Writing a book is hard enough. Writing a book while battling cancer? I can’t even imagine!
Ginny Dent Brant doesn’t have to imagine–she did it. And she published it. And she’s won awards for it.
Today, she’s sharing tips and wisdom from her experiences as a nonfiction and cancer survivor.
Thank you so much for joining me today. Please tell us what you write. How/why did you pick your genre?
I write memoirs and Christian living books. I enjoy writing about real people. I’ve also written over 50 articles that are interviews with Christians about their faith. Some of those articles have made it to The Baptist Press, Townhall, and The Christian Post. My most popular articles were my tributes to Chuck Colson (carried by 15 different newspapers/magazines), Billy Graham, Robertson McQuilkin, and Dr. Avery Willis after they passed.
What’s the most difficult part of writing? How do you work through those challenges?
I wrestled with God over writing a book about my cancer journey. While meeting with the hospital chaplain about the dilemma of dealing with cancer, he told me, “Consider this a gift from God for you to help other people. You’re a writer and a speaker—think of all the people you could help.”
My response, “No way. I don’t want this gift.” But the more I researched, the more I felt compelled to share with others what I’d learned. It was difficult to do the hard work while with dealing with the side effects of treatments and medications.
In my first book, Finding True Freedom, the difficult part was deciding which intimate details to share and getting the okay from family members. A memoir about your own family can be like walking through a field with landmines.
How long does it take you to: write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
Unleash Your God-given Healing required two years of research, one year of writing, one year of editing and polishing, and 18 months of promoting it. I’m still doing podcasts and interviews.
Which was harder: the first book or the following books? Why?
This recent book Unleash Your God-Given Healing was harder because it is loaded with footnotes to medical research. My editor made me type out every name noted in the research articles instead of using “et al”. I was also asked to recheck all of the footnotes several times, note the last date I checked the websites, and verify all the difficult to spell names! Oh my! Memoirs that require a lot of footnoting can be difficult to write, and they also require the most of the writer including fiction techniques.
What’s your favorite writers conference? What do you like about it?
I’ve attended the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s conference four times. They have a wonderful faculty, and many experts have poured their lives into me. It’s also a great place to make connections with other writers, publishers and agents. It’s only 90 minutes from my home.
If you’re self-published, why did you decide to go that route? If you’re traditionally published, why did you decide to go that route?
My first book was traditionally published. For this second book, I knew that Christian publishers do not usually publish books on health and wellness. I knew a “cancer book” would be difficult to get published. I remember going to writer’s conferences and seeing acquisition editors with signs saying, “I’ve heard enough cancer stories.”
I then submitted to eight publishers I had connections with. I heard from three immediately who did not publish health books. In a few weeks, I heard back from three other interested publishers who wanted to see more. One suggested I get a doctor to write commentary in each chapter. I took their advice. Three of these publishers took my book up the ladder. It got close with two publishers, but all of them wanted the doctor commentator to be the co-author. I could not provide that. My book is from the patient’s perspective. It’s not about what the doctors do. It’s about the role the patient can play in their own prognosis. All the publishers said, “This book needs to be published.” That was reassuring.
At that time, I made the decision to self-publish. I went with Westbow Press because they’re the self-publishing arm of Thomas Nelson (Harper Collins). If my book sold well, they would begin distributing it. As of two weeks ago, Harper Collins is both distributing and promoting my book. After winning three awards (Golden Scrolls First, Selah Award Second, and Director’s Choice Award Second for Non-fiction overall), Westbow Press recognized my book with the Lighthouse Recognition Award.
Congratulations! What advice do you have for new authors?
Chuck Colson was the cover endorser for my first book. He advised me to start in the middle of a crisis. I did that in both books. He also advised me to use a theme from beginning to end to tie my story together.
In Finding True Freedom, the theme was dance. My father taught me to dance, he met my mother at a dance, and from a young age, we danced to the same tune, When I gave my life to Christ, we began spinning in different directions. My father tried to block my path, but God moved in his heart, and he became everything he forbid me to be including a missionary. In the end, we were dancing to the same beat with our heavenly Father.
The theme tied throughout my Unleash Your God–Given Healing book was an analogy to the Wizard of Oz. The analogy begins when my doctor shows me the MRI that looks like a tornado has invaded my body. Like Dorothy, I desperately want to get back home to a normal life. When discussing the eight steps, each one has a shared truth from God’s Word and a tie to the Wizard of Oz. For example, in the chapter on hydration, how ironic that Dorothy killed the Wicked Witch of the West with a bucket of water!
I would advise any authors to take Chuck Colson’s advice.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
I was under cancer treatment during most of the process. I was actually making mistakes I’d normally not make due to brain fog. I asked five friends to go behind me and look for errors and recommendations. Two were English majors, two were nurses, and one was a cancer patient. They caught many mistakes. Mistakes are part of the process. I even found ten mistakes after my first book was published. Although mistakes are normal, you must do everything you can to catch them.
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for joining me today!
Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many media interviews. Unleash Your God-Given Healing was released in May 2020 after her journey with cancer. It was written with commentary by an oncologist, and was recently given a Golden Scrolls Award and named a Selah Award Finalist.