- Women's Health
Interview with Deanna Roy, Part One
Deanna Roy is the creator of a website, publishing company and books about pregnancy loss
Deanna Roy is a writer, photographer, publisher, and a mother of two children and three angel babies.
is the creator of Facts About Miscarriage, a comprehensive pregnancy loss website that has provided helpful information and sources of healing
to women for over ten years.
It was my great pleasure to interview Deanna about her own journey through loss and healing, her pregnancy loss info website, and her publishing company, Casey Shay Press.
"In the Company of Angels: A Memorial Book"
About "In the Company of Angels"
The Interview: Part One
Nicole: Your memorial book created for families who want a place to remember their babies is so unique and so beautiful. How did In the Company of Angels come to be? What has been the response to date?
Deanna: Making the book was purely selfish. I had searched and searched for this kind of book for years. There were a couple out there, but they just weren’t what I wanted. It had to be beautiful enough to deserve my baby’s memories. And it had to have places to write every detail of the brief time I had with him. And it couldn’t have all the things I didn’t get—first smile, first steps, first birthday.
Because I am a photographer, I had already been making specialized images of angel babies for the web site. So few sympathy cards existed for mothers whose babies had died that I created some of those too. These were the base images that began to go into the book.
I designed some sample pages and sent them to gift book publishers. They were very complimentary of the style and agreed such a book needed to exist, but they said no.
I knew the books would sell slowly and might never turn any sort of profit. I also had very specific rules about the book I wanted—it had to lie flat, it had to be hard bound, the cover had to be gorgeous and sturdy. I also wanted pages to be easy to rip out and specifically designed the spreads so that if a mother did not have sonograms or pictures, she could take those pages out. I didn’t want anyone to be forced to leave blank pages in their book.
All this meant that I was creating a very specialized book that would not be easy or cheap to produce or manufacture.
"Peekaboo": A Film About Stillbirth
On feedback: One of the things about a publishing company rather than a web site is that you rarely hear back from anyone. I do love seeing reviews pop up on Amazon, and occasionally someone writes me to say how much they cherish the book. But mostly, the copies go out into the world, and I never know what happens to them.
The book paid for itself in eight months, which was amazing, so I was able to start devoting extra money for new projects. I got behind a movie being filmed in the UK called Peekaboo, about a mother who has stillborn triplets. We also started production on some other books.
Casey Shay Press
Nicole: How long has it been since you started up Casey Shay Press? Was it difficult to set up a publishing company? Did you have any background knowledge of publishing before taking on this venture?
Deanna: I started Casey Shay Press in the summer of 2009. It was the worst possible time to try this. The economy was in the tank, I was a single mom in a lot of debt and about to have to give up my photography business. The banks turned down the loan to publish the first book. I just about gave up on the whole idea.
It’s hard to explain exactly what changed. Part of it was that I had some time on my hands. Both my daughters were in school and I wasn’t getting many photography jobs. I knew I should look for a job but my youngest had just been diagnosed with epilepsy, and I wasn’t ready to be less available for all the problems she was having, including leaving her in after school care.
Then my girls came up with this amazing idea for a book. A little research showed a hole in the market this book could fill, and I knew I could do it pretty inexpensively. I scraped together a few hundred dollars to submit the paperwork and created the publishing company as a limited liability corporation.
That summer the girls and I worked feverishly to develop and photograph a book where they showed other kids how to make balloon animals, as the books we were buying were all too hard for them.
I had no idea it would do so well. It was a low-profit-margin book, being small and in color, but it showed me that I could make a book and get it sold.
So that fall I took a big crazy risk and leveraged my last bit of personal credit to send $4500 to a color printing company in Hong Kong to do the first run of In the Company of Angels. I had learned everything I could about the industry, but still realized I could totally mess up. The books could look bad. They could never arrive, and I’d have no way of getting the money back. I was terrified but did it anyway. I had to trust the project would come together.
The project got delayed several times. Import laws changed and my books sat on a dock for weeks while we straightened it out. But it happened. It finally happened.
The drivers of a huge corporate trucking company that specialized in publisher deliveries seemed amused to leave thousands of books on the driveway of my tiny apartment, but they did it. I called friends over to break up the pallets and filled half my daughters’ room with copies. We didn’t presell as many as I’d hoped—I had dreams of paying for the print run right away, but the slow steady sales kept me going. The recession seemed like it might be lifting, so I managed to scrape by until the book paid for itself.
Nicole: Are there other books currently in the works for Casey Shay Press?
Deanna: More books will be coming up: Baby Dust, a novel featuring five women based on the stories of dozens of grieving mothers, will be released in October 2011. We also have a children’s book in development, When Mommy Lost the Baby, about how to be up front to young children about the loss of a baby brother or sister.
