Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again.
When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What follows is a year-long odyssey of travel and a growing erotic and creative partnership— until a mysterious bump on John’s forehead proves to be one of several tumors in his brain and spine.
The nine months that follow are filled with a life-threatening infection, three brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years and one week after their wedding, John dies at the age of fifty-nine. More than just a love story or a memoir of mourning, Banged-Up Heart comes down solidly on the side of life. It takes you deep inside an ordinary woman, her deeply felt grief butting up against her desire for more than companionship: passion, sexual fulfillment, and self-realization. It bears eloquent witness to the wild trust it takes to fall madly in love and risk profound loss—a second time. Ultimately, it shows that it is possible to dance with a banged-up heart.
Paperback: 300 Pages
Genre: Memoir/Non Fiction
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (February 14, 2017)
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Banged-Up Heart, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, February 19th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Shirley Melis is a longtime business writer, travel writer, and newspaper columnist who traveled the world interviewing everyone from busboys to heads of international organizations before launching a career in public relations in Washington, D.C. With Banged-Up Heart, she now takes her writing in a new direction, delving deeply into her own personal story of finding love late, losing it early, and discovering the strength to choose to love again. It is a fascinating odyssey, a journey both creative and erotic as Shirley and John work lovingly together to blend their dreams—until a mysterious bump on his forehead starts them on a tragic struggle against the dark hand of fate.
A graduate of Vassar, Shirley Melis has created an intimate memoir bearing eloquent witness to the kind of wild trust that can grow in the heart of an ordinary woman thrust into circumstances that few others must face. Now retired, she lives in Galisteo, New Mexico.
Shirley can also be found online at:
—–Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
WOW: Thank you so much for choosing WOW! for your book blog tour. Thank you also for your time in this interview. After reading your bio and book summary, I’m sure readers are excited to learn more about you. We are all glad you are here Shirley!
You had a plan to write a book about women thriving into old age – that plan changed course, but what spurred your initial plan?
Shirley: Knowing I’d be in my sixties when I retired and wanting to write, I thought there’d be a market for a book like this. People today, especially women, can expect to live longer and healthier lives than their parents. Some may need role models. I like reading about women who are thriving mentally, emotionally, and physically despite growing older. Of course, it would be important to find women whose backgrounds and passions differed from one another. And I would have to hone my interviewing skills and figure out what questions to ask. As I told Pierrette Kemoul, a literary journal editor and writer in Brittany, when John and I were guests of hers and her husband Gwenael, I like the idea of doing something that is not only challenging and interesting but also worthwhile. Now that I’ve written a memoir and have another percolating, I don’t know when or whether I’ll ever get back to my initial plan.
WOW: Another percolating? How exciting is that! (But I’m getting ahead of myself.) Who was most influential in your decision to write and publish Banged-Up Heart? How so?
Shirley: Like spontaneous combustion, my decision erupted not long after John’s death. I felt blindsided and had to figure out what had happened to me. Throughout my life, writing has helped me think and see more clearly. You could say it was John, rather, John’s death that triggered my decision to write. At first I was writing for myself but when a close friend said, “Shirley, other people will be interested in reading this,” I thought, Really? Then I’d better go the distance and make it worthwhile.
WOW: Spontaneous combustion – I love that you use that term to describe your decision! You’re such a spitfire as my mom would say!
Was there anything you wrote about that you felt a little timid including in your memoir? Were you worried about the perception of others? What helped you get past those hurdles of worrying what others might think?
Shirley: Any qualms I had, and I had a few, were dashed when I started working with editor Morgan Farley, who asked questions I had to answer. The more I talked with Morgan, who is a demon for truth, and the more I wrote, the fewer qualms I had. I think age helped me get past worrying about others’ perceptions of me. I have a close friend who was appalled by my writing a memoir. “It’s too personal,” she said after reading a few pages. Another said, “Shirley, I’m so proud of you for telling the truth. I’ve spent my whole life trying to hide some of my behavior but you just come out with it.” I figure that as long as I’m not hurting someone else, I have no good reason to hold back. That said, I did change the names of two characters in my book because I didn’t want to embarrass them outright.
WOW: Demon for truth huh? I seriously need to spend more time with you! You’re an awesome wordsmith.
Walk us through the name of your book and the cover artwork – how did you choose them and why?
Shirley: I hadn’t completed my book when I registered to attend a college reunion that would feature creative work by classmates. Realizing this could a great opportunity to promote my book, I asked a creative advertising ace to create a poster for me to display. Within days, she had everything she needed from me with one exception: a title for the book. I’d sent her a photo to use as a cover mock-up – a burned out forest with nascent green grass denoting regrowth in the foreground. But I was still clueless about a title.
