So, on the heels of my book coming out yesterday, here’s another author interview for you, and this one was kind of fun. This book is called Consider, by Kristy Acevedo. It’s part of the portals series, which does something that I wish more authors did: It discusses mental illness/anxiety attacks from a science fiction perspective. Interested? Read on for more!
1) Ah ha! Your book is one of the rarer ones that gets out of a typical YA-genre while still addressing mental illness. What made you deal with anxiety disorders in such a way?
One of my overall goals when writing CONSIDER and CONTRIBUTE was to create a realistic teenager with an anxiety disorder who has to deal with a sci-fi phenomenon. I wanted her honest struggle and the complex relationships in her life to give the story a gradual depth that would hit at gut level. Alexandra is strong, vulnerable, compassionate, and flawed, and becomes heroic. To do this, I decided to write in first-person, present tense, which was a struggle to maintain for the entire series. It was worth it to give Alexandra’s character the focus she deserved.
2) Minus the hologram part, is your book based on personal experiences with anxiety that you have shared? How did those experiences inform your writing? If not, how did you learn how to write about anxiety in such a credible way?
All the anxiety in the book is based on experience, not research. While I don’t have an anxiety disorder, I have several close family members with mental health issues, mild to severe, and over the years I’ve been their advocate during panic attacks, hospital visits, etc. With permission, I’ve combined several experiences to inform Alexandra’s unique character. I wanted to write a character struggling in a realistic way, who also shows tremendous courage and strength and becomes the hero of the series, because that’s how I see those people in my life, even if they don’t always see themselves that way.
3) What kind of feedback have you received from people with anxiety disorders about your book?
I’ve gotten many emails about how much they connected with Alexandra’s anxiety, and how, even though the series gets sinister and tragic, they felt a sense of hope witnessing her grow as a hero. They thanked me for portraying her character with no sugar coating and no sudden cures. Some readers said they had to take breaks while reading since her anxiety was so accurate, it triggered theirs. I apologized for that, and they reassured me that meant it was so good.
4) This is completely random, but you are a teacher. Do your kids ask you about your writing often? How do you bring it up as you teach?
On the first day of school, I introduce myself and my journey to becoming a professional writer. Then I tell students I will never bring up my books again during class unless they ask me a specific question. I tell them I am first and foremost their teacher, not their author, and that I don’t want to be that obnoxious person always talking about my work. Usually, they nod and laugh and respect that I’m here for them.
They tend to only bring up my books during writing assignments. Some of them are intimidated at having an author as their high school English teacher, worried that I’m going to “grade them harder.” I reassure them that I’ve been teaching for almost twenty years, and I know how teenagers write. I also model drafting with them, writing crappy opening paragraphs and asking the class to edit me, and that usually empowers them to see that even published authors struggle to write. Or when I’m reminding them how important brainstorming or outlining is, someone will ask, “Do you do that for your books?” So I will explain what works for me and show them samples.
And sometimes, a student will come after school dying to talk to me after reading my books, and that’s incredible to witness in real time.
5) What is your advice to authors who want to write in a more inclusive way about a whole slew of topics/characters – be it ethnic diversity, LGBTQ, physical disabilities, mental illness – but don’t actually have the personal experience to discuss the issue?
Support marginalized writers and amplify their voices. That should always come first.
I know writers want their stories to reflect the world around them, but they need to ask themselves if they can bring diverse characters to the page authentically and without harm to those communities. You shouldn’t be writing diverse characters if you spend most of your time in a non-diverse community. So my advice would be to diversify your life before diversifying the page.
6) Portals. Why portals????
Why NOT portals? Hahaha! I was binge-watching Doctor Who when I got the idea for the Holo series. Since Doctor Who is all about traveling through time, it was inevitable to end up with some sort of portal element.
If you enjoyed books that discuss science fiction and mental health, I hope you check out Redemption, my YA/Science Fiction novel about depression, anxiety and the end of the world.
My name is Mike Schlossberg; I’m 35, married, with two wonderful kids. I am a Pennsylvania State Representative, and I also suffer from a major depressive disorder and a generalized anxiety disorder. With medication and therapy, I’ve treated my disease, and I’ve been outspoken about the need to treat mental illness better. That's what I'm blogging about now.
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