Ambition, accomplishment, motivation, strength. These are the words that came to mind as I read through this e-interview with Kerrie Lee Brown mere months before the release of her nonfiction book on heart health (due to launch this Summer 2016).
Not a stranger to health, fitness, writing and reporting, Kerrie Lee Brown was once editor-in-chief of Oxygen Women’s Fitness magazine, has authored a non-fiction book called “A Woman’s Guide to Rapid Weight Loss” (no longer available for sale), has three ebooks in her production pipeline, and also has a vision to publish a memoir in Spring 2017.
If reading that last sentence has left you a little breathless, be prepared to find yourself a lot awestruck by this media maven who survived an ultimatum from within. At 39, Kerrie had a heart attack. Her heart challenged her to create balance in her life and gave her clarity on what her upcoming memoir would really be about.
This e-interview with Kerrie Lee Brown is real, intense and–for lack of a better word–heartfelt, as it engages the intersection between inspiration and ambition, limitation and the anticipation of what’s to come.
For me, the magical thing about reading interviews with writers on the verge of publishing a work is the excitement they leave on the page when they talk about their latest project. Their knowledge and drive motivates other writers and aspiring authors to finish that first draft, polish that manuscript and go forth and get published! Without further preamble, let’s dive into the interview. As usual, Living in Cyn’s questions are in bold, grey text.
Name/ Age/ Website… Kerrie Lee Brown, 42, www.kerrieleebrown.com
Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? My family and I moved to Denver, Colorado from Toronto, Canada, in 2014 for my husband’s job. We are proud Canadians living in the United States. What an adventure! Colorado is beautiful and we love the healthy lifestyle. It was a big move for us—especially with two boys, ages 6 and 11. If all goes as planned, we’d like to stay, but there are a lot of hoops we have to jump through (paperwork). But so far so good.
On your blog you describe your past in media and communications with a daily four-hour commute, and how a life event forced you to re-evaluate the pace and manner of living. Can you share a little about this with our readers? Three years ago I was your typical hard-nosed magazine editor at Canada’s largest media company. My commute to the office was two hours each way by train and subway—which I used mostly as time to unwind and sleep, catch up on emails, journal, or just stare out the window. But things took a terrible turn when one day I experienced a panic attack in the cafeteria at work. For weeks after, more and more attacks occurred as well as shortness of breath, inability to concentrate, debilitating heart palpitations and so on. Then one night while I was putting the kids to bed my body basically shut down.
I found out I had an electrical problem with my heart and it was devastating. How could this be? To the outside world I was a successful working mom who had everything in order—great career, family and friends, drive and motivation. But the truth was my body was slowly breaking down from a build up of daily stressors and the pressure I was putting on myself to be everything to everyone.
Finding out I had a heart problem was a huge wake-up call. It never crossed my mind that anything like this would ever happen to me as I was not overweight, not a smoker, and very active. Although my heart-health issue turned out to be something I was born with—it was getting progressively worse (and more obvious) as I got older.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this was to start listening to my body and take some time to slow down. I am certainly more aware of the power of the heart now—not only as a vital organ but its capacity to gauge when your body is at a tipping point mentally and physically. It became evident that I was unaware of the amount of stress in my life (especially at work) and I’ve since learned to control these situations and say No when necessary. Everyone is different and our bodies are unique, but when our body starts to show signs of shutting down—my advice is to stop and listen and get help.
Could you give our readers a synopsis of your upcoming book? The book I’m on deadline for now, “Surviving Myself” (working title) is dear to my heart, literally and figuratively. The book (due to be released on Amazon, iTunes etc. by Summer 2016) is about my surprising heart-health experiences at age 39 that ultimately led to heart surgery and spiritual self-discovery. I am working hard to finish my manuscript and submit to my editor in a few weeks and then the fun begins with promotion and marketing 101.
Since my heart surgery, I have done a ton of media (television and radio) spreading awareness to women about heart attacks and strokes; as well as the importance of listening to your body. My book is jam-packed with tips and suggestions on how to recognize when stress is piling up (because as you know, it’s tough to even admit we have too much on our plates) and I hope it makes a big impact in the nonfiction motivation genre.
