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.
Genre: Memoir/Non Fiction
Audiobook release date: February 21, 2019
Listening Length: 11 hours and 55 minutes
Narrated by: Laurie Bower
Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is available in print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. The audio version is available on Audible.
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 with fellow memoir author Madeline Sharples
Madeline: What moment or event sparked the inspiration for your book Banged-Up Heart?
Shirley: I felt blindsided by John’s death. I had to figure out what had happened to me. So often, writing helps me see more clearly. At first I just wanted to relive our wonderful relationship. But after I got started I became wiser, I think – more curious, more demanding. I was curious about John and his behavior toward me. Had he intentionally kept the severity of his illness a secret from me? I was determined to face the questions I had never asked him. In the end, celebrating the relationship was not nearly so important as getting as close to the truth as I could.
Madeline: What would you say are three things that you found to be the
most difficult part of writing a book?
1)Getting to my inner story, guided by questions (asked by my editor) that took me deep inside, into intense emotional places
2) Facing truths about myself and having the courage to put them on paper
3) Learning the craft of fiction writing to make my memoir come alive
Madeline: How soon after your first husband died did you meet John?
Shirley: I’d been widowed nearly two years when I met John.
Madeline: Weren’t you wary when John told you he had a “manageable” kind of cancer?
Shirley: When John told me, on our walk together in Raleigh, NC, that at 40 he’d been diagnosed with a rare cancer, he also told me that he controlled it with periodic infusions of Rituxan – a drug similar to chemo but different – and assured me there was a backup treatment in the wings. His attitude was so positive I wasn’t concerned about his health. I was concerned about our differences. He was an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist whereas I had nearly been done in by algebra. My high school principal, who tutored m, laughingly called me Euclid Melis!
Madeline: What lesson do you think we can all learn about love?
Shirley: When it’s good, it’s something to be relished and nurtured.
Madeline: How do you live with/support a loved one who has brain cancer?
Shirley: You take each day as it comes, living in the present as fully as possible.
Madeline: How did you survive after the loss of a loved one?
Shirley: I was helped by joining a grief group and seeing a therapist.
Madeline: What would you say to your readers about how to grieve?
Shirley: When you suffer the loss of a loved one, allow yourself to grieve. Whether unexpected or anticipated, the loss is real. The absence of that person can be almost palpable, as though a part of your body has been cut away and you’re left bleeding. Your ability to think clearly may be distorted by the pain of loss. If you have a friend who offers to help you -- drive you to appointments, take you to dinner – accept. Friends who have never experienced the loss of someone beloved may not know what to say, but they want to ease your pain. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help, and take comfort in their gifts of food, flowers and cards.
If you’re working when your partner dies, take some time off to do what needs to be done, but go back to work if you can. The structure of a job will give you something other than your loss on which to focus. You may find yourself tearing up at unexpected moments, but that’s understandable.
If you can, join a grief group, and see a therapist. In a grief group you learn empathy; hearing other people’s stories is affecting, and you realize you’re not alone. With a therapist you can explore the roots of your anguish, something you might not be able to do alone, and perhaps shouldn’t try to do with good friends since the burden of grief can be overwhelming for others.
Madeline: How can people use creativity to work through loss?
Shirley: Expressing emotion through writing, painting, role playing, singing, playing an instrument -- any number of creative endeavors – can open your mind and heart to strengths and insights you may not realize you possess.
Madeline: What did you learn about yourself during both marriages and their aftermaths?
Shirley: I see myself now as stronger than I knew. I am not done in by loss. I’ve lost a lot but my heart is still open to other people. I don’t fear the possible consequences of my decision to share my life again. There’s something about renewal. When I committed myself to John, it was a new beginning, refreshing and heartwarming, and now that I’ve remarried there’s a newness that energizes me. I see myself if not as a butterfly, then as someone who still has wings to spread.
.....And one last question from Crystal here at Bring on Lemons.....
Crystal: What made you decide to turn Banged-Up Heart into an audio book as well as print? What have you learned in this process?
