Friday, November 6, 2015

Release Week: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán, Q&A, and a Giveaway!

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán
Print and e-book, 242 pages
Published November 1st 2015 by Lake Union Publishing

Fans of This is Where I Leave You will love this witty and compelling read. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences was pre-released as an e-book via Kindle First on October 1st, and is a #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store. 

Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist— but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her. 

With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer? 

With Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, Camille Pagán has written a tart and spirited novel about the essential questions of life, death, and love.


Q & A with Camille

Q. Given the seriousness of all she faces, the protagonist, Libby Miller, narrates with a light touch. Would you classify this as a comic novel?

A. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences is filled with so many moments that are serious and devastating that it seems best to describe it as a book that’s equal parts heartbreaking and humorous.

Q. Why did you decide to approach the weighty subject of cancer in a lighthearted manner?

A. While I don’t share Libby’s unrelenting optimism, I’ve always turned to humor to cope with problems both major and inconsequential. I wrote Life while I was going through a difficult time myself, and employing a biting and often irreverent tone felt liberating.

Q. Was there anything in your personal experience that inspired you to write a novel set in motion by a diagnosis of cancer?

A. I lost a dear friend to cancer several years ago. She was an incredibly funny and bright person, and through her long and ultimately fatal ordeal, she never shed her sense of humor. This particular friend has inspired me in so many different ways; and while I didn’t consciously decide to channel her when I began writing this novel, I look back now and see parts of her shining through the pages of Life.

Q. Why did you decide to make Libby a twin?

A. I have two sisters, one of whom is only eleven months younger than me. We’re very different—yet having the same shared history, we have an uncanny ability to understand each other, sometimes more than we understand ourselves, and even to preempt or predict what the other person may think or do. I wanted to give Libby a similar counterpart—someone who could act as her mirror and say, “Take a closer look and see what’s really happening.”

Q. Part of the novel is set on a small Puerto Rican island. Is it a real place? Did you spend time there doing research?

A. My husband is Puerto Rican, and over the past fifteen years that we’ve been together, I have spent months (maybe longer!) in Puerto Rico—including the island of Vieques, where part of Life takes place. Puerto Rico is one of my favorite places on earth, and it’s incredibly important to our family. It was inevitable that I would eventually set a novel there.

Q. Do you share Libby Miller’s optimistic bent? Are you like her in any ways? Different?

A. While I have moments of optimism, I have much more in common with Libby’s brother Paul, who is highly anxious and has a proclivity for catastrophizing. Writing about a person so unlike myself was a welcome departure.

Q. You’ve had a well-regarded career as a journalist, writing in particular about health and nutrition. Did you bring any of that background to the writing of this novel?

A. I’m passionate about my work as a health journalist and editor, which is probably why I’ve now written two novels that have health-related subplots. For Life, I tapped into my research background to figure out how one could receive an unexpected and almost misidentified cancer diagnosis (which is not terribly uncommon, I’m sorry to say), and to research the particular form of cancer that Libby has, which is very rare, and how that might shape her future. From there, however, I let go of all of my medical knowledge so I could accurately convey Libby’s shock and disillusionment in the face of her prognosis.

Q. What inspired you to move from your non-fiction journalism to writing fiction?

A. Fiction has always been my first love. Even so, I didn’t start writing novels until I was nearly thirty. I knew from the early pages of that first book (which went on to become The Art of Forgetting) that writing was so joy-inducing that I’d keep doing it even if none of my books were ever published.

Q. Are you at work on a new novel? If so, what is it about?

A. I’m always working on a novel! No, truly, I’ve written almost every day for the past seven years, and I think my work increasingly reflects the time I’ve put in. The novel I’m writing now doesn’t have a medical element. Instead, it’s about a couple who’ve decided to use an unconventional strategy to attempt to breathe fresh life into their dying marriage. Of course, in addition to the serious topics the novel tackles—Why do we marry? What keeps love alive? Is it possible to sustain romantic feelings for another person for decades?—it includes a heavy dose of humor.

About the author

Camille Pagán is a critically-acclaimed author and health editor at Real Simple magazine. As a journalist and editor, Camille specializes in health, nutrition, and wellness. Whether she is covering the anti-inflammatory effects of massage or the crisis that prompted a top executive to upend her life, Camille looks for the heart of every story—and the most compelling way to convey it to readers.

Writing, research, and health have been Camille’s focus for the length of her career. While studying literature as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, she worked as a medical research Camille Pagán bio assistant in the University of Michigan’s Health System’s cardiology department. After graduation, she attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course, then took an editing position at Fitness magazine, and later served as the senior health and psychology web editor at Lifetime Television.

Though Camille is passionate about health and nutrition, fiction is her first love. She started writing novels in earnest shortly after her daughter was born seven years ago. Dutton and Plume (imprints of Penguin Books) published her debut, The Art of Forgetting, as did several foreign publishers. Lake Union Publishing will publish Camille Pagán’s second novel, Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, in November 2015.

The Art of Forgetting

A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weightobsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.

And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory- dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago- Marissa’s own equilibrium is shaken.

With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

Connect with Camille


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