An Interview with Jen Faulkner

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.

You can find Jen on twitter at @Instinctivemum and her book is currently available here in paperback or it’s available for 99p ebook download here

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The First Chapter!

I wanted to post this last night, but was so incredibly tired that I slumped off to bed! Yesterday, I wrote and edited the first chapter of my book…it is still to be given it’s title.

After four redrafts/edits, I’m fairly happy with the end result and I’m glad that I decided on offering two characters’ perspectives on the events that unfold – it was the right move!

It’s made me realise that this dream is finally happening; it’s becoming My Story and will hopefully make a huge difference to people’s understanding of Children with Cancer. Not only do I plan to make a large donation to Leukaemia research at the NECCR, but I’m hoping to take inspiration from Alesia Shute over in the States, visiting parents, hospitals, schools and the patients themselves – why only do a job half-heartedly?

So it’s in the process, 1730 words in and counting!!! I’m excited to begin contacting agents soon and would also welcome anyone who would like to read my writing and offer their thoughts/critique.

The Big Project: Surviving Childhood Leukaemia

At the age of 7, I stopped playing with friends. It was no longer my wish to run outside, play on my bike or even walk to the shops to buy sweets. My rosy, pink cheeks turned to chalk dust, scattered over my skin and drawing in my eyes; my legs ached, my chest throbbed and my skin began to bruise at the faintest of touches…

Leukaemia does that to a girl, apparently.

I was diagnosed after blood tests, a bone marrow test and a lumbar puncture and together, as a family, we began the biggest journey any of us had experiences before…now comes the time for me to tell that story.

I’ve been writing notes of memories for years; I suppose it’s been therapeutic when my mind becomes distracted by the seriousness of it all, paired with the possibility of its eventual return. But now, it’s time to tell the whole story, from diagnosis, treatment plans and chemotherapy to emotional breakdowns, school bullies and the lasting emotional and psychological impact of the illness 20 years after being given the all clear.

It will be 20 years on April 19th since I started my recovery. The aim is to give back to those who helped to treat my illness and I’ve began to raise funds for research; a huge part of the donation will hopefully come from the book that tells my story.

So watch this space! Currently in the planning stages, I’m now working as hard as I can to raise awareness, break down those barriers and help as many people as I can…

I’ve taken great inspiration from Alesia Shute who I came across while researching other survivors who have written about their experiences, please take a look at her website at the inspirational work she does…it’s incredible. You can find her page here