I recently reviewed the wonderful, A Monster Ate My Mum, which deals with the impact of post natal depression on the family unit. If you haven’t read my review, you can find it here.
Jen is a wonderful woman and I’ve read her blog InstinctiveMum with both interest and admiration and was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed here at TheLiteraryMum! So here we go, I asked Jen about the book, it’s background, purpose and her hopes for its future…here’s what she said!
1. When and why did you make the decision to write the book?
I didn’t ever sit down and intend to write this book, it has magically evolved over time. I decided to start a blog when a very good friend thought it might help me and be cathartic, which it was. And when I first wrote the poem and published it on my blog I never imagined it would turn into a book, however over time and after many conversations with other PND sufferers, it seemed that there was nothing out there like it to support children and families. I saw first hand the wonderful response from my children and had been so grateful for the honest and open conversations the poem prompted that I knew I had to publish it and help as many other people as possible.
2. How long have you been working on the concept?
The original poem was first written at the beginning of this year. It then took a couple of months for me to turn it into a story. The concept of monsters taking parts of a mum was always there right from the beginning, the challenge was writing something honest that wouldn’t terrify children. I wanted it to be visual and child friendly whilst tackling the sensitive issue of mental illness and PND.
3. How have you managed to juggle your project and your existing commitments?
Luckily I have taken extended maternity leave and so don’t have the commitment of work at the moment. Nap times are filled with replying to emails, blogging and promoting the book! I’m lucky that once I’m focused I can get quite a bit done in a couple of hours!
4. Post-Natal Depression can be a sensitive and complex subject, did you use any wider reading or research to inform your book?
Since being ill with PND I’ve attended a lot of support groups and have worked alongside many other sufferers. It was at an art therapy group where I first read out the poem, the response was immediate and so wonderful it encouraged me to continue. I’ve since spoken to publishers and literary agents about eh book, with the advice being to self publish because it can be such a complex and sea title subject. I have consulted PND charities and other health professionals and taken all of their fabulous advice on board. I’ve also read other books about depression, and of course, my blog and Twitter have been invaluable in gauging how the book will be received.
5. The book is fantastic…it seems to focus on the anxieties and needs of the child, but also gives them suggestions to support their mum, which I found so touching – can you see this as an important coping mechanism within the family unit?
For my family the book meant there was no longer this thing we didn’t speak about, yet was affecting everyone. It helped them know it wasn’t their fault and that this wouldn’t be forever, it helped relieve my guilt and anxieties by reminding me of the same things and it also put things in perspective for my husband who needed supporting as well. As a family I believe it’s important that everyone is supported, that you are a unit, a team. I also hope that by showing children it’s an illness and one that it’s ok to talk about will help them, for who knows when they are adults they may need to ask for help themselves.
6. What are your next steps in spreading the message?
Currently I am working with several PND charities and looking at the local press to run my story. There are a few guest posts coming up on well know parenting sites as well which is very exciting. And then I’m thinking about organising a PND awareness day in the UK as currently there isn’t so definitive date for this.
7. What are your hopes for the book’s direction\impact?
I hope it helps as many people as possible. Post Natal Depression affects many families and many mums suffer in silence. I hope that by talking honestly about mental health with children we can nurture a stigma free generation. Many children are affected by depression and I hope this book will be a source of comfort and honesty about the illness for them. There is hope in the book, and reassurance and I think this is an invaluable message for everyone, not just children.