Monday, September 24, 2012

Giveaway & interview: Author Janet Bettag discusses NORMAL

This week's giveaway is an ebook copy of the just-released narrative nonfiction book, NORMAL, by Janet Bettag.

NORMAL is the true story of the author’s survival and recovery from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. It poignantly and humorously addresses dealing with altered self-image, finding ways around barriers, and appreciating the play of serendipity and synchronicity in our lives.

“Amazing insight into the haunting world of a brain bleed survivor that fills the reader with a sense of compassion relating to those everyday issues we often take for granted. I found the story filled with inspiration and hope as it details an incredible journey starting from a near-death experience and ending with the reconstruction of the author’s new reality.” – Chris DiGiuseppi, Award-winning Author of THE LIGHT BRINGER

NORMAL is currently available on Amazon and Kobo Additional vendors for the ebook will include Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Sony, and several others, but firm dates for availability have not yet been provided. The paperback version should be available before the end of the year.

TO ENTER THE CONTEST, simply leave a comment or question on The Writers' Lens between now (Sept. 24) and midnight, Sept. 29, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to The Writer's Lens who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning. Good luck and comment often!
And now, about the author....I met Janet at a St. Louis Writers Guild picnic a couple of years ago and since then, have come to know her as a good friend.

A career administrative professional, she recently retired from her post as administrative assistant to a municipal police chief to pursue writing and freelance editing full time. Janet’s published works also include magazine articles and book reviews. Her short story, "Collette's Conundrum," won an award in the 2010 Missouri Writers' Guild JoAnna Dale Sponsors' Contest for paranormal or mystery short fiction.

Her professional affiliations include membership in the St. Louis Writers' Guild, the Wee Writers of St. Charles, and the Missouri Writers' Guild, for which she currently serves as a member at large on the Board of Directors.

Website: is still under construction.
Twitter: @JanetBettag

      The Writers Lens is about “Bringing fiction into focus.” What brings your writing into focus – the characters, the stories, or the love of words? When I write nonfiction, it’s definitely the stories. As a reader, I expect nonfiction stories to have substance, be well researched, and provide me with valuable and interesting information. As a writer, that’s what I strive to deliver.

      In terms of fiction writing, my characters tend to drive the story. I may start out with a plot in mind and a rudimentary outline, but they’re the ones in the driver’s seat. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but it isn’t unusual for them to wake me up in the middle of the night to dictate some aspect of how the story should be told. I’ve had a character tell me that he most certainly was not the bad guy and that I needed to look elsewhere. Early in the writing of my current work in progress, the female protagonist woke me at 3:00 a.m. from a sound sleep to inform me that her dog’s name was Potluck. Silly me, I thought she was more of a cat person and didn’t even know she had a dog. 

 What inspired your latest book? NORMAL is a book I fought against writing for more than a decade. Early in my recovery, I was encouraged by some of my fellow aneurysm survivors to write my story and post it online. At that time, the last thing I wanted to do was put my personal life out there for the world to see. Several years ago, a very good friend, Chris DiGiuseppi (co-author of THE LIGHT BRINGER) helped me realize that by telling my story I might encourage other people dealing with brain trauma to keep fighting to rebuild their lives. I resisted the idea because I didn’t view my recovery as being all that heroic and didn’t want my first book to be viewed as a misery memoir. However, that conversation with Chris reminded me of a pledge I made a long time ago that I would reach out to other brain aneurysm survivors, find ways to increase public awareness, and support research focused on early detection of aneurysms and prevention of ruptures. 

Although I didn’t relish the idea of sitting at the keyboard dredging up experiences I would rather forget, the book started feeling like a mission. I sat down with my family and talked with them about the project because I didn’t want to move forward with it if it would make them uncomfortable in any way. They were - and remain - unanimously supportive. If NORMAL makes one person’s journey a little less frightening and a bit more hopeful or helps a single individual better understand a loved one who is dealing with brain trauma, then writing it was a worthwhile effort.