Shirley: Inspired by a close friend whose vision is failing -- she shared with me her regret that although she owned my book, her poor vision did not allow her to read it – and a total stranger who, after telling me she was blind, asked at a book reading, When can I hear your book? I started pondering the possibility of offering Banged-Up Heart as an audiobook.
Some months later, at a monthly meeting of the New Mexico Book Association, the program speaker, Laurie Bower, riveted my attention. Laurie, an audiobook narrator, talked about the process of producing an audiobook. I asked her for her business card and a couple of weeks later, called her. Before meeting Laurie, I’d thought I would read my own book. But I hadn’t realized how much there is to it. Reading excerpts at book signings/readings is a lot different from reading an entire book and I would have to be coached. Meanwhile, I had started writing a second memoir and wondered how I would make time to produce an audiobook.
In response to Laurie’s suggestion that she do a 15-minute sample reading for my reaction, I sent her several pages of text that included six characters. When she gave me the word, I plugged my ear buds into my laptop and listened to Laurie read. And then I asked my husband Frank to listen. “Marvelous,” he said. I agreed. The depth of her voice and her ability to articulate clearly impressed both of us. Within days, I signed a contract with Laurie. “I’ll read a few chapters at a time and download them through ACX (an Audible affiliate) for you to listen to and edit,” she said. “I should have this completed so we can meet your goal of having it out by Valentine’s Day.” I liked the idea of having the audiobook out by February 14th, the date my paperback had been published two years earlier. What I did not foresee was that I would be consumed with moving from our house in the village of Galisteo, New Mexico, into a new house closer to Santa Fe the month of January. By the time I completed my proof-listening, I was behind the eightball. I knew from Laurie that ACX would require time to put the audiobook through a process called “Quality assurance.” In fact, it didn’t take long, but I missed my February 14th target by one week. On February 21st, ACX sent me a congratulatory email: “Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is now on sale at Audible, and it will be available on iTunes and Amazon with the next few days.”
I learned that hiring a good narrator does not mean the author is off the hook. Nor should she be. The best of narrators cannot be expected to know how to pronounce all of the placenames in your book. In my memoir, I did not use a lot of “he/she said.” Because of this, Laurie occasionally read dialogue in my voice when it was someone else who was speaking. Catching these falls on the shoulders of the author. Proof-listening by the author is an all-important component of producing a good audiobook.
----------Upcoming Blog Tour Dates
July 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Coach and Author Jerry Waxler shares his thoughts after reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
July 18 @ Deb Blanchard
Teacher Deb Blanchard gives insight into "Banged Up Heart" the touching memoir by Shirley Melis (now available on Audible).
July 19 @ 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 (now available on Audible).
July 20 @ 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 (now available on Audible).
July 22 @ 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 reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
July 23 @ Bring on Lemons with Pang Papathopolus
Wisconsin professional caregiver and health care worker Pang gives her review of the Audible version of Banged-Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
July 24 @ 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.
July 25@ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles shares her review of Banged-Up Heart on Audible - hear what she has to say about this memoir in it's audio form!
July 26 @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle DelPonte shares her review of the Audible version of Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart today at Bring on Lemons. Don't miss this exciting blog stop and book giveaway.
*****THANK YOU WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING*****
About today's interviewer:
Madeline has worked most of her professional life as a technical writer, grant writer, and proposal process manager. She began writing poetry, essays, and creative non-fiction when her oldest son, Paul, was diagnosed as manic depressive. She continued writing as a way to heal since his death by suicide in 1999. Madeline’s memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, first released on Mother’s Day 2011 in hard cover, is about living with her son’s bipolar disorder and surviving his suicide. Her publisher, Dream of Things, launched a paperback edition in July 2012 and an eBook in August 2012.
Madeline also co-edited Volumes 1 and 2 of The Great American Poetry Show, a poetry anthology, and wrote the poems for two books of photography, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Besides having many poems published in print and online magazines, writes regularly for Naturally Savvy, and occasionally for PsychAlive, Open to Hope, and Journeys Through Grief and The Huffington Post.