The Apollo 8 flight was renown in history as the first human spaceflight to reach the moon. The mission’s success was a great story itself, but behind it is another tale – a compelling love story of the flight’s commander, Frank Borman, and his equally heroic wife, Susan Borman. This real-life drama is captured in the book, Far Side of the Moon. The book’s author, Liisa Jorgensen graces the show with her presence in this episode. Liisa opens our eyes to the big lesson that we can learn from her book – something that is definitely applicable to the human condition and that everybody can learn from. We don’t usually get to hear from authors who write narrative nonfiction, so this is definitely an interesting conversation. Don’t miss it!
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Far Side Of The Moon With Liisa Jorgensen
I’m very excited about this particular episode. I am interviewing Liisa Jorgensen, who has worked as a writer and story editor on a diverse variety of film and television productions for Emmy Award-winning film company Myth Merchant Films. Jorgensen has written Far Side of the Moon, which we will be talking about in this episode with the active support of Frank Borman. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It’s great to have you here, Lisa.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be able to chat with you about this.
That’s why I wanted to get started because usually, I don’t interview authors who write a narrative of nonfiction, so I’m very excited to jump in, particularly with your interest in this story. The title of the book is Far Side of the Moon: Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and the Woman Who Gave Him Wings. It’s a love story. I’m curious why you are intrigued by this story and why you wanted to write about this story. Tell us a little bit about the background of why you wrote this book in particular.
My husband is a filmmaker, and we are always looking for those untold, unbelievable, true stories. That’s our jam. I watch a lot of stuff about the space program because my husband has always been interested in it. He’s got every book about it. It’s something that he has always been into. In watching a lot of these documentaries and even films that were made about it, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot about the wives and what they and their families went through.
I’ve got this bug in my gut about pursuing that, so I started doing some research. Susan’s story captivated me the most because I felt in particular that she had been misrepresented anytime that you see her being portrayed. I wanted to tell the real story of her and what that whole period was like through her eyes.
What are some of the ways that she was being misrepresented?
It was an intense time when nobody talked about mental illness. Nobody talked about the ways that anxiety and all of these pressures affect us. She was the one woman who went and sought help for it later on in the book, and because she admitted that she was medicating herself to try to deal with some of these stressful situations, she gets portrayed as that’s the only thing about her that she was scared, medicating herself, and chain-smoking. That wasn’t the truth. She was one of the women who said, “I need some help with this.” She got it eventually. I found that so brave, and I was offended on her behalf that that was the only thing that anybody ever showed about her because I knew that there was so much more to her.
The context of when this book is set is particular at the time. Let’s get our readers up to par in terms of the context of this. Tell us a little bit about the Apollo 8 mission, Frank, and his lover, Susan. Give us a context of the story.
There are so many beautiful human parts to Far Side of the Moon. It really is applicable to the human condition. Anybody should be able to read it and get something out of it.
It follows this couple through Frank’s military career. He joins the Air Force right out of West Point and becomes a test pilot. From being a test pilot at Edwards, he then gets asked to come to NASA. In all the research I did, Apollo 8 was one of the most important missions because it was the first time they’ve got to the moon. Up until that point, they hadn’t. He was responsible for overseeing the redesign of the capsule that got them there because of the fire that had happened with Apollo 1 that killed his best friend. There were three men in that, and he was determined to make sure that that never happened again.
We have more technology in our phones than what they were working with. It’s amazing. It’s a miracle that they’ve got there. Without Frank Borman, there would be no moon landing. There would be no Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong was his backup on Apollo 8. When Frank got back from that mission, he was asked to be the commander for Apollo 11 but he said no. He said, “I can’t put my family through this again.” He was starting to understand what pressure was happening at home, so he turned it down.
At the beginning of your book, you start with their childhood and then build up to their love story. I would love for you to share some of the lessons learned in your book where a reader can gain some life lessons, so our readers can learn more. You can purchase the book on Amazon.com and your local bookstore.
One of the biggest things that I was inspired by in not just Frank and Susan’s story but all of the astronaut wives that are still with us that I’ve got to speak to, which was such an honor, is this commitment to the greater good and something bigger than yourself. They very much believed in what their husbands were doing. They were so strong, having to, in essence, be single mothers a lot of the time.
They were moving from place to place but because they believed in that greater good and because of their faith in what their husbands were doing, as a support to their husbands, they were a part of it. I never want them to come off as victims because they don’t see themselves that way. It’s one of the most amazing experiences of my life to have been able to talk to these amazing women.
I want to acknowledge you for giving not just a voice but sharing the story of these women that you interviewed for this book project. I want to ask, in particular, who do you feel is a perfect reader for this book?
I have been almost stumbled by this because I’ve got in such great feedback from women, men, and people who were not interested in the space program at all. I’m the author, but it is for everybody. There are so many beautiful human parts to this book and Frank’s accountability for how he contributed to Susan’s suffering. It is applicable to the human condition. Therefore, anybody should be able to read it and get something out of it.
