1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I’ve also been interested in stories, although until a few years ago most of my storytelling was done visually. I believe stories are a great way to understand other people – their experiences, their perspectives on the world – and so developing an anthology as a collection of people’s stories seemed a natural fit.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
Let’s be honest – 2020 sucked. It pretty much sucked for everyone. We were all affected by a pandemic the likes of which our world hadn’t seen in 100 years, America was increasingly polarized, there was a tidal wave of protests against racial injustice, we had a tumultuous presidential election, and it feels like the list goes on and on. Developing this anthology and making the portraits of public figures who died was both obsession (I made a lino cut portrait every week, and I think I gave myself carpel tunnel) and balm. I wanted to try to make sense of my own grief by understanding others’ grief.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
My hope is that even amidst despair we can find hope in our collective experience. That even though 2020 sucked, the way through was together. That somehow by mourning these people, these celebrities and public figures and our complicated relationships with them, we could find connection.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
In many ways this book is an extension of an anthology I edited and illustrated with my brother, published in 2018, that mourned celebrities who died in 2016. Perhaps these books serve as bookends to each other.
5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Instagram is a way that I connect with other artists, and have been able to share work in progress from this and other projects.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Just keep making. If you have a story to tell, you’ll find your audience. Yes, it’s a lot of work but your story is important, so keep using your voice.
7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I’m working on a project about community. I’ve been interviewing people from all over the country and in all different fields about how they define community and how they work to create change. To date, the participants include a political candidate and Trump accuser, an urban planner, a human trafficking victims advocate, an immigration lawyer, a poet, a Franciscan nun, and more. Collectively the book creates a portrait of a community in America today. I hope to finish the book sometime later this year.
About the Author
Lee Fearnside is an artist and curator. Her photographic work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in New England, the Midwest and in national juried shows, including the Toledo Museum of Art, the Reece Museum and the New York Hall of Science. She published O! Relentless Death: Celebrity, Loss and Mourning with her brother in 2018, and the book won the Independent Voice Award gold medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards and was a finalist in American Book Fest. She has curated group exhibitions around themes of sustainability, diversity, food systems and art from Ohio prisons, funded in part by grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Humanities Council. Fearnside earned a BA from Smith College, a M.F.A in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a M.S. in Arts Administration from Drexel University.