After my grandmother died last fall as an unpublished poet who lost all her work in a tornado, I decided to start the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook prize. I’m very excited about the changes in publishing that make starting a small press so much more viable than it has in the past. Ebooks are very economical and require a lot less up front capital than printing thousands of books.
"Baby Dust: A Novel About Pregnancy Loss"
Baby Dust: A Novel
Nicole: Your novel, “Baby Dust”, is mentioned on the Casey Shay Press website. Can you tell me a bit about it? How long has it been in the works?
Deanna: I first wrote Baby Dust in the fall of 2006. I read pretty much everything coming from the big publishers about miscarriage, and they are mostly medical or emotional healing types of books.
A few authors were self-publishing collections of women’s loss stories as well, but I already had a stream of stories being posted daily on my web site. I didn’t see a market for that.
What was missing was a more holistic view of loss. What was the impact on marriage? On work? On relationships with friends and parents and siblings?
I solicited stories especially for the book that fall. I posted on specific topics, such as managing step children during a loss, and readers related their experiences. I began developing characters for the novel who could provide a cross-section of experiences. I wanted early losses, late losses, varying diagnoses. Women who already had children, those who didn’t, and one who never would. You can’t do this with nonfiction very easily. The whole story of one person’s life isn’t nearly as interesting as rolling dozens of women’s experiences into one tale.
I finished the first draft of the book in 2007 but feedback from agents meant making the story more charged, more dramatic. I tried adding an Octomom type of thread. At one point a woman kidnapped a baby. But all that felt wrong. I abandoned the project for a couple of years, unsure if what I was writing would be helpful at all.
In the meantime, a couple of well-written memoirs came out, and I was content to help sell those to the people who arrived at my site. I began work on a nonfiction book called Facing Miscarriage, which would start at the “Am I miscarrying?” stage and go all the way through trying again. But once again other great books came out that were very similar, with doctors attached to them, and I sold copies of theirs instead of finishing my own.
But in 2009, I decided to rewrite the novel the way I always envisioned it should be. I had my own publishing company by then, and I knew I could always publish it myself if I wanted. This gave me the freedom to write it my way, for better or for worse. At least the book would succeed or fail on my terms.
I reduced the number of characters to five and told each of their tales singly, although the narrative is chronological and all the women know each other and become friends by the end. There is no pumped up drama—no Octomom, no infant abduction. I simply took the stories given to me years earlier and combined them to make characters that were a little larger than regular life, but still very real. The novel centers around a support group where we meet five women.
Melinda is probably the most dramatic, dealing with post-traumatic stress hallucinations of blood on the floor, sure she has to retrieve the baby she was forced to leave in a trash can before she will heal.
Dot’s husband took off two years before, leaving her with five children. A new man in her life gets her pregnant, but she wrestles with the unfinished business of her marriage. When her baby develops without a brain and the pregnancy must be terminated, she is sure the wrath of God has come down on her for her adultery.
Tina is seventeen and loving life in the High School for Pregnant Teens where her art is taken seriously and no one bullies her. But when her 20-week pregnancy ends in premature labor and the baby only lives a few hours, she is sent back to the hell hole of public school. She is certain only another baby can solve her problems. After her ex turns her down, she goes to the Internet to find an unwitting father.
Janet’s controlled life is disrupted when a broken condom leaves her pregnant. As the principal of a private school, she knows marriage to the father is prudent. But an early sonogram reveals only an empty sac. Her lack of grieving drives away her gentle fiancé. When the bleeding does not resolve for months, she drives herself to the hospital, finally facing the family history that led her to avoid emotional ties. Her diagnosis of a precancerous condition forces her to talk to her parents and her boyfriend, and her baby’s short existence changes her life.
Stella has run the group for ten years, ever since two miscarriages and several failed IVFs led her to need support. But she’s tired, and watching the women come and go, eventually having the babies they wanted, make her wonder if she should give up the group. As she faces insensitive treatment by her own family—her pregnant niece chooses the same name Stella gave her first baby since “Aunt Stell never got to use it,” she has to face the decisions she made that led her to be unable to ever carry or even adopt a child.
Nicole: This sounds like an amazing book. When will it be published?
Deanna: The book will be launched on October 15 to coincide with Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
I Can Make Life: Poems About Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy and Birth
About Nicole Breit
Nicole Breit is a published author and poet. Her debut poetry collection, , explores the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and birth. I Can Make Life was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard Poetry competition. Her essay, “For Tristan: A Meditation on Loss, Grief and Healing” was published in The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage (Wombat Books, 2011). She is also the author of a number of online I Can Make Lifepregnancy loss resources. Follow her writing journey on her blog, Writing for my Life, or on twitter @NicoleBreit.