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On Research and Life

Bipolar Disorder. Noun. Defined as a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression. Someone who swings between manic and depressive stages. There are so many ways to look at this state of mental health, yet even the experts don’t fully understand what it entails because brain chemistries vary.

To me bipolar disorder had a face. A handsome young man who believed in the potential of others. Someone who showed me what it meant to be positive. I say “had” because like many who have sadly joined the staggering statistic, he took his life. I miss him every damn day, and as I write this post I think he wouldn’t want me to bog you down with stats. If you believe you or someone you know is undiagnosed as having bipolar disorder you can find more information by visiting the National Institute of Mental Health website and many others like it. But, most importantly, you are not alone. You are never alone.

For this post I want to focus on the prep I did for writing No Love Allowed and developing Didi’s character—who happens to have bipolar disorder.

When the story for No Love Allowed first came to me I saw the image of a girl falling off a cliff. Immediately I wanted to know what happened. That was when Didi introduced herself. Caleb came along soon after. And their love story was born.

Once Didi told me she had bipolar disorder I immediately knew I needed to do my research. Like many people, my knowledge extended to mood swings, but as I soon found out, bipolar disorder was more than just mood swings.

With the multitude of information on the internet alone, it was very easy to become overwhelmed. Besides the general definition of what having bipolar disorder meant, I had no idea how to understand someone who lived with it on a daily basis despite knowing someone who lived with it. Reading articles seemed impersonal, but I wasn’t ready for face-to-face interviews just yet.

This was when I turned to documentaries. Hours and hours of video made it so hard to think why so many of us were still in the dark. The best one, in my opinion, would have to be Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. It’s a two-part documentary that chronicles Stephen Fry’s journey in understanding the disorder—of which he had been diagnosed with. At the same time, he interviews doctors, celebrities, and families who live with the disorder. It was such an eye opening couple of hours that helped me gain a better sense of who Didi was. No wonder it won Best Documentary at the 35th International Emmys in 2007. I highly recommend that you watch it.

Armed with more questions than answers, I was ready to conduct personal interviews of my own. I asked a therapist friend of mine if she could introduce me to a few people. A couple of them were gracious enough to let me buy them coffee.

I asked about how they were diagnosed. I asked about how they felt right after they were given the diagnosis. And I asked about how they coped with the knowledge that they had bipolar disorder. Each conversation gave me a different answer. Some said the diagnosis was a lifesaver. They got on the proper medication and are now living their lives as best they can. Others thought of the disorder as a curse. Medication for life and the side effects that came with it. This was where Didi’s internal struggle came from. No matter how much she wanted to live her life the way she wanted, having bipolar disorder always seemed in the way. It was a push and pull in her life, which you will get a better sense of as you read No Love Allowed.

Reading articles, watching documentaries, and conducting interviews helped me get to know Didi. She’s resistant to group sessions, no matter how beneficial they could be. She’s creative. And there are days when the medication doesn’t seem to be working. But at the end of the day, Didi told me her story wasn’t about having bipolar disorder. And I agreed with her.

So, armed with what I knew, I began writing and editing. There were moments when I was bogged down by too much information and had to step back. But, eventually, we (and by this I mean along with the amazing team at Swoon Reads) found the right balance, which you will see in the finished product. It is my hope that I’ve done Didi’s and Caleb’s story justice. And maybe, dare I hope, No Love Allowed could spark a conversation we should be having about mental health. Then maybe, just maybe, a loved one who is diagnosed knows there is still a future to hold on to.

Nine Lives Foundation

Hi, Everyone!

I support the Nine Lives Foundation​ and their tireless work in saving the lives of countless cats in need. Please head on over and LIKE their FB Page. Link below.

And if you have some cash to spare, make a donation. What they do is near and dear to my heart. Helping them keep doing what they do would be beyond awesome.

#NineLivesMatter

FB Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/NineLivesFoundation/

Thank you!

Kate

2015 in Review



Around this time I find myself in awe of the fact that another year is over. Weren’t we just starting 2015 and greeting each other an enthusiastic Happy New Year? Hadn’t we just finished writing our New Year’s resolutions? And then here we are, a few days away from the beginning of 2016.

As I look back on 2015, the word that comes to mind is transformative. Like a Camaro turning into a giant Bumblebee.

First of all, I completely lost the ability to write at the beginning of 2015. No one knew about this. Not even my critique partners. I actually managed to keep it to myself. Not even the Momager knew. I didn’t speak to anyone about it. No matter how many times I wanted to. I guess I was afraid that if I told someone about it would become true and I would never write again.

In my journey as a writer, I never knew I would go through a publishing experience so traumatizing that it came to a point where I thought I would never write a single word ever again. I compare this event in my life to a violation so personal, it messed with my psyche. And here I thought my experience with my first critique partner—who made it a point to murder my manuscripts—was the worst in my career.