I would love to know any other lessons that you would like to share as you were researching your book or what you find that people are gaining by reading your book.
I brought up the whole accountability thing but one of the reasons their relationship was so strong and lasted for seven decades is the accountability of owning what you have done to contribute to somebody else’s pain. I was very moved by how honest and raw Frank was about that when I interviewed him. That was inspiring to me. Owning what you have done to hurt somebody does not make you weak. It makes you and the relationship stronger.
I can see that as you share your book, Far Side of the Moon, and the process of researching and interviewing Frank and the other players in the book, you were moved by this. I’m curious. Is this going to be turned into a movie or a TV series?
The book was important because I needed to know that I’ve got it right and that it truly reflected what these people went through. It was important to write the book first. The script is in development, so that’s exciting.
I can see it as a TV series, so that’s fantastic. I want to jump into our speed round. I will ask you a few questions, and you will answer what’s the first thing that comes to your mind. Number one, what is your legacy going to be?
I hope it is stories that inspire and challenge people and help them become better human beings. I know that’s what books have done for me. If this book and anything I write in the future does that for someone, that would be what I would hope and want my legacy to be.
What is your favorite book?
My favorite book is Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. I read that when I was young. There’s something about the way he writes that’s like music. By the beautiful way he puts things, I have never read anything like that before.
Owning what you’ve done to hurt somebody does not make you weak. It makes you strong and it makes your relationship stronger.
Who is your favorite author?
It would have to be him but I enjoy fiction for how it can take you out of your head and get you lost in a world. My favorite fictional author is Lisa Kleypas. I would love to do a series on some of her books because her characters are engaging.
I’m curious. What are you reading next?
I always have a bunch of books around. By my bed is a John O’Donohue book that is one of my favorites. It’s called Beauty: The Invisible Embrace: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope. It’s one of those hopeful books to read, especially if you are going through anything difficult. That’s my go-to book. I’ve got other things that I’m constantly reading everything and anything.
The last question is, what are you writing next?
I’m in the research process of another unbelievable true story. I’m drawn to strong female characters that maybe haven’t been represented the way I feel they should be. I’m not able to get into the details of it but I’m excited about it. It’s going to be a fun book to research and write about these people.
That’s fantastic. Congratulations on that next venture. Did you write the screenplay for Far Side of the Moon?
My husband did.
It’s a team effort.
He is an amazing writer too, so it was great. I had an editor for everything I wrote. He was very helpful in the whole process.
That leads me to the question because I know it requires two different skillsets to write a nonfiction book versus a screenplay script. Are you stronger at book writing, and your husband is stronger at screenplay scriptwriting?
Absolutely. He has written quite a few scripts. The format of it, the way it all lays out, the things you have to write about, the descriptions of background, and even music is his forte. The story and book format is mine.
I want to acknowledge you for writing this book and share one final thought that you may have on the topic of your book or the protagonist Susan and her husband, Frank, and what you discovered while you were writing this book.
I was so honored to be allowed into their lives to get all of the deep, dark secrets that no one else had been told about. I also read all of the letters they had saved between themselves. It was an amazing experience to be given that kind of access to not just people’s joys but their pain as well. I learned a lot about how to do that in a healthy way and in a way that brings you closer together as a couple. It was very moving.
Everyone at home can purchase Far Side of the Moon: Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and the Woman Who Gave Him Wings. You can buy that at Amazon.com and your local bookstore. I want to thank you, Liisa Jorgensen, for being here and for sharing your light and this beautiful love story that you had the opportunity to document.
It was wonderful. Thank you so much for having me, Alicia.
Before you go, can you share how people can find out more about you?
Everything is on the website, FarSideOfTheMoon.com. All of the links to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are there. There are a lot of personal photos and videos of Frank and Susan. The website is giving you a bit of a window into their life, the time period, and the awesome clothes. It’s a great way to see them and to know them. The website is perfect.
Go to FarSideOfTheMoon.com to find out more about the book and purchase and find out more about Liisa. Thank you so much, Liisa. You take care. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for reading another episode of the show.
- Far Side of the Moon
- Anam Cara
- Lisa Kleypas
- Beauty: The Invisible Embrace: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope
- Facebook – Far Side Of The Moon
- Twitter – Far Side of the Moon
- Instagram – Liisa Forbes Jorgensen
About Liisa Jorgensen
LIISA JORGENSEN has worked as a writer and story editor on a diverse variety of film and television productions for Myth Merchant Films for over 20 years. She believes in the power of story and its ability to help audiences transform and become better humans. She is especially interested in ending the stigmas associated with mental illness and disorders, as well as highlighting those who serve a greater good and live for something other than themselves. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Liisa is the author of the new book, Far Side of the Moon: Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and the Woman Who Gave Him Wings.