For today’s post, I am interviewing Liz Jansen, the author of the newly released memoir, “Crash Landing.”
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Good question! Crash Landing was inspired by my desire to understand who I was before my culture told me who I was.
When I began riding a motorcycle on my family’s farm at age sixteen, I couldn’t have imagined how transformative my two-wheeled experiences would be, or how powerful a teacher motorcycling was. In 2003, I left a career in Corporate Human Resources and Training and Development and built a business around drawing from the wisdom and insights of my two-wheeled muse.
My desire to understand personal perspectives and life choices led me to study and become a practitioner of shamanic energy medicine. I’ve learned that how life unfolds is determined by the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we’ve embraced, and the stories that have been passed down for generations—stories we’re often not aware we’re carrying. Through my writing, speaking, and work with individuals and groups, I help others recognize their limiting stories, and create a path to change their life by changing those stories.
Tell us about your latest book.
As I approached my sixtieth birthday, I was driven to understand how the experiences of my German Mennonite ancestors, who’d arrived in Canada as Russian refugees almost a century earlier, had shaped me. Seeking answers, I got on my motorcycle and set off across the country on what I dubbed the Ancestor Trail—the places they’d lived as they established themselves in a new land.
Three weeks into what I’d expected to be twelve to eighteen months on the road, I experienced a catastrophic crash that threatened to sideline my quest. Instead, the ensuing time of uncertainty and stillness led me deeper into my quest and an exploration of my cultural roots.
The stalwart faith and community that had sustained my ancestors through perilous times, had terrorized and almost suffocated me, leading her into what I described as a life of mediocrity. Inherently, I knew that the answers to how those experiences had influenced my beliefs and life choices, lay in delving into my distant past. To move forward, I had to look back.
Crash Landing narrates both the internal and external journey that led me home.
How long did it take you to write your memoir?
In 2014 I began the motorcycle trip and what I thought would be the research portion of my book. Crash Landing was published in December 2018. That included the crash, recovery, another research trip (without a crash), writing, working with editors, and lots of revising.
Will this book be part of a series or is it a standalone?
Right now, it’s a stand-alone, but I don’t yet know what my next book will be. When I look back at what I’ve written, there’s a common theme of recognizing, understanding, and exercising personal power, and conveying that through stories.
How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
No one wants or plans to go through dark and challenging times. Yet responding to them is when we learn about ourselves and discover our strengths. Crashing was not part of my plans, yet it was instrumental in leading me to the answers I sought. By exploring how my ancestors dealt with numerous life crashes much more potentially devastating than mine, I got to know them and myself much better.
Tell us about your book cover.
I wanted a cover that evoked a journey, an invitation, and endless possibilities. Much of my story took place on the Canadian prairies; my ancestors had lived on the Russian steppes. The road is symbolic of the internal and external journey. The blue sky invites us to dream big. The clouds of change remind us that nothing in life is predictable.
For this particular book, what part was the most difficult to write?
I never set out to write a memoir. After all, who am I to write a memoir? I envisioned my book as creative non-fiction. Trying to get it to come together as something it wasn’t meant to be was difficult. Joan Dempsey, a fantastic developmental editor (and author), helped me see that I was mixing non-fiction and memoir and they didn’t mix. Once that was resolved, it became much easier.
Do you listen to music while you write?
I don’t listen to music while I write or ride my motorcycle. It’s too distracting. There’s enough going on in my head without adding more inputs.
Where do you do your writing?
For the past eighteen-months, I’ve lived in a place with a lovely back yard with a wooded backdrop. It’s private and quiet. I write at a table looking through sliding glass doors onto that yard. Wherever I’m writing has to be close to nature.
Aside from writing, what are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about living each moment for all it’s worth, whether that’s through activity or stillness. I’m passionate about staying healthy in body, mind, and spirit so I can be of greatest service in whatever I’m doing. I love solo traveling on my motorcycle. Being out on the open road, in the elements (except snow), camping, experiencing the land, the people, fellow travelers—there’s nothing like it.
Thanks, Liz! For more information about Liz, check out her website. You can also follow her on social media, including on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. “Crash Landing” is available for purchase through Amazon.com.
If you are an author and would like to be interviewed on my site, please feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.