      How does NORMAL fulfill that part of your pledge involving support of brain aneurysm research?
A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book are donated to The Brain Aneurysm Foundation. In addition, I’ve set up a ‘Normal Readers’ BrainPOWER team so people who are so inclined can make tax deductible donations that are earmarked for patient support and research. I set a personal goal of raising $1,000 for that cause. It would be great to exceed that tenfold…or a hundred fold.  But even if I barely reach that mark, it’s something.
      Almost invariably when people first learn that I’ve survived a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, they react by telling me I’m lucky to be alive. I know how true that is. I had a dear friend who suffered a brain bleed and existed in a vegetative state for many years before she passed away. An aneurysm took the life of my mother-in-law.  An alarmingly large percentage of the people I speak with about the book tell me they lost a family member or close friend to a ruptured aneurysm. Every year, some 30,000 Americans suffer brain bleeds.  It’s been estimated that 6% of the population have undetected aneurysms. They are sneaky killers and rarely give their victims any warning – and nobody is immune, not even children. Something must be done to provide neuroscientists the funding and resources they need to find ways to study, predict, and detect aneurysms early so they can reduce the number of ruptures. 

      Would you share a bit about your next project? I would love to! The working title of my next project is MESSAGES FROM UNCLE MYRL. I’m about halfway through the first draft of my first novel, which involves a woman whose dream of rehabbing an old mansion into a writers’ retreat turns into a nightmare. From the moment she sets foot on the property freakish weather, unearthed bones, floating corpses, and other complications hinder her progress. Despite the fact that most of the people in town are friendly and supportive, she can’t shake the feeling that they share some secret to which she, as the newcomer, isn’t privy. There are several other levels to the story I’m not ready to divulge just yet. Let’s just say that readers who expect me to tell twisty ghost stories should not be disappointed. 

How much fact is in your fiction? Enough to keep me connected to the characters and the story, but not so much that it interferes with my imagination and creativity. My inspiration for MESSAGES FROM UNCLE MYRL is partially derived from my love for Clarksville, Missouri – which is technically my home town, although I was only three years old when we moved to the St. Louis suburbs. Enough factual details about the town will be incorporated to give readers that sense of actually being there and leave them wondering where the truth ends and the storytelling begins.
      My characters take on mannerisms and characteristics of people I observe in real life, although I make a point of not specifically basing the people in my writing on anybody I actually know. If I did that, they wouldn’t be able to develop their own personalities. One might have a quirky habit like twisting her hair around her finger when she’s nervous, another might have a brown spot in one of his blue eyes. I pick up little details like that from real people to help my characters come to life. I think all really creative writers weave parts of themselves and their life experiences into their work.

What’s the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? Hearing that my work positively influenced a person’s life is the ultimate praise, no matter how great or small that impact might be.

While we’re on the topic, I have two more comments. First, I consider it quite a compliment to be interviewed by The Writers Lens and appreciate the opportunity.  I also want to thank you personally for the wonderful comment you included in your Goodreads review of NORMAL. Never in a million years would I have imagined someone would suggest my book should be on Oprah’s list.

It's great to have you as our guest today, Janet! Thanks for telling us about how NORMAL came to be written. I hope it gains the attention of someone like Oprah so more people can be helped. After reading what you went through, I now have a better understanding of what it must be like for those who suffer from brain afflictions of many kinds, from aneurysms to strokes to dementia. And it makes me grateful for the simplest things in life!

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at and on Twitter @twfendley.


  1. This is an amazing read, it's interesting, informative, humorous and so very real. Ms. Bettag is a wonderful writer who pulls you into her world and all through her journey back from a very scary place. Her strength and sheer will to return to the real world is what got her through and how lucky are we, her readers, that we have the gift of her words? I must agree with T.W. Fendley with the hope that Janet's book catches the eye of Oprah or someone like her that can bring the spotlight to cerebral aneurysms to help and educate others.
    Thank you for highlighting this author, I look forward to her future works. Congratulations Janet on a beautifully written book.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments about NORMAL. I would love to communicate with you privately. Please email me at

  2. Nice interview. What a great cause to support.


  3. Raw. Pure. Real. This is how I would describe this book. It is a riveting journey into the mind, heart, and soul of an aneurysm survivor. I would recommend this book to everyone, whether your are a survivor, a family member or just want to know more about cerebral aneurysms. Brilliantly written.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments about the book. I would love to communicate with you privately. Please email me at

  4. Cannot wait to read the book, Janet and I went to school together several years ago, I am sure it will be delightful, Valeria Menefee