s career in the Canadian Armed Forces was spent working on helicopters.
Sonia spent her career working as a Project Control Coordinator at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. Sonia and Steve were dedicated to each other and when Early Onset Alzheimer’s invaded their happy life, Sonia spent every minute looking for treatments and looking after the love of her life.
Here’s what she had to say when I talked with her.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Throughout my life I have hear “I should write a book”, you know when your kids do or say silly or cute things that it would be great to write it down. Most of the time a book is never written! When my husband got sick and it was difficult to get answers or direction on where to look for help and being told there was nothing that could be done, I kept saying that I should write a book to help others so that it would be easier for them. I kept a diary of sorts on things we did but my memory of challenges that came up and how I coped or found out how not to react were burned into my mind. After Steve passed away, I followed through with the idea of writing a book.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I started writing down a list of topics that I should cover in the book and then when I sat down at the computer, I’d start filling in my memories under each topic. This led to adding more topics and even today I still think of things I could have included. This is my only book so far, and the information and ideas were based on our experiences and what I did right and what I could have done differently to make our frustration less.
How do books get published?
I had no experience with writing and publishing a book so I contacted several publishing companies and decided on Tellwell who were wonderful. They walked me through each step and created my cover and interior design of the book. I found the whole experience exciting and very rewarding knowing I had accomplished my goal.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My one and only book so far was written 3 years after my husband passed away and I was 60 at the time when I decided to follow through with putting all the memories and data on paper.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to camp during the summer and I winter in Arizona. I love to be around my family and friends. I consider myself very blessed to have such great support from them all. That’s one of the biggest things that got me through my grieving.
What does your family think of your writing?
I think my family are very proud that I went ahead with writing the book. Some had no idea that I was going to do it and were surprised when I announced that the book was being sent to the publisher.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I hear from my readers occasionally and their comments and reviews make me feel like I did the right thing in writing the book. When I hear that they got something out of the book that they could use, it makes me feel like I was supposed to write the book and gives me great satisfaction in knowing I did it for the right reasons.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
For years I wanted to be a nurse until I realized that seeing someone else in pain really affected me and it was like I could feel their pain. If I could get over that I’d still like to be a nurse; but too late now. I turned to project management instead and was a Project Control Coordinator which I loved.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing the book actually energized me. When I would sit to write, my memories just kept flowing from my mind to the paper, and I found myself reliving everything over again, which was a kind of therapy for me. I would laugh and cry but always felt that telling our story was going to impact others in some positive way.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I have been thinking of writing under a pseudonym for my second book. I have a couple of ideas in mind but think it would be better if I don’t write under my own name. I’m thinking that people will be expecting something along the lines of my first book which was non-fiction. I’d like to try another book that combines fictitious names but some true-life experiences.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
For now, I think each book will stand alone but I love the books that I have read that are series. It leaves you wanting to read the next one.
What did you do with your first advance?
I was so proud, I took a picture of the cheque, and just put it in the bank.
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As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I have a couple of animals that I gravitate to but I think I’d have to go with an Elephant. They are strong and majestic when they walk, very dedicated to their herd and protective over their young. They show emotion which makes my heart break when I see pictures or movies showing that they have tears running down their face from being sad or hurt.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
The characters in my book were real people who were either family or friends. I owe everything to my family – my husband was the love of my life, my children and grandchild are my heart and life, my parents and in-laws always are there for me and I can count on them for advice and love. My friends who were there to support me through Steve’s illness and my grieving afterwards, helped me to find myself and realize my self-worth and that I could continue on, knowing that Steve will be watching over me and that I can be happy without feeling guilty. The caregivers that worked with Steve and helped with keeping his dignity throughout I owe all my gratitude. They made me feel like family and that what I wanted for him no matter how demanding, was out of love and they did their best to deliver every time.
What does literary success look like to you?
My publisher asked me how many of my books I wanted to sell to feel that it was a success. I originally told them that I didn’t have a number in mind. I only hope was that anyone who read my book would get something out of it that helped them. Since the book has been published however, and I’ve seen some of the comments and reviews I am receiving on it, I want it to keep selling and become more widely known so that it can keep helping more people. It gives me such satisfaction to know that it is out there and I did the right thing.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your information; I think it’s important for people to know.