Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guests Jim Bradford and H.K. Derryberry authors of The Awakening of HK Derryberry: My Unlikely Friendship with the Boy Who Remembers Everything
Norm; Good day Jim and HK and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you meet HK, Jim, and could you tell us a little about HK and what drew you to him?
Jim: Norm, our meeting was certainly one that I wasn't expecting. One cold fall Saturday morning in 1999 following an in-door tennis match I stopped at a fast food restaurant to purchase a cup of hot coffee.
As I was preparing to leave I noticed a little boy sitting all alone at a small table listening to a portable radio. I observed braces on both legs and immediately knew that he had some physical issues.
For some reason, I was compelled to introduce myself and learn more. Although I didn't ask a lot of questions during that first meeting. During subsequent visits to the restaurant to see HK I learned that he was blind and had cerebral palsy.
I also learned that his mother who was six moths pregnant was fatally injured in an automobile accident and HK survived. I later learned that his father abandoned him when he was five years old, his paternal grandmother was raising him and the reason he was sitting at the restaurant was because she couldn't afford a baby sitter on weekends while she worked...so he was confined to listening to his radio for 16-20 hours each weekend.
I just felt badly for him and soon realized that I had sufficient time in my life to add another friend.
Norm: HK: When you first met Jim, how would you describe your feelings towards him?
HK: Not many people ever stopped to talk to me when I was sitting at the restaurant. So when Mr. Bradford stopped and introduced himself I just thought he was a nice man and would come back to visit me again.
Norm: Jim, when did you discover that HK had an unusual memory and what did you do about it?
Jim: As our friendship began to develop I noticed that HK had a special ability to remember dates. It was about two years into our friendship that I realized his memory was more than about dates...he remembered local and historical events and what he was doing when some of those events occurred.
He remembered things relating to his medical history and medicines and prescription numbers. After viewing and listening one Sunday evening to a segment of the TV program 60 Minutes about six adults with extraordinary memories I realized HK possessed some of those same characteristics.
Eventually, his longtime pediatric neurologist at Vanderbilt referred him to the team of doctors at the Vanderbilt Memory Clinic. Subsequent studies of his memory and brain confirmed HK has HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory)...a condition that has been discovered in only a small number of people in the world.
Norm: HK how do you feel about having an unusual memory and do you believe it is an advantage to have such a memory? Explain why?
HK: Well, I like having a good memory. Because of my disabilities, having a good memory allows me to make new friends and sometimes it seems like it makes people forget that I have disabilities.
I think I often help people by reminding them of dates and other events they've forgotten. I hope the studies Vanderbilt has done on my memory may allow them to help older people with memory loss.
Norm: HK, what has been your greatest challenge that you’ve overcome?
HK: When you're blind, have cerebral palsy, suffered a stroke, and have other medical issues you face many challenges. So it's difficult to say which one is the most difficult. However, the one that I'm most proud of overcoming is being able to graduate from high school with a regular diploma.
Very few of my teachers gave me much chance of succeeding in successfully completing a regular curriculum but I maintained a positive attitude, worked hard and never gave up. I graduated June 1, 2012.
Norm: HK and Jim: How did you decide you were ready to write the The Awakening of HK Derryberry and how did you go about collaborating on the writing?
Jim: Well the foundation for the book actually began thirteen years before the book was published and released. A local newspaper reporter wrote an article about HK's life and our friendship in 2003. As she was completing the article she informed me that I should be maintaining a journal about our adventures.
She said, “if you don't write down the neat things you two are doing you'll eventually forget them. Therefore, I began keeping a journal...frequently asking HK's help to ensure I had the correct dates and facts. Eventually, my journal swelled to 78,000 words filling more than 300 pages and became the original manuscript.
With the help of a friend who believed in the story, for a lengthy period of time, we revised and rewrote the manuscript. Then we began pitching it to potential literary agents. Eventually we found an agent who also believed in our story. After more work on the manuscript we were fortunate enough to find a publisher who saw potential in our work...the rest, as they say, is history.
Norm: HK and Jim: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Jim: Our original goals were to have an inspiring and motivating story about a young man who'd overcome numerous obstacles in life. Then with the help of his new best friend and mentor the young man proved that “anything in life is possible if you determine your capabilities, work hard, never give up, and maintain a positive attitude.”
Based on heart warming and positive comments from readers of the book we believe we've achieved our goals.
Norm: HK and Jim: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Jim and HK: First, we learned that writing a successful book and having it published is very challenging. We learned that it requires a group of literary and marketing professionals, the “team” as we call it, to successfully write, publish and market the book. Since our book release we now find that for “unknown” authors it requires a highly talented marketing team with a well organized plan to attract the targeted readers to purchase the book.
Norm: HK and Jim: What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read your book?
Jim and HK: It's a true story about two people (Jim and HK) from diverse backgrounds and significant age differences that is somewhat sad, somewhat funny but most of all will inspire and motivate a person to re-examine their own life to be the best they can be.
Norm: HK and Jim: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
HK and Jim: Probably determining which stories in the manuscript should be included to achieve maximum impact for the reader. We began with a 78,000 word manuscript and eventually wound up with a book with approximately 50,000 words.
Norm: HK and Jim: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
HK and Jim: Recalling and putting to words some of the really neat things we've gotten to do together during the past seventeen years. Like the readers, we cried and laughed a lot during the process.
Norm: Jim, what process did you go through to get your book published?
Jim: First, we worked hard to ensure our manuscript told the story we planned...and would inspire and motivate the readers. Next, we had to find a literary agent that believed we had a story worth publishing. After we found an agent that believed, as we did, that our manuscript told a unique story our final process was to find a publisher willing to invest in the project. Once we found the publisher, the real work for developing the final product began.
Norm: HK and Jim: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
HK and Jim: Norm, we've been very blessed during the entire process of getting our book in the market. HK has a website and a Face Book fan page with more than 4,000 followers. We hear daily from many of the Face Book followers and readers of our book.
response from our readers has been overwhelmingly positive. Comments
include, “Best book I've read in a long time.” “You can't quit
turning the pages until you've finished.” “I cried and laughed
until I finished.” “It's a must read for all ages.” “I now
have a totally new prospective about my life and how I can help
others.” “This book has truly changed my life.”
Norm: HK and Jim: Where can our readers find out more about you both and your book?
HK and Jim: HK's WEBSITE is a good place to begin. If a reader “Googles” HK Derryberry they'll be able to read numerous articles and view photos of the two of us. If FaceBook users like HK's Fan Page they can keep up with his many adventures and learn more about the book. The book is available in major book stores nationwide and most on-line book retailers.
Norm: HK and Jim: What is next for you both?
HK and Jim: We have been sharing our story as motivational speakers for the past five years. We hope the book will allow us attract additional corporations, non-profits, schools, and churches where we can share our story. Proceeds from the book and our speaking engagements are helping fund a special needs trust for HK's future needs.
Norm: HK and Jim: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
HK and Jim: Norm thank you for having us on your website. Probably the one question that we'd have liked for you to ask us is “HK and Jim can I purchase a million copies of your new book?”
Norm: Thanks once again for participating in our interview and good luck with all of your future endeavors.