Currently, I have four books in the works. Three smaller eBooks (which I’m still deciding whether they will also be available in paperback) to be launched over the next 3-6 months, and my “real” bigger hardcover book to follow in Spring 2017. My upcoming heart-health book for women is the first of all these passion projects I plan to complete.
It seems there is a strong therapeutic undercurrent motivating your writing. At what point did you decide you needed to write a book? Whenever I’m asked about how my heart book came to be I always say it was a unique coming of age story in itself. I started journaling on the train every day during my long, grueling commute to work in Toronto. After a few years of pouring my soul into day-by-day accounts of the trials and tribulations of being a working mom, balancing work-life, adhering to the demands of my career, keeping a marriage together, and dealing with ferocious mom guilt—I just knew one day I wanted to share my experiences with other women going through similar things.
Then my heart event happened and I knew for sure there was a reason I hadn’t completed my “balance” memoir yet. The universe was telling me that I wasn’t done with my own personal learning and that I needed to include my heart-health event in the book to help bring awareness to women about what can happen physically if they don’t take care of themselves. That’s why it’s been four (almost five) years since I started writing my book.
The hard thing about being an editor by trade is that I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to self-editing. I am a long writer by nature (studied magazine writing and editing in journalism school) and I just can’t seem to stop. But God willing, my book will be out in a couple months now that I have a set work-back schedule I’ve created and committed to and a publishing consultant/editor I’m determined to work with out of state. This last month has been spent updating my website in preparation for my book launch. I believe personal branding for journalists is crucial especially given the amount of competition.
How did you go about writing a book? Any rituals you lived by? I guess I could say that my writing ritual varies depending on what I’m writing—whether it’s a magazine article, press release, book or blog. I’ve been a magazine editor-in-chief for several successful titles in the health and fitness industry as well as on editorial mastheads for parenting, beauty and wellness magazines. I’ve contributed to over 150 different publications worldwide and have also worked in corporate and executive communications.
I prefer to plan my books more logically and write from a concrete outline, synopsis and chapter summaries—then attack the table of contents in that order. I admit my latest book was written slightly backwards in that it was transformed from a series of journal entries into chapters, and then table of contents (which I re-wrote multiple times). Right now it’s been a huge job trying to decipher all my scribbling from the journals and turn them into a logical re-tell story about my life. Very time consuming. But it’s almost there.
When it comes to deciding what content goes into the book. That, too, has been difficult. I have so much to say and share with women, which is why I have planned to publish the three eBooks as well as the larger memoir hopefully by Spring 2017.
The format of the smaller books will have tips and tricks and step-by-steps. My larger memoir, which is still off in the future, will recap the best of the smaller books and include a lot more outside expert advice on what can ultimately lead to women’s health issues from a personal and professional perspective.
My readers and community are also very much interested in the writing process. Looking back on your four years writing your book (I’m going through the same situation with my fiction, by the way) could you say you see stages in the evolution of writing the book? Could you say you see stages in your own evolution?
Good question. I see evolution in my writing process for sure. As I mentioned, I had been journaling and basically brainstorming my bigger memoir book for years—writing and re-writing. And then after an intense 12-month period of personal and professional changes and tough decisions, my book has become more of a self-therapy project that has helped me through some very challenging times.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve experienced change like never before. Some of it very bittersweet. From having heart surgery and relocating to a new country; to losing my Mom unexpectedly and then my mother-in-law also passing away. I’ve been dealing with grief and at the same time struggling with not being able to work due to red tape. On the flip side, this time has been a blessing to spend quality time with my boys and experience new things in a place we love. There have been many ups and downs but I have to believe in my heart it’s all meant to happen for a reason. So ultimately, what started out as a series of journal entries from a busy working mom, has become a huge tell-all of overcoming challenge and change. All the while my writing has been the one constant. I’ve learned a lot about why I’m here and what I need to do next to help others going through similar things.
