03 December 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Guest Post by Kristin Louise Duncombe, author of Trailing: A Memoir

Kristin Louise Duncombe is an American psychotherapist, consultant, and writer who has lived in France since 2001. Having grown up overseas as the child of a US diplomat, and having lived internationally most of her adult life, she has based her career on working with international and expatriate families. She has twenty years of experience in the United States, East Africa, and Europe.

Inspiration and Daring to live life on the terms I decide: An Indie Author’s Journey to Publication

In May, 2012, I published my book, Trailing: A Memoir. I will excerpt the back cover text below, but wanted to share something very valuable that I learned in the process of getting the book published.

Six years ago I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma (stage 2) on my face. The prognosis for full recovery was good, but the entire event sent me into a tailspin of death anxiety and “my days are numbered”- similar (but not as awful) as the night I thought I was going to be murdered in a carjacking in Nairobi, Kenya, as detailed in the book. As the melanoma was my second real mortality check, however, I was left with this urgency – the only word for it – to tell my story.

My story was about what had happened to me, an otherwise independent young career-oriented woman, to lead me to abandon all my plans to “trail” a man to the frontlines of disaster and disease in East Africa — and how I finally made the transition back from “dependent, accompanying spouse” to “independent, leader of my own life spouse”.

Long story short, after writing an original draft of the book, I secured a NY agent who escorted me through a series of polishing re-writes, and then he got the manuscript to the desks of seven senior editors at major NY publishing houses. All seven editors said some variation on the same: Fabulous read, great story, but not “universal” enough — not “enough” women would relate to the “trailing” theme. What?! These “positive rejections” incensed me (and of course I was bitterly disappointed!) because of all the things I believed in about the book, the one I most believed in was just how universal the story is. What woman hasn’t at one time or another compromised her own needs and aspirations for a relationship? The agent and I parted ways, as he (very unhelpfully) told me that if these “Big 7” wouldn’t go for it, no one would.

Well I refused to give up, and started looking for a small independent press. I got an offer from a Minnesota based publishing house – but there was a condition: I had to be willing to spend a year touring across the USA to promote the book! No matter how much I dreamed of publishing my book, this was, no matter which way I turned it around in my head, an impossibility. My husband travels all the time for work, my kids are small, and I hate flying (and I live in France!)! So values clarification moment: I desperately wanted to see my book come alive, but not, as it turned out, at any cost. I sat on it for almost a year, and then, with the prodding and encouragement of friends and family, I decided to publish the book myself, completely on my terms. I used a professional publication service and several months later, after approving covers, interior layouts, final tweaks etc, I launched the book!

The point I want to make is that the entire process I went through sums up probably the most important thing I have learned: that if you believe in your story (whatever the story is or what form it takes), see it through to the end. Don’t let other people tell you whether your story gets to exist. Don’t give up. Try! Find solutions! Take risks! Dare! We are given one life – and we never know when it may end – and so why not just go for it! Refusing to take no for an answer, or compromise what works for my family just to get the book published, became the perfect metaphor for what I had to work out as a “trailing spouse-” how to make the life I wanted happen, regardless of the “limitations” surrounding me.

The following is an excerpt from the back cover text:

“Something unexpected occurs when Kristin Louise Duncombe moves to New Orleans to begin her adult life as a psychotherapist: She falls madly in love with a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor, abandons all of her plans, and follows him on a medical mission to East Africa. Faced with the dual culture shock of Kenya and life with the MSF team, Kristin struggles to craft a new existence in a context of mishap, witchcraft, and the life or death stakes of the MSF world. Just when she has managed to establish a life for herself in Nairobi, a violent carjacking catapults her into a state of acute post-traumatic stress, and her life thereafter devolves into a world of intense anxiety that permeates every aspect of her existence. Forced to examine questions about her relationship, career, and personal identity, she struggles to save her marriage while facing the most difficult fight of her life: saving herself.”

Description:
Something unexpected occurs when Kristin Louise Duncombe moves to New Orleans to begin her adult life as a psychotherapist: She falls madly in love with a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor, abandons all of her plans, and follows him on a medical mission to East Africa. Faced with the dual culture shock of Kenya and life with the MSF team, Kristin struggles to craft a new existence in a context of mishap, witchcraft, and the life or death stakes of the MSF world. Just when she has managed to establish a life for herself in Nairobi, a violent carjacking catapults her into a state of acute post-traumatic stress, and her life thereafter devolves into a world of intense anxiety that permeates every aspect of her existence. Forced to examine questions about her relationship, career, and personal identity, she struggles to save her marriage while facing the most difficult fight of her life: saving herself. Duncombe’s debut, as humorous as it is harrowing, provides an insider’s view of an MSF marriage and the humanitarian crisis in East Africa. Probing deeply into her tumultuous search for identity, she captures the essence of the experience with extraordinary authenticity and honesty. An altogether life-altering journey to the core of the human soul, Trailing: A Memoir is a compulsive page-turner, as fascinating as it is life affirming.
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