Author Interview Questions
Answered by: Helena Smole
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and writing career?
I am a 37-year-old language specialist who decided to write about mental illness. I believe that the most dangerous stigma is the one mental patients carry around in their heads. My mission is to make mental illness casual and thus help my co-patients rebuild their self-esteem. I gave notice at an academic institution back in 2008, became a financially supported wife and started writing about my experience with mental illness and with getting well. I come from Slovenia, European Union.
2. What genre do you write?
I write self-help books and blogs, easy to understand and hopefully easy to inspire.
3. What work(s) are you best known for? Could you please tell us about them?
I present my own successful path out of my daily struggle against extreme mood swings, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, and other delusions in my book 'Balancing the Beast: A Bright View of Schizoaffective Disorder - Bipolar or Manic-Depressive Type'. The book describes a unique combination of humor and hard work along with psychiatric medication. The mental exercises, lifestyle choices, and other alternative medicine approaches that I combined with clinically-prescribed medication eventually led to the alleviation of my illness. As shown in the book, my success is to a significant extent due to having fully accepted myself the way I am, the illness included.
4. Can you tell us if you are working on a new project and what your goals for the future?
Currently I am working on the e-book version of ‘Balancing the Beast’ and also on the translation to my mother tongue – Slovene. I also write blogs and publish them on my web page: http://www.helenasmole.com/
5. How did you start writing?
I was lying in a bed at a gynecological clinic and suddenly felt an irresistible urge to write. After a spontaneous miscarriage, which was the reason for being at that clinic, I decided to give notice at a workplace, where I felt I was not really fulfilling my mission in life. Thus I felt a chapter of my life was coming to an end. I felt I should write a book about it. I started writing right there, in a bed at a gynecological clinic, after the spontaneous miscarriage and a few weeks before giving notice. You can read more about it in my new book ‘Balancing the Beast’.
6. How do you write? (That is, where do you get your ideas, do you write in an office at home, do you write full time or do you have a full time job other than writing?)
I write full time in an office at home. I get my ideas during my nature walks, when my thoughts become clearer. Or when somebody tells me about his/her problems, aspirations, memories. Sometimes while reading a book or a magazine. Also in the shower. I don’t strive to get an idea, I patiently wait for it. Sometimes there are many ideas and I simply sketch them on pieces of paper and put them in my “ideas box”. Later, when I have no idea for a new blog, I look through my old ideas in the box. I pick one idea (one piece of paper), write a blog and throw the paper away.
7. Are there any particular authors who have inspired you in your own writing career?
Oh, there are many: Louise Hay, Phyllis Krystal, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Howard C. Cutler, Loretta LaRoche, Peggy McColl, and others.
8. Do you attend workshops and seminars to hone your writing skills?
No. But I studied journalism as my second major at a Slovene university. And before that I had been attending an International Baccalaureate high school, where we were supposed to write lots of essays in English.
9. What themes do you pursue in your writing? What are your concerns?
My basic concern is to help the readers to accept themselves the way they are. People in general, not just those who share a mental illness with me. I believe that if I am capable to fully accept myself, the illness included, others might be inspired to do the same. Of course it takes a lot of mental work. It cannot happen overnight. My book is not a cure, it is merely an inspiration to take the first steps on the path to recovery.
10. What is the goal of your writing?
There is an old saying: “If you have managed to truly help one person, then your mission in life has been fulfilled.”
11. Do you have any useful tips you might offer other up-and-coming writers?
Write from your heart.
12. Have you chosen to e-publish any of your work? Was there any particular reason for this and would you recommend e-publishing to other writers?
I am working on it right now. The reason is simply the interest of readers that prefer e-books. I cannot recommend it yet, for I am still in the process of e-publishing.
13. Have you won any awards for your work? If so, which ones?
14. Have you had literary failures? What did you learn from them?
This is my first book. I hope it does not turn out a failure.
15. What do you read?
Biographies, self-help books, historic novels.
16. What difficulties, if any, did you face in writing a fact-based book?
Protecting the identities of people mentioned in the book. But I managed somehow, by removing names, age, occupation.
17. Can we post an excerpt from one of your books?
Here it is:
»My last schizoaffective disorder outburst in 2003 was a classic manic-depressive cycle with a full-blown psychotic episode at the end. I stopped sleeping. I had a paranoid theory of how some secret organization that was trying to prevent suicide was following me. I believed my phone was tapped and that there was even a listening device in my husband’s car. When I was walking around I believed that the secret organization’s representatives were also following me all over the city. It frightened me, but sometimes it also made me strangely secure. As far as megalomaniacal ideas are concerned, I thought I was the next Jesus Christ, taking all the suffering upon my shoulders. The hallucinations were not that bad, but still frightening. The colors of people’s clothes in the streets seemed brighter than usual. I also believed that some friends of mine had been giving me poison in the form of chocolate. That poison, I believed, had caused the episode in the first place.
I ended up in the locked ward of a psychiatric clinic. Again.«
('Balancing the Beast'. First chapter, closing paragraph.)