Abby Fabiaschi is a writer and a human rights advocate through her foundation, the Empower Her Network, which helps survivors of human trafficking. Having lived in the corporate world for years, Abby decided it was time for a change. Her debut novel, I Liked My Life, has received much praise. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to read the book ourselves. Check out what we thought about it below:
Review of I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi is a book about grief. It’s heartfelt and emotional and shows that tragedy isn’t just sad, but it’s frustrating, unforgivable, and never easy to deal with. The novel follows more than one character after Maddy, wife and mother, suddenly dies. The novel revolves around Maddy’s husband, Brady, as well as their teenaged daughter, Eve. And although she is dead, Maddy’s perspective is heard too.
This novel will take you by surprise. You will rethink your own choices and examine your own life. This book is heartbreaking, but there is also joy. It revolves around love and family. You will pick up this novel and question it until the very end.
Grief is never easy. No one ever takes that feeling of losing someone well. How could anyone be capable of doing that? That’s what this book does. It shows that grief is real and it’s an understandable feeling. A death like Maddy’s is not something that lasts only for the moment. It changes you. It changes your life. This novel examines grief from multiple perspectives. It shows that sometimes, the answers aren’t always obvious.
This is the type of novel that will change lives. I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi will continue to help people examine grief. And although it’s a story, one that is addicting and will keep you intrigued the entire time, it’s also a tool. It shows readers that it’s okay to have hope. Yes, tragedies occur, but there is more to tragedies than just grieving. There’s also the aspect of understanding.
Q&A with Abby Fabiaschi
We were able to sit down with Abby and learn more about her writing process, her foundation, and what her plans are for her next novel. You can check it out here:
To begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a mother, novelist, and the co-founder and board chair of Empower Her Network, an organization that collaborates with ready survivors of domestic human trafficking by breaking down housing barriers, financing education, and uncovering employment opportunities.
When did you first realize that you had a passion for writing? What encouraged you to be a writer?
Reading made me want to be a writer. I remember talking to my English teacher about characters as if they were real, as if to read about them was to be included in their adventures. We laughed about “passing the damn ham” and “beautiful little fools.” When she asked why I didn’t care for The Catcher in the Rye, I told her Holden Caulfield was a whiner; she grinned.
I’d win little poetry/short story contests, which my family celebrated, but my father didn’t sugarcoat how difficult it’d be to earn a living at it or romanticize how stressful it is living paycheck to paycheck. He suggested I go into business and wait for a time I could write without desperation and that’s what I did.
Although at a business school, for my honor’s thesis I wrote a historical fiction novella. I enjoyed the process wholly and, when it was done, my adviser shared her opinion that I was the real deal. Her words inflated me.
After graduation, I went off to the business world, but the fire had been lit. I wrote on planes, late at night, and on quiet weekends, biding my time until it made sense to go all in.
You mentioned you went to business school and you were originally in a completely different career as a high-tech executive. What made you change careers and become a writer? Looking back on it now, are you glad that you made the leap?
Yes! Many things played into that decision and the timing of the transition. Most writers don’t quit their day job until they are several books in because it’s not financially viable. My situation was unique because my desire to write was not the only consideration. At the time, my son was unwell (he’s better now) and my husband and I were struggling to balance our family’s needs with the realities of our respective careers. We decided to slice our income in half and take a risk, but I know how fortunate I am that it was even an option.
I am wholly grateful for the change of pace, and not just because my writing aspirations were realized. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with a blood condition after suffering from a DVT and two pulmonary embolisms. There is no way I would have gone to the doctors with a swollen calf if I’d still been working 60-80 hour weeks and traveling globally. That night I said to my husband, “Even if I never get published, resigning saved my life.” I truly believe that.
Can you tell us a bit about I Liked My Life and what inspired to write it?
When I was fifteen, I lost one of my closest friends in a tragic car accident. Introducing guilt and grief to my already raging teenage hormones and fierce desire for independence was a hugely defining moment in my life. It forced me to mature, but that unfurled in a bitter, cynical sort of way. Suddenly everyone had a private hell to hide. I Liked My Life started with a desire to explore mourning at that tender age.
What do you want people to gain most from your novel?
Whatever they need to. I take comfort in the knowledge that if you can rise above the fog and haze of grief, there are slivers of beauty in life’s most antagonizing moments. Now, it’s bittersweet—anything gleaned is at the expense of your loss and it will never be worth it—but there is clarity and usable insight there for the taking.
Which writers and/or novels have inspired you the most?
I read addictively and across genres. From the classics, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite. (And yes, I enjoyed Go Set a Watchman, naysayers be damned.) Love Jane Austen. Edith Wharton. Charles Dickens. It’s such an obvious list; it’s boring.
The most impactful read so far this year was Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi and my favorite contemporary writer is Elizabeth Strout, whose economy with words astounds me. Anything is Possible is the shortest book I’ve read since My Name is Lucy Barton, and yet both books yield a huge amount of story.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and how you like to create?
Well, at first, I have no plot. No plan. I get bored with my own story if I know what’s going to happen. I love exploring who a person is at their core and how they got there. Character in mind, I go in search of conflict that drives their growth or demise. I enjoy unearthing what a character does when squeezed … pushed … provoked… by life. Once I find the real story, it can be frustrating to delete all the work leading to that moment, but mostly it’s exciting. By then, I know my main character well and I get to see how they step-up to adversity.
You like joining book club discussions of your novel. What have you learned the most from your readers through these discussions?
That loss is a universal experience. It has been an honor to FaceTime, Skype, and attend over 65 book clubs this year. One of the coolest experiences was a group that arrived with one of their “truths” written down (pulled from Maddy’s Truths which appear at the end of I Liked My Life). Each woman went in a circle and shared with the group. I teared up!
Is there a fun fact about yourself that might surprise our readers if you were to share it with them?
Growing up, I was certain I’d never have children. I spent my twenties climbing the corporate ladder—stack ranking and politicking and working my ass off. It was my husband who softened me to the idea of “having it all.” It turned out, once motherhood cracked my heart open wider than I ever thought possible, my definition of “having it all” changed.
You are also a human rights advocate and co-founded the organization, Empower Her Network. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how you first became involved?
When I read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that human trafficking exists today, and on such a large scale. Once you know, you can’t unknow. It is an affront to humanity and I felt a call to action, a need to do something.
After volunteering in the anti-trafficking world for five years, I co-founded Empower Her Network to address an existing gap in services for survivors. Once immediate aftercare options are exhausted, domestic survivors often find themselves in the same vulnerable circumstance that led to their initial exploitation, lacking realistic long-term economic alternatives due to stigmatization, trauma, and overall lack of education, job skills, housing options, and connections. These women need and deserve more options. Empower Her Network partners with shelters who nominate survivors ready to get on a path to fiscal independence. We work with survivors on self-determined Empowerment Plans that break down housing barriers and provide education/employment opportunities.
What advice would you give to struggling writers out there who are trying to accomplish their dreams?
When I first looked into getting published, I read a lot of negative stuff on writer’s forums, etc. Things like “agents don’t even read the slush pile” and “don’t even bother if your mom is not Judy Bloom.” That just wasn’t my experience. I had no connections, no MFA, no social media platform. It took years of rejection and two books that will never see the light of day, but I in the end, agents and editors cared only about the writing.
Your career seems like it has only just begun! Where do you see yourself going from here?
I hope so! I am about two years into a project that I hope to finish this fall called Anything Helps. My best guess is that it will be out in early 2020.
Do you have any final words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?
God no. But if they have any for me, I’m all ears!