Earlier this month I received a phone call from Tamara Browning, a reporter for the Springfield, Illinois newspaper, the State Journal Register or SJ-R. She wanted to interview me for a human interest story for the paper. Free publicity for THE DRAGON’S RING – of course I accepted, even though it meant telling about my ordeal with cancer while I edited my book. This is the article that appeared in the Sunday paper on August 7, 2016.
Perseverance pays off: Author works on book while battling cancer
- By Tamara Browning
Posted Aug. 13, 2016 at 7:00 PM
PLEASANT PLAINS — Author Debra Daugherty was immersed in an imaginary world of knights, witches, dragons and unicorns even as she was battling cancer in real life.
The preparation of her latest book, “The Dragon’s Ring,” for release July 28 through Clean Reads/Astraea Press helped keep her mind off her diagnosis and treatment for Stage 1 endometrial cancer, she said.
“The book … gave me something to do and keep my mind on and gave me a goal and a focus and a future,” said Daugherty, 61, who did preliminary edits and returned her manuscript to her publisher Feb. 28, before her outpatient biopsy on Feb. 29. She was told March 4 that she had cancer.
“Surgery was scheduled at St. John’s for March 14. All the while I waited for this surgery, I continued to work with edits and proofs. My editor did not know about my medical problems or diagnosis,” Daugherty said. “I didn’t tell my publisher what was going on. I thought, ‘If she knows, she may decide I’m too much of a risk.'”
Daugherty’s character Sir James Trueblood faced his own dilemma in “The Dragon’s Ring,” a young adult romantic fairy tale.
Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. Unknown to the knight as he begins his quest, the princess is following him in disguise. He has a predicament when he learns the unicorn will die if not set free: Should he marry the princess or free the unicorn?
Stephanie Taylor, owner and editor-in-chief of Clean Reads, recently learned of Daugherty’s serious medical problem.
“What a great woman. She never missed a deadline and has always had an amazing attitude,” Taylor said. “People like that really inspire me. I personally have had thyroid cancer, so I understand what’s going through her mind right now.”
Daugherty grew up off McQueen Road in the New Berlin School District and still lives on land her mother’s family has owned for over six generations, since 1892.
“(My mother’s) grandparents, Sigmund and Anna Hemberger, were the original owners of the old homestead. … There’s just one acre left. That’s what my house is on, one acre,” said Daugherty, whose family now consists of her twin brothers, Dennis and Dan, their children and Daugherty’s two dogs, Honey and CeCe.
A 1973 graduate of Springfield Sacred Heart Academy, Daugherty took a few courses at Lincoln Land Community College. She began working soon after high school, including as a clerical/typist for the state, hairdresser, cafeteria worker, nursing home employee and caretaker for relatives.
Page 2 of 3 – “What was scary, my mom passed away from cancer in 1997,” Daugherty said. “We did hospice at home with her. I took care of her, too.”
For the last 11 years, Daugherty has been doing bookwork for her brother, Dan, who runs Double D Builders.
“I’ve always loved to write, even in grade school (St. Mary’s in New Berlin). Most of my life I have written stories. Actually, ‘The Dragon’s Ring’ that’s come out now, I started that 20 years ago,” Daugherty said. “I kind of was just writing for my nieces and nephews to read to them or entertain them because I enjoyed it. I did send it out a few times.
“I didn’t have internet at that time. There wasn’t where you could submit it by email … postage got expensive sending everywhere, so I just kind of put it in a drawer and forgot about it for a while.”
A couple of women in Daugherty’s tour group in 2012 to the home of poet William Wordsworth in Grasmere in the English Lake District helped bring out the professional writer in her.
As they sipped tea at a café in Grasmere, Daugherty learned both women were from the Chicago area and that one was a writer/illustrator and the other was also a writer.
“They told me I needed to join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators),” Daugherty said.
She credits joining the society and a local writing group with helping her hone her skills. She sent “The Dragon’s Ring” to one of the women she met in England, who gave her suggestions and ideas.
“After I had seen what she had written, something clicked, like, ‘Oh, now I kind of know what to do — how to polish this and what to put into the story and what kind of emotions,’ ” Daugherty said.
Over the past four years, Daugherty has completed other projects like publication of “Calamity Cat” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and short stories “Let Your Imagination Soar!” and “The Mystery of the Ghostly Thief” in the Guardian Angel Kids’ e-zine.
Last summer, Daugherty won first place in the Litchfield Student Education Foundation’s writing contest for her children’s story “Heart of Stone.”
Making her pitch
Daugherty pitched “The Dragon’s Ring” on Twitter during #Pit2Pub (Pitch to Publication) day Feb. 3. If an agent or publisher likes a manuscript, then authors submit their stories.
Page 3 of 3 – Taylor, of Clean Reads, was among two who “favored” Daugherty’s pitch.
“In all of submissions, I look for a book that grabs my attention from the very first page. My favorite part of her book is of course the unicorns,” Taylor said.
Three weeks later, she sent Daugherty a contract to sign.
“The only reason I was home to pitch on Twitter that day was because my sonogram was canceled,” Daugherty said. “Had I gone to the sonogram — which I really wanted more than anything because I was wondering, ‘What’s going on?’ — I wouldn’t probably have pitched that day. I always think, ‘Well, things happen for a reason.’”
Daugherty had a total hysterectomy and removal of several lymph nodes to treat her Stage 1 endometrial cancer. She had a good checkup in July.
“I never cried once from whatever started when I was told I had cancer and everything. I knew what my mom had gone through, and she had been so brave,” Daugherty said. “I thought whatever happens will happen, and I just put my trust in God, and he took care of me.
“Two of my favorite sayings: ‘Put your trust in the Lord’ and ‘Count your blessings,’ and that’s what I did.”
Links for purchase of ‘The Dragon’s Ring’ by Debra Daugherty