Hoping for an epiphany, I hunkered down with the last several chapters. I would be discussing one, possibly more, of these with my editor in a few days. In one chapter my attention riveted on a selection by writer Anne Lamott that the Rev. Kim Beach read at John’s memorial service. That’s it! I thought.
Eager to share my find with editor Morgan Farley, I could hardly contain myself as I sat down at the table for our editing session. “I have a title!” I blurted. “So do I,” she said. “Banged-Up Heart,” I said. “That’s what I came up with, too.” Morgan beamed with delight. And that’s the story of how I found a title for my memoir – in time to promote it at my college Reunion. Since then, the cover has changed by the title remains.
Fretting over artwork for the cover – decided the photo was too grim (two college classmates had said as much) – heeded the advice of my artist friend Lewis Hawkins who advised, “Get a pencil and paper and start doodling. You’ll come up with something.” At breakfast one morning, I shared my doodling – lightly banged-up looking letters for the title separated from the subtitle by a rose – with my husband Frank. “Here, he said, pencil in hand. “Break the stem of the rose.” I shared our doodle with friends at dinner who applauded. Why the rose? I can’t tell you. It must have been subconscious. In fact, roses frequently appear in my memoir. It was graphic artist Scott Gerber, publisher of Terra Nova Books, who turned my doodle into the beautiful cover you see today.
WOW: I love the cover even more now that I know the back story – thank you!
Will you be doing any public speaking in the future? Is there a plan to use your experience to help others who are grieving?
Shirley: I’ll be reading and speaking for my book launch at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on February 4th. Later in the month, I’ll participate in a reading/signing event at Goodworks, an independent bookstore in Albuquerque. Friends have offered to host a private reading in early March. And Independent bookstore, op cit books Santa Fe, has offered me and another Terra Nova Books author a joint reading/signing. In a couple of weeks I'm being interviewed on KOB 4, an NBC affiliate in Albuquerque, for “Good Day, New Mexico.”
Once my book is out on February 14th (anyone can pre-order now) and people have a chance to read it and react, I’ll have a better take on whether I might be able to use my experience to help others. If I can, I would like to, and I’m open to suggestions.
WOW: Earlier you eluded to another memoir brewing, so do tell: What is next for you?
Shirley: I have another memoir in the works and more traveling to do with my husband Frank.
WOW: I guess we will have to stay connected via social media so we don’t miss more of your exciting adventures. I personally can’t wait to read more of your work and I hope you’ll be back touring with WOW! for your future memoir. It has been such a pleasure!
———-Blog Tour Dates
Feb 13 (today) @ The Muffin
Interview and giveaway.
Feb 14 @ Lisa Haselton
Shirley Melis is being interviewed today by Lisa Haselton. Stop at Lisa's blog to learn more about Banged Up Heart, a non-fiction, memoir, about finding the courage and strength to love again.
Feb 15 @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle DelPonte shares her review of Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart today at Bring on Lemons. Don't miss this exciting blog stop and book giveaway.
Feb 16 @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Fellow memoir writer Madeline Sharples interviews Shirley Melis about her book Banged Up Heart. Don't miss this heart felt interview about courage and love.
Feb 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Coach and Author Jerry Waxler shares his thoughts after reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
Feb 20 @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal J. Casavant-Otto shares her review after reading the touching and inspiring memoir Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
Feb 21 @ Deb Blanchard
Teacher Deb Blanchard gives insight into “Banged Up Heart” the touching memoir by Shirley Melis.
Feb 22 @ Bring on Lemons with Angela Williams
Angela Williams reviews Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart.
Feb 23 @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Don't miss today's interview between memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro and Shirley Melis. Find out more about Melis and her memoir Banged Up Heart.
Feb 23 @ Writer’s Pay it Forward
MC Simon interviews Shirley Melis about her novel Banged Up Heart for readers at Writers Pay it Forward. Don't miss this courageous memoir.
Feb 24 @ Memoir Writers Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler shares her thoughts with readers of Memoir Writer's Journey – find out what Pooler has to say about Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
Feb 27 @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Educator and Entrepreneur Cathy Hansen reads and reviews Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis. You'll want to stop by Bring On Lemons today for your chance to learn more about this touching and encouraging memoir.
Feb 28 @ Bring on Lemons with Cindi Ashbeck
Cindi Ashbeck shares her thoughts after reading the touching story Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
March 1 @ Bring on Lemons with Penny Harrison
Wisconsin business owner and avid reader Penny Harrison shares her thoughts and feelings about Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
March 2 @ Book Santa Fe with Tange Dudet
Avid reader and book enthusiast Tange Dudet shares her thoughts and feelings after reading the touching memoir Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
March 3 @ The Constant Story with David W. Berner
Author and radio personality David W Berner reviews Shirley Melis's book Banged Up Heart and shares his thoughts with readers at The Constant Story.
Enter to win a copy of Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss by Shirley Melis! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget next Monday, February 20th.
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