Without everything I’ve gone through, I would not have become as strong as I am today and I want women to believe in that as an example with their own lives too.
Do you have any new projects brewing at the moment? Other than completing the manuscript of my first book by Summer; I am still freelance writing, editing and consulting on the side. I have an article coming out in the beauty magazine GLOW on “Daily Habits for Happiness” in May; and I just finished editing a large hardcover book called “Eliteness” for a chiropractor to the stars in Atlanta, GA. I am also working with a few different clients in the fitness industry on their corporate brand image and online presence. I have always loved the editorial side of my job (writing magazine articles), but I also get a different kind of satisfaction from utilizing my corporate skills in the areas of marketing, communications, public relations and content creation.
If you had the chance to hang out with Kerrie Lee, 12-year-old, today, what would you tell her? I’d tell her that it’s not what you do for a living that makes a difference—it’s how you apply what you’ve learned along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved all my jobs over the years and they’ve made me who I am today, but experiencing a heart-health scare at such a young age is just not worth the four hour commute every day, the mom guilt, and the stress of getting that promotion or not. I would tell her that it’s more important to be aware of the pressure we put on ourselves. Love what you do but love yourself more.
Coffee or Tea? Coffee for sure the last few years, but I’ve switched to decaf for the most part since my heart surgery. However, if I had the chance again, I would most certainly love a cup of tea with my Mom.
Any questions you wish I’d ask you?
You may be able to include a few more questions from all that I’ve written above. Told you I tend to write long ☺ [Editor’s note: the following questions in bold, black text and responses were submitted by Kerrie Lee Brown herself]
How has your varied educational background helped you in becoming a health and fitness expert and inspirational author for women? Before I decided to become a journalist, my plan was to pursue a career in law. However, after spending time studying abroad, I gained a new perspective on what I wanted to do in life. I realized I wanted to reach people in a different way. I wanted to write stories that would have an impact on people and make a difference in their lives. During my time in Moscow, one of the experiences I will never forget was that I was mugged by the militia. It was a turning point in my life. When I got home, I decided to complete a second major in Communication Studies, which led to my interest in Media Studies.
News reporting became my passion because it provided an outlet for me to research unfamiliar topics and bring awareness to the public. After a long, intense application process, I was accepted into a prestigious Journalism school in Toronto. Not only did we get our first “real-life” experience working as junior reporters at radio and television stations and publishing houses, but we also learned about the inevitable perils of working in the media field. It was very exciting and the challenge I was looking for. I decided to specialize in the Magazine Stream, however I did spend ample time studying broadcast, radio and newspaper reporting as well. My portfolio began to flourish and I started offering my services as an assistant editor and features writer at a prominent city magazine—which led me to becoming the entertainment reporter for a national radio show.
All of my experiences working in the media have led me to where I am today and my education has played an integral role. But there has been a lot of change in media over the past few years—especially in regards to online platforms and the demise of print. I am still learning a lot and now creating a platform in the book author arena is very exciting.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers on how they can follow their dreams? I love speaking to aspiring journalists and writers about what it’s really like to work in the media. I always urge them to set realistic goals and expectations of what the media is like behind-the-scenes and the level of competition.
The exciting thing about working in the media is that it can lead to other incredible opportunities. Knowing that I’ve helped someone land a job in the industry, or giving advice on what to expect or what not to expect in a particular role is very satisfying to me. I still have many former staff members come to me for guidance on article queries, book reviews, job interviews and recommendations on advancement. I hope that in some small way I’ve been able to help them achieve their professional goals and encouraged them to make new ones to strive for. My ultimate advice to young journalists is: “Always keep things in perspective—the same can be said for the writing business as in life. Also value the time you have with your mentors. Learn from them and then teach others.”
Keep your eyes peeled for more from Kerrie Lee Brown. You can follow her on social media to learn about her and her upcoming book releases here:
WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
If you’re an aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, which you plan on publishing — or you recently published your debut work, you qualify for this e-interview series! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.