Andrea Lechner-Becker lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Her debut novel, Sixty Days Left, was published on 15 May 2018.
What would you do with just sixty days left?
That’s the question Willow must ask when, after a terminal diagnosis, she moves from Wyoming’s wide-open spaces to Portland for Death with Dignity. In this diary-format novel, Willow explores her present and her past, while realizing that every decision forms her future.
Andrea, would you describe Sixty Days Left as fitting into any particular genre?
I don’t really know what genre I’m in! The difference in literary fiction vs. contemporary fiction vs. women’s fiction confuses me, frankly. I write stories with strong female leads, so does that make them women’s fiction? They take place in the present day, so it’s contemporary? But they’re smart and deep and psychological, so are they literary? I don’t know. I just like telling stories that smart people want to read. Whatever genre that is, works for me.
How realistic is Sixty Days Left?
Sixty Days is very realistic. There are many people across the United States who move to Oregon for a Death with Dignity. And I think that’s a total bummer, which is why I wrote this story.
How long did it take you to write?
Sixty Days Left took me three years because I only did it Saturdays! I think, having the focused time to work on a piece full-time, it would probably take me a few months.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The begining/end of Sixty Days gave me a real go of it. That chapter is the most dramatically different chapter from my original drafts. How do I bring the reader in to care about Willow, even though they’ll know she’s dying?
Loneliness is a major theme in Sixty Days Left. Talk to me about its inclusion.
Part of the research I did for this book included reading a lot of writings from cancer patients, whether terminal or not, and I was struck by how much one of the main things everyone wanted was to share. They wanted to talk to people without judgement, without hearing ‘you’ll fight this!’ and all the things most people say. They mostly wanted to be heard and to feel less alone. In a disease, whether terminal or not, the person with that disease is the only one who can really understand it. It’s a very intimate relationship that very squarely no one else will or could ever truly understand. That can all feel really isolating and very lonely.
It’s another theme that doesn’t require that the reader have terminal cancer to understand. We can all feel lonely and be inspired by Willow’s refusal to wallow in it.
People often have strong views on physician-assisted suicide. What are yours?
‘… don’t use the term suicide. It’s aid in dying, think of it as a fluffy pillow or morphine, a way to alleviate the pain of death.’ Sixty Days Left
Willow makes a point in the book to please not call it that and I stand behind her on the principle. From what I understand, terminally ill people do not like the term suicide because there’s an insinuation that the person who commits the act does not want to live. There are a lot of semantics that could go into the definition, and the terminally ill have to struggle with a disease ending their life prematurely. If they don’t like it, I don’t like it.
Do you have any views on the religious implications of aid-in-dying?
There are certainly sects of religious beliefs that disagree with someone ending their life naturally. I believe strongly in hearing out people with these beliefs, which is why I wrote this blog. However, I don’t understand where the line is in this belief. What is so much more right about allowing a doctor to keep someone alive via feeding tubes? If the concern is someone thwarting God’s plan, doesn’t modern medicine also have a responsibility to abide? Death is the natural order of things. As the Bible says, ‘You sweep people away in the sleep of death – they are like the new grass of the morning’ (Psalm 90.5).
You are young and healthy. What was it like constantly to be thinking about death?
It was great! One of the main themes of Sixty Days Left is essentially that we are all on a countdown clock. Willow’s is just more obvious. So don’t take your days for granted, which is something people always say, but when you’re writing a book and constantly thinking about it, you really have to hold yourself accountable to that state of mind. I found it incredibly helpful. If I hadn’t been thinking about what I’d do with just sixty days left, I likely would have not quite quit my job and be publishing this book.
What do you wish to provoke in readers of Sixty Days Left?
I hope readers think about their own mortality and what types of things they can do today to really enjoy the life they have. It’s also why I started the Sixty Days Club, which provides members with a daily act of gratitude to participate in, which is completely free. See www.andrealechnerbecker.com/sixty-day-club.
‘As I look around, indebted for my sight, I see life in everything. In something like beyond-sight, I see the pulsing, rhythmic beat of the universe. I can almost make out the atoms floating, separating, and joining together to fill space in my mind’s interpretation of this moment. Smiling faces of visitors only half appreciate the absolute magic happening all around them. Put down your phones; you’re missing this world’s bounty! Unbothered by their ignorance, life continues in this garden. There’s no better place to touch the heartbeat of existence than right here.’ Sixty Days Left
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Super. I love imagining things one way and writing a draft using just my imagination and then I’ll go to the places or find out the actual medical details to see how different it is. That juxtaposition served me well in Sixty Days Left.
What motivates you to write?
Injustice and hypocrisy. And making people feel the human experience.
Who are your favourite authors?
Milan Kundera is my favourite writer. I tend to go back to Western Lit any time I want to read for inspiration. Then, I’m a self-published author and I like supporting that community. So I try to read a self-pub author once a week.
Do you have any current projects?
I’m working on a retelling of the Sirens in modern times. It’s a completely different kind of book and I’m excited about that.
GIVEAWAY !Win a Free Copy of Sixty Days Left
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