Interview with Courtney Turcotte Bond, Author of Breathtaking

Hello! I have recently had the privilege of interviewing Courtney Turcotte Bond, the author of my now all-time favorite book, Breathtaking. You can also find a review I wrote of her book here.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to write? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

A: Yes! Ever since I was 8-years old. I really started getting into reading around that age, and I was fascinated with how someone could make up a story in their head and get it onto a page for thousands of people to enjoy. Almost every day I would think about what might make a great story, but I could never develop an entire plotline until Breathtaking. I always enjoyed writing in all sorts of forms: notes in class, emails, Facebook posts, blogs . . .  I enjoy telling a story and manipulating words to make something funny or dramatic.

Q: What was your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?

A: Oh my goodness, so much of it was SO HARD! I don’t know that I’m ever cut out to be a fiction writer again.  

I did love it when certain symbols or plot developments just worked out nicely, or I would get an idea that was perfect. It was so satisfying for everything to piece together. Even though this isn’t really part of the writing process, I loved marketing the book. I’m a business woman at heart, and I was so glad to be done with all the little details for the editing and publishing so I could start doing interviews, giveaways, and book signings. 

Going back through and editing was a nightmare. I had to cut over 10,000 words, and ended up shifting a few chapters around. All the tedious-nit-picky stuff just drove me crazy and took so long. 

Q: What do you think is the most important part of a book? The emotion, the plot, the characters, any others? 

A: That is a great question. This book is inspired by a former student of mine–Madison Taliaferro, who passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2018 (at the age of 18). Madison would have died at the age of 12 if she hadn’t received a lung transplant. She was able to live for six more years, and she sure packed in a lot of life into those six years. It was inspiring to see her struggle for each breath while also living life to the fullest with her second chance. So the most important part of the book is that message–the theme to live life to the fullest no matter what. In the back of the book, I share her story and how I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet her if it weren’t for her organ donor (Alex Lott, who was also a senior in high school when he died). I want this book to be a tool to spread awareness for organ donation awareness as well. 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you had the chance?

A: In terms of writing, I think I would have encouraged myself to study the craft of creative writing sooner. I didn’t get into that so much until after I started the book, and then I realized some of my bad habits (which required more editing). I teach creative writing, so I encourage my students who are really serious about becoming a published author to attend writing conferences and read books like Stephen King’s On Writing or Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools. 

In general, be patient for your dreams to come true. I’m 38, and have wanted to be an author since I was 8. This dream of mine took 30 years to come to fruition. 

Q: Will you be writing any more books in the future?

A: Yes! The next project is to write a biography over my student Madison’s life and her donor’s life. They have so many interesting parallels, and their story is just incredible. This will be a lovely companion piece to my novel Breathtaking. After people have read the fictional story based on their lives, then they can read the real life story and all the little details I wove into the novel. 

As far as novels, I don’t know that I will ever write another fictional piece. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life! I really want to explore with other genres. I’d like to possibly write a poetry book, a self-help book, a financial book, and more. I know authors are expected to stay in one niche, but I kind of want to write all the things. 

Q: How did you grow while writing Breathtaking, both as a writer and as a person?

A: I can definitely tell a difference between my writing at the beginning of the novel and the end. Breathtaking took me two years to draft, and the second year of writing just felt tighter and more enjoyable to read. I also lost Madison in the middle of writing the book. That was absolutely devastating to me. I so badly wanted her to be able to read it and celebrate with me when it was published. I almost didn’t finish it because I didn’t see a point anymore after she was gone. I quickly realized that this would be the best way to honor her, so I made a point to complete it. There are some grief-stricken scenes in the novel–those are pulled from real feelings I had after Madison passed away. So as a person, I had to really pull myself up out of grief and finish a project that was no longer just about fulfilling my dreams — it was now about honoring Madison. 

Q: What inspired you to write this book? Why did it inspire you?

A: I’ve already touched on this, but I can elaborate a bit. I’d always wanted to write a book, but never had a story worth writing, until I met Madison and heard about her amazing journey with cystic fibrosis and her lung transplant. She wasn’t just a regular student. She was homebound because she was too sick to come to school due to her body rejecting her new lungs (3 years after transplant). She would also stay home during flu season so she wouldn’t get sick (it would have been fatal for her). I was hired to be her homebound teacher, so I went to her home 2-3 nights a week for 2 years. She transferred to a different school her junior year, which happened to be where my husband was teaching at the time, so I still got to stay in contact with her. It was pretty cool that we both got to have her as a student. 

I was so fascinated by her story–it constantly swirled in the back of my mind . . . then one night, the plot for Breathtaking popped in my head in 2017. 

I think the story itself is impactful on its own, and it focuses on a lot of issues (alcoholism, OCD, neglect, friendship, depression) but I really want it to spread awareness of CF and organ donation. 

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. I recommend that you not read this section if you don’t want spoilers.

Q: What was the hardest part of the book to write? How did you get through it?

A: This will be a major spoiler to anyone who hasn’t read the book – but it’s the chapter where Adam dies.

Adam is based off of Alex – Madison’s real life organ donor. He was a senior in high school when he had a freak accident during baseball conditioning in the fall, which caused him to be paralyzed and then brain damaged. His parents took him off life support because he wouldn’t have had any quality of life, and they knew he was passionate about being an organ donor. I had the opportunity to interview Alex’s mom, and I wanted to get all the details of his real life accident. Almost every single detail in the hospital scene (of the chapter also titled “Breathtaking”) is exactly what happened to Alex in real life, so I wanted to make sure I got each detail just right. It’s a devastating part of the plot that creates a ton of emotions. I had to figure out a way to create tension and pace this chapter well. I also had to do a lot of medical research to make sure everything was accurate. That chapter took me almost 2 weeks to write and was so emotionally draining. I wasn’t just making up a story, I was recounting the tragic loss of a family’s son/brother. It’s awful. The only way I got through it was to do it little by little.

I hoped you enjoyed this and thanks to Courtney Turcotte Bond for allowing me to interview her. I cannot recommend her book enough, and I highly advise you to go read it. NOW.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Courtney Turcotte Bond, Author of Breathtaking

  1. This was such an amazing review. I will definitely try to read this book sometime soon. So emotional as well…I love when stories are inspired by something or honoring something. Just from reading this, I am sad that our world lost Madison. I am so glad that Courtney Turcotte Bond got to share a story or at least a story like hers to the world. Please tell her thank you from me if you get the chance because this story must have been so hard to write and yet it’s so important that this story has gotten out into the world.

    Like

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