Needlework by Bekah Berge
Updated: Jan 23
Today’s interview will have you singing!
Four musicians vie for a coveted spot on the main stage at the prestigious Olive Branch Music and Arts Festival. For as long as she can remember, Melly has only been good at one thing: making music. From the instant she got her fingers on a flute and tambourine, music had transformed her life and become a way for her to express the hidden desires of her heart. And like every artist in the realm, joining the illustrious Olive Branch Music and Arts Festival was her ultimate dream. When Hakim encounters Melly singing in a grubby tavern, his world stops for the briefest of moments. For Hakim, it was as clear as the sky on a sunny day—her voice was what his band, Needlework, had been missing. On a whim, a deal is struck. Soon Melly finds herself whisked away with the band as they join the Olive Branch Festival for what promises to be one wild ride.
That’s the synopsis for, Needlework, a novel by Bekah Berge.
J.C. - I am so excited to talk to you today, Bekah. Can we start by having you introduce yourself to our readers?
B.B. - Hi everyone! My name is Bekah Berge and I write both YA and NA fantasy books. I have four books that are published, with another few on the way.
J.C. - How did you come up with the idea for Needlework?
B.B. - So Needlework came to me via music. I was listening to this song called Happy Idiot by TV on the Radio and suddenly I had an idea to write a story about a music and arts festival within a fantasy setting.
J.C. - You wrote songs for the book. HOW? Do you just go with the words or do you have a melody in your head?
B.B. - Ah ha! Okay, so the short version of this is that I’ve been obsessed with music and lyrics for a very long time. I’ve always been into music and at one point considered getting into the music industry, but on the business side of things because I can’t sing.
Writing a song for me begins with the melody in my head and a feeling that I’m trying to convey through the lyrics. My main character, Hakim, is the songwriter and also has severe chronic pain. I used my own chronic pain and my own life experiences to help me shape the lyrics into songs that I felt did the story justice. I think I wrote upwards of a dozen songs for Needlework and I believe there’s only five or six songs that actually made it into the book.
J.C. - Oh, Hakim (enter swoon here). A gentle, loving, musician that is easy on the eyes with a bit of a wounded animal persona makes him book-boyfriend material. Was his character fun to write or was it tough considering all he goes through?
B.B. - I don’t usually put very much of myself into my characters, but Hakim is the exception. I have paragraphs in the book that are word for word from some of my journals. I gave him a lot of myself and there’s a part in the book where Hakim references how “you never realize how broken you are, until you’re no longer broken” and that was very true for him and myself. So in ways it was easy to write him, while other times it was very difficult to take him into the abyss that is depression and misery.
J.C. - You are the co-founder of Writing Pains, a group for authors with chronic pains, which is how we met. I have Multiple Sclerosis and you have CRPS. Can you tell our readers about what CRPS is? B.B. - So CRPS stands for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It is a malfunction of both my central and peripheral nervous systems, which causes extreme nerve pain in one particular limb or throughout the body. The malfunction also causes several other parts of the body to stop working properly as a part of the domino effect: digestion, vision, memory, brain fog, migraines, skin discoloration, dental issues, etc.
For me, I had to stop eating anything with soy, dairy, meat, or gluten because they all make me throw up nowadays. Brain fog is a nightmare, because I forget so much all the time. The pain in my right arm and hip is usually extremely painful. Throbbing, stabbing, aching, you name it. Often times my arm feels like it has frostbite, because it’s burning and freezing cold at the same time. I can’t wear anything too tight or wear jeans, because of my skin hypersensitivity. The material feels like its scratching my skin and it becomes really painful. So all my clothes are quite baggy. I have migraines, dry mouth, loads of meds, etc. You know how it is. The laundry list of chaos.
J.C. - Unfortunately, I do know how it is. I have all of those symptoms too. It is no day at the park!
J.C. - How does CRPS effect your writing? And, typically, how long does it take you to write a novel due to it?
B.B. - I can’t hold a pen with my right hand, which is my dominant hand unfortunately. So I now write with my left hand and it’s a much slower process. Mostly I stick to typing and voice-to-text software. I can’t type for very long, because the fingers on my right hand often feel broken. So ugh, yeah writing takes me FOREVER.
J.C. - Who has been your biggest support system while on this writing adventure?
B.B. - The friends I’ve made in the writing community are everything to me. I have a tightknit group of writers I talk to almost every day and they are wonderful!! I’m also so grateful for my Writing Pains community. Having other writers who just “get it” when it comes to writing with a chronic illness/chronic pain is honestly priceless. I wish we could all get together for a long weekend or something.
J.C. - That would be a dream!
J.C. - Finish the sentence. In ten years I’d like to …
B.B. - be in very little pain.
J.C. - Are you working on another novel or are you going to take a hiatus to focus on your treatment at the Spero Clinic?
B.B. - I have one short story coming out in an anthology in April, thankfully that story is already finished. And then I have a longer short story that I’m frantically trying to get done and off to my editor before entering treatment. During the 12 weeks I’ll be at the clinic, I won’t be writing anything.
J.C. - Lastly, where can readers find you and your work?
Thank you for reading about Bekah Berge and Needlework. Don't forget to follow her on Instagram! I absolutely loved this novel. It does have ***Trigger Warnings: Content includes after-effects of sexual assault, as well as depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts/attempts.
Here is my review:
From the dedication page to the acknowledgments, Needlework is a heartfelt story of self acceptance. I am one with Hakim. I felt his pain and sorrow. All he wants to do is make music, but his journey is filled with stress, conflict and traitors. Bekah Berge writes a captivating story full of magic and mayhem. The cast of characters, with their turbulent pasts and unaccepted futures, will steal your heart. Some will even make your skin crawl! What is even more impressive is that the author also wrote the songs in the book. Needlework is a beautiful compilation that I highly recommend.