After I casually mentioned in my last blog post that I finished the book project I’ve been working on for a long time, I received many messages saying “Congratulations!” and/or “What?! You wrote a book??”
I so appreciate all the support I’ve received and as for the questions, here’s my attempt to answer all of them.
(If you are not at all interested in the hearing more about the book – and I certainly wouldn’t hold that against you – stop reading now and get back to the work/laundry/Netflix you were working on before you popped in here.)
What?!? You wrote a book?
Well, I like to refer to it as the “book project.” The end result is a 163-page, professional looking book called “It’s a Beautiful Life: Observations & Reflections of Thomas E. McInerney.” While I did write many of the original sentences, I took a lot of direct quotes from the interviews I conducted with my Dad and also invited twelve close friends and family members to contribute essays as well. It was a collaboration.
Why did you do it?
Because I wanted this book – or some version of it – to exist. I want my kids and my kids’ kids to benefit from my Dad’s wisdom for years to come. Despite my Dad’s best intentions and greatest wishes, he is still mortal. 😏 Documenting some of the stories of his life and more importantly, his sage advice about certain things, seemed like a smart and important thing to do.
How did this all begin?
On September 19th, 2014 (my Dad’s 73rd birthday) I invited him to lunch to discuss the possibility of us working on a project together – a book about his life.
As I explain in the opening pages of the book, I suggested that HE should write the book about his life but he told me that while he had considered it, other projects always took priority. Like his job. Or studying quantum physics for fun.
So, we decided to do it together.
You “conducted interviews” with your Dad? That sounds very formal.
Well, I call them “interviews” because the meetings involved my showing up to his office – once a month, for a year – with a recorder (or rather my phone with a recording app), my laptop, a topic for that month’s “interview” and a list of questions pertinent to that month’s topic. But there was no formality. (Aside from the fact that he was always wearing a suit.)
Sometimes I’d ask every question on my list and get straightforward answers. Other times, I would ask one question and my Dad would lean back in his office chair and spend the next hour reminiscing about playing baseball as a kid or his first job. In those case, I just shut up and took notes while he would amble down Memory Lane.
That sounds amazing!
It was… for both of us. During one of our later interviews, my Dad said to me, “Regardless of what happens with this project – whether the book gets written or not – these meetings have been so wonderful. To be encouraged to reminisce about parts of my life I haven’t thought about in so long has really been a gift.”
I felt the same way. I knew those meetings were the “easy part” and I enjoyed every minute of them. As is evidenced in the book, my Dad has a remarkable memory. He remembers facts and events of his childhood and early career days in astonishing detail (for example, he can quote his starting salary for every single job he’s ever had).
It was a great joy to listen to him tell the stories of his life. Our meetings were interesting, enlightening, poignant and fun.
I strongly recommend anyone contemplating such a project with a loved one to follow through. You will not regret it.
What’s NOT in the book?
(OK, full disclosure… nobody has asked me this question but I would like to answer it and it needed to fit into this Q&A format.)
This is not an objective biography of a public figure nor is it a sensational tell-all. This is a series of essays written by myself and others about someone we love. There are no salacious details. There is no shocking gossip. And if there are skeletons in my Dad’s closet – and obviously those would be very well-dressed, sports-jacketed skeletons – do not expect them to fall out of these pages.
In addition, there is no author in the world who could capture the intensity of which my Dad has valued his family relationships and friendships throughout his life. My one hesitation in (self-) publishing this book is that it does not do justice to the love and fondness my Dad feels about his family – especially his brothers – and the close friends he’s had throughout his life. Maybe he’ll write a Volume II to do that job. J
How long did the whole project take you?
From start to finish, three and a half years.
WHAT? That’s a long freakin’ time!
Yes. Yes, it is.
Like I said earlier, we conducted the interviews for about a year. Then I started “writing up my notes” in a way that I thought would magically turn into something brilliant and entertaining. It didn’t. I worked in that unproductive direction for about six months before I trashed everything and started over thinking in terms of a series of essays instead of a chronological snoozefest.
Once I had a vision for the book that I was happy with, I really started to focus on the writing of sentences. And guess what… WRITING SENTENCES IS HARD. Like, really hard. So much harder than I ever thought. That’s part of the reason the book is so short. I just couldn’t write any more sentences. I ran out. Plus, everyone was tired of waiting for the book; it needed to be done.
When can I read the book? / How can I buy the book? / Where can I get a copy?
These questions make me cringe a little bit because I didn’t write this book thinking people other than our immediate family members would want to read it and it feels awkward to “promote” it.
That said, if you have ever known my Dad, you may find the stories entertaining. Or if you simply want to benefit from the wisdom of a very smart man, then I won’t hesitate to recommend it because the book is chockfull of insight, written in an easily-digestible “Dad’s wisdom nuggets” format.
You can buy the book through the website I used to publish it, Book Baby (link below). They set the price based on how much I spent to create it (damn full-color photos!), so it’s pricier than I would have liked. But listen… USE THE COUPON CODE “MCINERNEY” TO GET 50% THE PRICE LISTED.
Again, just in case you’re skimming… USE THE COUPON CODE “MCINERNEY” TO GET 50% THE PRICE LISTED. (You’ll still pay about $20.00 not including shipping but that’s better than the whopping $40 they want you to pay!)
Please know that 100% of the money made through sales of this book will be donated to one of my Dad’s favorite charities, St. John’s Bread and Life.
Is there anything else I should know?
Yes. The photo of me I used for the back cover flap was taken 15 years ago. Because I’m no fool.
That’s it! Again, THANK YOU for all of the support!!
PS. One more thing… one of my regrets about the book is that I didn’t include an Acknowledgements page like a real author does. At the time, it seemed indulgent and pompous but now I wish I had so that I could have thanked the following people…
… Paula, Tom, Lori, Neil, Amy, Uncle Robert, Uncle John, Uncle Michael, Aunt San, Gene, Tony and Father Harrington for contributing essays. Every time I received one of their essays, I thought “Shit. This is so much better written/funnier/more interesting than what I’m writing. They should be writing the damn book.” No joke. I hated them all.
… my sister, Lori, who was the only person who knows Dad to read a version of this book before I printed it. Her insights and editing skills saved me a lot of embarrassment.
… my brother, Tom, who wrote the funny words for the back cover.
… Paula for digging up all the cool photos that appear in the middle of the book.
… my writing group and writing classmates – especially Liz, Robin, Galia and Shima – for their constructive criticism and valuable feedback.
… Marcelle, the writing coach I hired last summer to push me through the final stage of this project.