7 Questions: Breast cancer survivor and author Tanya Curran Brown on writing her memoir

Tanya Curran Brown is a master hairdresser whose salon in Wollongong NSW has been the training ground for countless apprentices over the years. She's also a breast cancer survivor. In 2005 she was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of the disease and eventually underwent a double mastectomy. She has now published her memoir on her journey – A Tale of Two Titties. In her book, Tanya hopes to shine a humorous light on a devastating disease and help other sufferers.

Tell us about your book.
My book is about my experience with breast cancer – the diagnosis and treatment that followed and the choices I made to survive the whole ordeal. As my story unfolds I reflect on my past taking the reader into pockets of my life. My theory is that if the reader can understand the child they may be able to work out the adult. My book is stamped with my personality.

What inspired you to write about your experience?
My inspiration literally came from a self-help diary that the Breast Cancer Foundation gave me along with a foam wool boob and a couple of other thingies. The idea was to chart my journey with the diary and that in itself would help the mental healing process. After a week of this I thought, bugger it! I’m going to write a book.

Did you have any writing experience before writing your memoir? Was it a difficult or easy process?
I had not an ounce of writing experience before this book. My spelling is atrocious and punctuation poor to say the least, but I find it easy to put what’s in my head onto paper and thank the Lord for spell check. What works for me is music. I select the songs I want to listen to and then I write.

Tale Of Two Titties

When you were writing, did you aim for a certain number of words or hours each day? What was your writing routine?
I wrote my book at night after my child went to sleep. Always in my water bed with a couple of pillows supporting my back and my laptop propped up on my knees, iTunes songs selected. The thoughts and wording for my pages would spring from mind to screen. Sometimes I would finish and turn the laptop off, other times I would wake in the morning knowing my husband had turned everything off because I had crashed.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?
What i want the readers to get from my book is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. A helping hand and some hope for those that are having a cancer journey and some interesting reading for those who are not. I’d like to think the reader has a good laugh reading my book too.

Do you have plans to write another book?
I would love to write another book. Let’s see if anyone wants this one first. I would like to write for others that can’t get their thoughts on paper, perhaps as a ghost writer.

What's your advice to authors embarking on writing a memoir?
My advice to anyone writing their memoir is to be mindful of their mood at the time they write because it reflects in the pages. Many a page I scrapped thinking, My lord! What was I thinking?

Every now and again leave the manuscript untouched for a week or two and then do a cold read. This helps you fish out the weak spots. When reading your latest work ask yourself religiously if it is interesting to the reader or did you write that for yourself. If some parts of your story are only interesting to you then scrap and write for the reader.

You can buy A Tale of Two Titties by Tanya Curran Brown at all good bookshops or online at Booktopia here.

If you're interested in writing your memoir check out our Creative Writing courses or our Life Writing and Life Writing Masterclass with Patti Miller. You can do courses in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and online.

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