Author of Patient 71 Julie Randall talks about creating that first book!
After reading, and being extremely moved by Julie Randall’s book Patient 71, I wanted to know more about the woman behind the book, and how Julie’s journey into becoming an author has been. The highs, the lows, and ultimately what drove her to share such a unique, and inspirational story.
Not being a writer with previous experience, once you knew you had to share your story, where did you start first?
It’s simple really; I just started writing! I told myself one chapter at a time. I then committed myself to one chapter per week. I was working with a different publisher in Cyprus of all places at the time, and although our partnership didn’t work out in the end, it was a great way to gain momentum. I would have each chapter written and edited every week, which took a bit of discipline! When I was writing it was just like purging, and almost therapeutic to me, and naturally the story almost told itself. It was almost like the other me ( I am a Gemini, there are two of me) was dictating to me from my noggin and the other me robotically typed the words.
Patient 71 is an extraordinary story, so extraordinary it’s easy to forget there is a real woman and her family affected. Do you feel at times you have lost some of your identity to cancer? That the lines are blurred between ‘Patient 71’ and Julie?
Great question. Yes, I did feel like I had lost a part of myself and to be honest I don’t think I will ever get it back. In the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, I felt like my name was ‘Terminal Cancer’. Every time I bumped into someone (except close friends and family), they would get this look of utter devastation and sorrow on their faces. It wasn’t hard to imagine their inner dialogue ” Oh you poor, poor woman…you are going to die a grizzly, sad death… and soon.” It’s very hard to put up that smile of an Aussie battler when you are all too aware of the thoughts going through a well-meaning friends head.
So now when people come up to me in the street and say “ Excuse me are you Patient 71”? I say” I was Patient 71, but now I am Julie again. I am in a great place now, so it doesn’t bother me and if it helps get my story out to those who need hope and inspiration then so be it.
In Patient 71 you extolled the virtues of many wonderful healthcare practitioners both in Australia and in the USA. You also spoke quite frankly about the rudeness and coldness of some. What do you think causes this? Overwork? De-sensitised to the constant bad news? A lack of training? And, did you notice a difference in the standard of care between the two countries?
Here’s the thing and I say this often. Medical practitioners are just like any other professionals. There are good ones, bad ones, nice ones, proactive ones, and lazy ones. Some of them have a beautiful, caring bedside manner and some of them couldn’t give a rats. They just say it as it is without even contemplating the effect it has on the patient. Fortunately, the insensitive ones are in the minority but when you encounter one of them they can leave you devastated, unleashing the fear monsters to run amok in your head. It is the cruellest thing when someone, without warning, decides to make a statement like.” There is no cure for your disease” or “ Take this brochure on palliative care” even worse, decides to tell you how long you have to live! WTF! I didn’t take kindly to those people, and I told them so. I think there should be more intensive training in this area as it’s a critical part of a cancer sufferers treatment and care. I didn’t experience this in America although I did make it quite clear to my Doctor that I didn’t want to hear anything negative. From memory, I think he only slipped up once. He has read my book, by the way, he loved it and said he learnt a lot from it bless him.
The gift of hindsight can be both a wonderful and terrifying thing! What would be the best piece of advice you can offer to writers trying to get their story out there?
Firstly, if you feel the urge to write just do it! Your mind wouldn’t even give you that thought over and over again if you weren’t capable of it. Start now! You will know right away if you are doing the right thing. It will feel like home.
As for getting it out there, do your homework. I made a mistake by jumping into a deal with an independent publisher/editor that went pear-shaped and caused a lot of stress and anxiety. I had to buy my way out of the contract and then a friend of my sisters secured me the deal with Hachette. So it really helps to know someone in, or close to the industry. Look at all the publishing houses and what they need from you. Also double check the marketing support you’ll get as you are likely to have to invest alot of your own time getting your book out there on social media.
Most publishers will want your full manuscript. If you have a great story either fiction or non- fiction, then do whatever it takes to get it out into the world. I knew my story could bring hope and inspiration to others, so I was determined to make it happen. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I receive messages of thanks and praise every single day and I choke up every time.
2018 is well underway, what does this year hold for Julie Randall and Patient 71?
Ok so for Julie, it is creating a space where I can help and inspire others to live to their potential and follow their dreams despite a cancer diagnosis or any other hardship for that matter. People tend to live in a place called fear and I don’t like that town so I am trying to move as many people as I can out of there. We all have an expiry date and just like the weather it is something we cannot control. However, we do have total power over how we deal with fear and the monsters that try and keep us small and safe. We don’t do the world any favours by playing small. So that is one of my missions for 2018.
My other mission is to get “Patient 71’ the book, into as many hands as possible. I will be working with a team that are just as passionate about getting the story of Patient 71 out there, and I know there are so many more people who would benefit greatly from reading it, and who will hopefully share my story.
I’m also thinking about another book….
Last but in no way least I will be hanging out and having as much fun as I can with the Mr, my girls, and our buddies. I will sing dance, laugh, walk, run, inspire and create when the mood takes me, and make the most of every second of my life. One which I intend to be a very long one by the way.
Patient 71 is available in paperback and e-book from all good online bookstores