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The Unbound Book Festival comes to downtown Columbia each spring. They aim "to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives."

Katherine Standefer on Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life: ‘The thing I thought was chasing me, that stood outside me – it actually came inside.'

Provided by the author

Katherine Standefer is probably best known for her book, “Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life,” in which she explores the process of making an implantable cardioverter defibrillator after getting one of her own.

She spoke with KBIA’s Alex Cox about some of what she learned through the process.

The Unbound Book Festival is coming up on Saturday, and KBIA has been talking to some of this year's authors in a series we're calling "Unbound Authors."

Alex Cox: Can you just maybe give me some insight into what it took to give readers a feeling of death as a character?

Katherine Standefer: The presence of death was so palpable, and the way it had changed was so obvious to me, and, you know, in the beginning of the book, it felt more like I was being stalked – like there was something I should be getting away from.

I could feel it breathing on my shoulder and had to make it go away.

And what the later chapters of the book really reveal is like, “Oh, honey, no one gets to make death go away.”


It's cool that you thought a medical technology would remove that presence from your life, but I think a lot of the meaning of our lives also comes from this sort of arc that we live.

So, later on in the book, it almost was like the thing I thought was chasing me, that stood outside me – it actually came inside.

It literally came inside and sat in my heart, and it's something that I carry with me.

Cox: How would you tell someone who maybe doesn't have that meaning yet? How would you tell them to find it?

Standefer: This arc that I lived between the ages of 24 and 34 – is about when the book ends – 33, 34. I was really learning that my body was always telling me things, and I had just been trained not to listen.

And so, the first step was to even realize my body was telling me things, and the next step was to hear what my body was telling me.

And then, the next further step was to really know that I knew the things that I knew that the things my body was saying were valid, and then I could actually articulate them to – whether medical practitioners or people in my lives – That I wasn't crazy.

I think a lot of us have gotten cut off from the inborn forms of wisdom that we all have. We’ve been trained that we don’t know what we think.

Cox: What is it going to take for you to pick up the proverbial pen again, and write the next book?

Standefer: Yeah, so I have started the next project, and what it took was actually a lot of time falling apart, and so, I really had to reckon with what I hoped this book would do for me?

And there was a certain about of rest that had to happen – spending a lot more time outside. I have this ridiculous flock of free-range chickens who require me to follow them around the hillside so they don't get eaten by coyotes.

I always had a second book that I was working on and this other book is about sex and love.

So, that's really vulnerable, and it contains a lot of sections that I have known I would write and I'm excited to write, but I also understand that reckoning with those things is another scary process – that pulls back a whole wall around why I haven't felt fully alive.

And so, if you make your whole life a book and then the book is gone – you look around and you realize that you're single with four chickens.

Alex Cox is a Junior in the Missouri School of Journalism. They're a reporter and producer for KBIA.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.