Tuesday, July 6, 2010

An Exchange Between Two Authors

I recently met an interesting author on an Amazon discussion board who devotes herself to empowering women with her weekly podcast shows. Her book intrigued me, and I found that we had quite a bit in common. Read our conversation exchange below:

Me: Hi Kathleen, I've read your synopsis to your book, Escaping The Glass Cage: A Story of Survival & Empowerment from Domestic Violence, and I was intrigued by the title. I write about similar themes, but through a fictional context. The title of my book is Heart of the Jaguar, and at first glance, one wouldn't know it is a book about domestic abuse awareness. So, why did you choose Escaping the Glass Cage as a title?

Kathleen: It came to me while I lived in a shelter for battered women. I saw myself living in a glass cage for years, I could see outside, but didn't know how to get out until I learned to break through my own limiting beliefs. It wasn't till I became strong within myself that I could begin a new life. I knew then I would write my story, but didn't know when. Last summer I was ready. While recovering from knee surgery, I used the time off from work to re-write my book as I wanted it to come from a place of healing, not pain and anger. And as they say, the rest is history. Why did you pick a fictitious setting to explain abuse?

Me: The answer is two-fold: My initial intent, when I started
writing the book, was to help cope with a deep depression after 911. I didn't know why I was going through it, but I suppose my mindset was that here the world could end, and I never fully realized my true purpose in life by following my real passion: writing. I had no legacy to leave behind and my life felt meaningless. So I dove into writing, laying out a plot and incorporating experiences from my childhood about women I knew who had gone through similar abusive situations. I didn't know it then, but I slowly began to develop a novel that originally started as a way to cope with that depression. By the time I finished, I realized that I had written a book that not only addressed the issue of domestic abuse, but also demonstrated how anyone with a self determined spirit can get out of the worst types of situations, as in the heroine of the story. 

To answer the second part of your question, I don't know if I'm ready to reveal to the world the explicit details of what I experienced, growing up as a child of domestic violence. I guess I just feel safer helping others by distancing myself through a fictional setting.

Kathleen, you are very brave to write about your experience. What made you decide to take that bold step and get out?  And, finally, what is the most important thing you think people can get out of reading your book?

Kathleen: Domestic violence knows no race, religion, creed or sex. It covers all boundaries and that is why I view it as a human problem, a global problem, and we ALL have a voice to help heal the wounds. A guest who was on my radio show recently said something so profound, that Homeland Security begins at home. We cannot have peace in our world if we do not have peace in our homes.

When I began to write my story, I also faced the option of going with a fictional story. But something within my soul told me to stay with what I know, what I felt and experienced. I feel it is because there are so many out there who have or are experiencing the same. I truly believe we each have a voice and if my story can be the voice of another, then I have done my job of helping them empower their lives. My book is small, something a woman in crisis can read without being overwhelmed with information. I share techniques, tools, books, audios and ideas that I used to help empower my life. I am also currently working on setting up my coaching program to work with women who are learning to live again after abuse, to help them heal from the trauma.

Even though you created a fictional story around your experiences, how has it helped you with your healing process and also, how has it helped others who have read your work?

Me: Having gone through it, I was too young to have been able to do anything about the things I saw, but a part of me always felt like a coward for not having spoken up for what was happening.The book helped me heal, because through my character, 17-yr-old Nina, I felt I could channel things I wish I could've said, done, or accomplished when I was her age.  She refuses to call herself a victim by any means. She is resourceful and self-reliant, living away from home in a house she inherited from her grandmother. She hasn't spoken to her mother (a battered wife in denial) in six months after an incident that occurred during a confrontation with one of her step-father's drunken binges. Out of the blue, she gets a cryptic call from her mom, who leaves a message to come back home because something terrible has happened to two of her cousins. Accompanied by her two best friends, Marge and Anthony, she heads home in hopes of piecing together her broken relationship with her mother. In a way, I can say that I can relate with Nina and her relationship with her mom; the feelings she felt when she wished she could make her understand that no one had a right to beat or mistreat her were raw and genuine; I also channeled things I could've said to the abusive spouse-- all of those emotions, I poured into that book. Parts of it are autobiographical, but that's only part of the story. Because it is also fictional, I wanted to use the urban legends I grew up listening to that was part of my cultural experience and take these three friends on a journey. There is another plot that deals with Aztec priests, time traveling, Chupacabras and the unique fictional origin of the legendary Llorona [yo-ro-na]. 

How do I feel it helps them? I wanted to relate the message to women that they have the choice to take a stand and say no more, and that freedom from oppression is often within the grasp of their own choices. I wanted to encourage them to take control of their life,encourage them to step outside their comfort zone and learn how to survive on their own two feet. There's a little warrior in all of them, but it's hidden underneath all that fear. If they can overcome that fear, that warrior woman comes out and there's no telling what they are able to accomplish.

That was a profound statement, that peace starts at home. Unfortunately, there are far too many spousal abusers who thrive on keeping their women in control by instilling fear, and I've made it my mission to also teach women how to defend themselves. Some may disagree and say that teaching violence does not stop violence. But I differ by saying that I don't want to teach violence, but rather teach them how to stop it, so they don't end up six feet under ground.

I admire your courage and am going to read your book.Thanks for participating in this discussion as it was a first for me as well and was glad to have also found a friend I could relate to. Where can people buy your novel or contact you?

Kathleen: Thank you so much! My book is available through Amazon.com as well as direct from my publisher. All the links can be found at my website www.kathleenmschmidt.com. People can reach me through my website as well, just click on the "Contact" link. I wanted to add a huge THANK YOU for your work and sharing your story of empowerment.