Project: Happily Ever After Author, Alisa Bowman, Saves Her Marriage and Lives to Tell

In a literary landscape where writing about your divorce is becoming more common,  today’s guest Alisa Bowman writes about resuscitating a marriage she was sure was down for the count. Bowman’s soon-to-be-released memoir, Project: Happily Ever After,  is the true story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love, and all of the marital improvement books she read in between.  Although Happily is her technically her literary debut, she’s ghostwritten 7 NY Times bestsellers. Seven!

To enter the giveaway for a chance to win a complete, signed set of all the books featured in the Author Interview Series, visit the post Welcome to the Author Interview Series Giveaway: Enter Here! and leave a comment.

Theo:How did the idea for Project: Happily Ever After come to you?

Alisa: While walking my dog one day, I was thinking about how I’d once planned my husband’s funeral on the off chance that he would conveniently drop dead. I was thinking that I was probably the only person in the world who would do such a thing and that, if other people knew about it, they would think I deserved to be committed. That led to thoughts on why a very nice (really I am!) woman like me would mentally plan out such a horrible thing.I thought, “I knew there was something wrong with my marriage when I planned my husband’s funeral.”  I power walked home and started typing. Those were the first words for what eventually became Project: Happily Ever After.

Theo: Project: Happily Ever After is a very intimate and honest book. What was it like to write so openly about your life?

Alisa: The book was therapy. To write it, I had to confront parts of myself that I’d rather not admit are really there. I learned so much about myself as I wrote the book, and that self-awareness has become a tremendous asset in daily life.

The book was therapy for my marriage, too. Once I had a first draft, I asked my husband to read it. I was just terrified of his reaction. I thought for sure he’d get angry or tell me that I could not publish it. He did neither. He corrected a couple lines and then he told me that he could see me talking about it on Oprah. More important, after he read the book, he knew me better than he ever had. That book is like a window into my soul. Our marriage improved even more once he read it and truly got to know me on the deepest of levels.

The excruciating part is having other people—especially strangers—read and react to it. It’s so disheartening to write such a personal tale and then have someone review it on Amazon and say that it should never have been published or question whether my marriage was really bad. Oh, that hurts more than I can put into words. Still, I’m convinced that I told a good story for a good reason: to help others. I wanted other people to know that they were not alone. I feel hopeful that I accomplished that goal.

Theo: What does your writing time look like?  Do you have a routine?

I write while my daughter is in school and sometimes I write at night and on the weekends, too. There are days when I’m exhausted and the words don’t come. On those days I take naps and sip tea and seemingly get nothing done. I imagine all writers have days like that. There are also days when I find myself in the middle of a family style restaurant and my daughter is telling me some sort of story and I’m completely distracted by the words in my head that I’d just love to type onto a keyboard. I suppose most writers have days like that, too.

Theo: What parts of the writing process do you love?  Loathe?

Alisa: I love writing personal tales. They feel like puzzles to me, and I love moving the pieces around until I have it all just right.

I hate the moment when it’s time to start a new task and my head feels all fuzzy and I’m struck with this sense of fear that my brain will never think up another good word ever again for the rest of my life.

I also loathe the process of putting it out there. Writers face a ton of rejection and criticism. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, but my skin is still thin. When I was shopping the book to publishers, I felt as if I needed to encase my body with gauze. I feel the same way now as the book is about to be published and the initial reviews are coming in. I want to protect myself somehow from experiencing and feeling the criticism.

Theo: Did you face any challenges or obstacles when you were writing the book? If so, how did you work through them?

Alisa: I did not have a deal when I wrote the book, so I had to fit it in between my paying assignments. I loved writing the book so much that some of my paying assignments felt like drudgery in comparison. This book caused me to take a good hard look at my entire career. I now turn down a lot more work than I used to, and it’s not because I don’t need the money. Once I got a taste of what it felt like to write for joy, I didn’t want to ever write solely for the paycheck again. I choose my work and my clients a lot more carefully than I ever did in year’s past because I want to enjoy all of the words that I write.

Theo: How did you balance working on the book Project: Happily Ever After with writing for your blog?

Alisa: Balance? I’m not sure I pulled that elusive thing off. I lost a lot of sleep over both the book and the blog. There were days when I got up at 5 am to write. There were nights when I got up at 1 or 2 a.m.—because the words were keeping me awake—to write and then went back to sleep. There were times when I hired a sitter on the weekends so I could work on the book. And there have been times when my husband has taken our daughter somewhere for an entire weekend day so I can get more writing done.

Theo: How do you use social media to promote your book and yourself as a writer?

Alisa: I’m on Twitter and I’m on Facebook, too. Although both have helped me to drive more traffic to my blog and maybe to sell a few books, too, I think they have been much more useful at helping me build relationships. I’ve become closer to other writers, marriage experts, and random every day people because of both. It’s nice when I’m having a bad day to be able to write a status update like, “There is darkness in my mind, but I will only allow light into the world.” People respond with the most encouraging comments. Those comments help to snap me out of my melancholy.

Theo: What’s your favorite writing tip?

Alisa: I read everything I write out loud. That helps me to catch typos and it helps me to strengthen my voice.

To enter the giveaway for a chance to win a complete, signed set of all the books featured in the Author Interview Series, visit the post Welcome to the Author Interview Series Giveaway: Enter Here! and leave a comment.

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8 Responses to Project: Happily Ever After Author, Alisa Bowman, Saves Her Marriage and Lives to Tell

  1. I love the tip to read everything you write out loud. I want to start doing that.

    I actually got an advanced copy of PHEA and I raced through it. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a really excellent book. Alisa’s an amazing writer. I’m proud to number her, now, among my friends (Full disclosure: She was just the “featured author” at the Southern Oregon Book Fair and she came over for dinner last night.)

    Your readers might also like this amazing guest post she wrote about how you have to BELIEVE in your book even when no one else does:

    http://jennifermargulis.net/blog/2010/10/why-you-should-believe-in-your-book-and-never-give-up-guest-post-by-alisa-bowman-of-project-happily-ever-after/

  2. I always love Alisa’s honesty, and it comes through loud and clear in this great interview. So relieved to hear such an accomplished author admit that sometimes during “family time” she is distracted by writing and that not all her writing time is brilliantly productive. Thank you!

  3. Donna Hull says:

    Alyssa is a great example of what happens when you write from your passion. I’m so inspired by her. It’s also nice to know that she has days where the words won’t come and she sips tea instead. I thought that only happened to me.

  4. I need to read my work out loud more! I know I should but sometimes it feels silly. Still, it’s a great tip, and I can’t wait to read Project Happily Ever After.

  5. Alisa’s an incredible writer and person. I’m amazed at her unflinching ability to put herself out there. She’s a highwire act; if there’s a net, I can’t see it.

  6. So with you on the fuzzy feeling when you’re about to start a new task. Love the entire interview!

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