I completely lost the will to write. It was frightening. Debilitating. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. To this day I still get ugly flashbacks that render me anxious and unable to think straight. I get headaches. My stomach hurts. I can’t breathe. If there is such a thing as PTSD for writers, I would say I’m going through it now. Not as bad as before, but it’s still there.

In many ways, looking at what happened (which I will not write in detail here because it would be unfair to the parties involved) from the perspective of having pulled myself out of that mire, I’m glad for the experience. It made me the writer I am today. And hopefully, moving forward I will continue to grow because of it.

Of course, I still have my wobbly days. I still have moments when all I want is to curl up into a ball so small maybe I will disappear. But I made a deal with myself. Instead of writing a chapter a day, like I used to, I would write one scene. No more of the two thousand word requirement I’d placed on myself previously. Just one scene. From start to finish. No matter the word count. And I can honestly say that it’s been working very well for me. I’m slowly getting my groove and confidence back.

Another source of strength is the amazing people at Swoon Reads. My editor doesn’t know this, (maybe she will after this post goes live) but she pulled me out of a very deep despair caused by the trauma I suffered. She is so amazing that I slowly learned to trust in editors again. To trust that someone has the best interest of my work in mind. Someone who brings out the best in me as a writer. Who challenges and encourages me. And who isn’t afraid to tell me the truth. Someone who answers emails within a day or two after it’s sent no matter how busy life gets. That means so much to me.

So to say that being a writer for Swoon Reads saved my life is an understatement is actually an understatement. I don’t know where I would have ended up if No Love Allowed hadn’t been chosen as part of the third list. I’m proud to be a Swoon Reads author, and would continue to be as long as they would have me.

Another major change in my life was letting go of all my critique partners and beta readers. Like I mentioned above, I was in a very bad headspace creatively. I couldn’t stand reading someone else’s work when I couldn’t summon what used to come so naturally to me. Plus, I began to see that I couldn’t handle the pressure of having someone else read my work other than my editor. The trust issues I developed because of the trauma I suffered didn’t allow me to look at critiques objectively. So, as hard as it was to sever those connections, I did.

More than six months into 2015 I found myself adulting in a major way. I moved in to my own apartment. I became responsible for six cats. Sweetie came into my life at the right time. To say she saved me, made me a better person, is also an understatement. Really, I cannot express into proper words how dark a hole I was in.

Life started to get better in September. I was writing again. Editing my heart out. I started remembering once again why I love what I do. And I reaffirmed my commitment to bettering myself as a writer and as a person.

Currently, I’m finishing a new novel, which I’m super excited to start telling all of you about. I’m enjoying the simple things like cat kisses and catching up with my favorite TV shows. And I’ve finally embraced my body and my sense of worth.

With confidence I can report that I’m ending 2015 right and will definitely take 2016 by storm. I plan on hitting the ground running with two books coming out, the first of which will be in April. So no looking back. Forward and onward, my friends.

Thank you for your continued support. Not only of my work. Your presence in my life is a great comfort. Here’s to an amazing year to come!

Catch you on the flipside.

Happy New Year!  

Tattoos Are Permanent for a Reason

Tattoos are permanent, so you better think twice before inking your skin. Removal is a painful process and sometimes the outline of the image remains. But I’m not here to debate about the morality of getting ink. I have a tattoo and plan on getting another one soon.

            This blog post is about Blindspot, which features a main character found inside a duffle bag in the middle of Times Square. Yes, she was a live when they found her. The premise of the show dances around the fact that she doesn’t remember who she is and her entire body is full of tattoos that represent clues to events yet to happen. These are all connected to an FBI agent named Kurt Weller.

            Watched the first episode and about to watch the second after writing this post.

            If you know me, you will know that I love watching TV. There aren’t that many shows that feature tattoos as a major part of the plot. Why? Because these shows generally have a short shelf life. There are only so many things one can draw onto the human skin before you run out of space.  

            Case in point: Prison Break.

            You remember this show?

            Was the darling of the drama circuit that year. Everyone loved the first season, including me. Younger brother tattoos how to break out of prison on his body in order to save his brother who he believes was framed.

            I was hooked from episode one. It wasn’t bad staring at Wentworth Miller week after week either. But after a stellar first season the show went downhill because once they got out of prison there was hardly any use for the tattoos.

            It looks like that will be the case for Blindspot. Episode one and already one of the tatts has been used. Only so many to go. But the creator did mention in an interview that he’s aware of thefinite quality of this concept and that he knows where the story is going. But, with the show gaining popularity, who is to say there won’t be a renewal after season one?

            We’ll have to see.

            Right now, I say the show is definitely worth checking out. Join me in figuring out how long this one will last before it crashes and burns. 


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