Hey there, I’m still running a bit behind on this week’s blog posts, but I wanted to make sure I got this one up. I recently had the opportunity to interview author Amanda LaPera, who recently published her memoir, LOSING DAD, which deals with her father’s sudden mental breakdown in his 50s, with no prior mental-illness history. I had the privilege of reading an early draft of LOSING DAD a couple of years back and I’m so glad it’s now available to the public. Ms. LaPera has an inspiring story of her own to share, including how to become a successful publishing entrepreneur. Here’s a copy of our conversation. Enjoy!
1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself, and what led you to write LOSING DAD?
Ever since I learned to write, I have always enjoyed writing. While in college I took a hiatus from writing, which lasted for ten years. There’s a funny story behind my motivation to put the pen down. Hey, when we’re young, don’t many of us do things that don’t make any sense? Well, I forgot about my passion for writing, until I started teaching high school. Not many people know this, but it was my students who pushed me to write again.
2. Why do you think books like LOSING DAD are important?
Mental illness is prevalent in society and is an especially timely topic considering all of the recent tragedies. For some people, books like Losing Dad will feel hauntingly familiar, and reassuring in the sense that they are not alone in struggling with treatment and symptoms. For others, books like Losing Dad will be shockingly eye-opening and they will walk away with a much greater understanding of severe mental illness and its affects on a family, as well as how society unfortunately limits treatment options.
3. Can you share a brief synopsis of the book with our readers? Maybe even a paragraph or two?
Losing Dad, Paranoid Schizophrenia: a Family’s Search for Hope is the compelling true story of a family grappling with the stranglehold of severe mental illness. Our ordeal began when my dad, who was happily raising a middle class family in the California suburbs, was diagnosed with cancer. The operation was successful and prognosis good until a routine follow-up procedure was botched. Doctors corrected the issue and sent Dad home from the hospital, but he was never the same again.
Prior to that, my dad did not show any signs or symptoms of any impending severe mental illness. He did not do drugs or drink alcohol. Then, inexplicably at the age 53, Dad suddenly became prone to fits of rage and hallucinations. His new and disturbing religious obsessions and proselytizing alienated my brother, my sister, and me, and got him fired from his job. My stepmom began to fear for her life. Depression, anxiety, and paranoia overtook my once-vibrant father. Frequent hospital stints, multiple suicide attempts, and a persistent refusal to stay on medication ultimately led him to flee his home and travel the world homeless as a self-proclaimed religious prophet, eschewing wealth, belongings and family.
My dad’s colorful descent into psychosis featured a journey that stretched across thirty countries, four continents, and thirteen wives. He faced down drug dealers and prostitutes, allegedly advised the Italian Mafioso and was hailed as a prophet in Africa, before ending up homeless on the streets of America.
Losing Dad not only features my dad’s harrowing — and still ongoing — flight from reality amidst anosognosia, but also valuable information about severe mental illness, a crippling disease that affects 1 in 17 people and can develop inside any mind at any time. The book provides a list of resources, a discussion of current mental health laws, exclusive family interviews and plenty of food for thought. Ideal for book clubs, reading discussion questions are also included.
4. I see you launched your own publishing company and self-published LOSING DAD, and will also be publishing books by other authors. Can you tell me about that? How is it working out for you?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration/ Marketing and I worked for several years in finance before changing careers and going into education. Teaching English directly relates to writing, but my business background helps me to understand the business of writing and publishing. After years of research, everything clicked in my head and made sense. I decided to quit swimming upstream, to turn around, and to go where the universe leads me. I woke up one day and said, “I want to start a publishing company to help other authors do what I’ve learned how to do.” Not a week passed before I had two other authors interested in signing with my company. Going with a publisher, be it a big company or a boutique press, still gives a new writer and his/her writing more credibility than “self-publishing.”
I’m really excited about our forthcoming titles. Look for a couple of clever children’s books coming soon. The adults can look forward to a tantalizing memoir. Our other projects are top secret and I can’t tell you about them yet. Adamo Press
is actively accepting queries directly from authors. No agents needed. I’ll let you know if that changes.
5. What advice do you have for other authors who might want to consider self-publishing their memoirs?
Do your research. Learn about the industry. Read other memoirs. Study them. Don’t be in a rush to get it done without taking the time to do it right. Losing Dad took me years to write. I attended writers’ conferences, joined a writers’ critique group, and read many books on writing/editing/revising. Don’t go at it alone. You should hire a cover designer, an editor, and, if need be, someone to design and format the interior, because people do judge a book by its cover.
6. I see you are on the board of your local NAMI chapter and that NAMI is helping you market LOSING DAD. Can you tell me a bit about how you forged this strategic partnership?
Yes, I am on the Board of Directors for NAMI-OC, the largest affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the state of California, and quite possibly the largest in the country. I did not actually become involved with NAMI for Losing Dad, but because of it. While writing and researching information for Losing Dad, I became angry that my father ended up homeless rather than in treatment. I thought, how could this have turned out differently? In answering that question, I began down a path of advocacy, which ultimately led me to NAMI. In fact, a portion of proceeds will be donated to NAMI-OC to help those affected by mental illness.
7. What advice do you have for other people with mentally ill family members?
NAMI and their free educational programs such as the Family-to-Family program is a wonderful resource, which I wish I had taken advantage of sooner.
Don’t let stigma stop you from communicating openly with the rest of your family and with your loved one’s doctors. The best treatment outcomes result from effective partnership between the doctors and the family members. Get your loved one to sign release forms, so that the doctors can communicate with the family members. If your loved one refuses, that does not prevent you from continuing to share information with the doctors, which they should accept (or find a doctor who will). Also, if your loved one often says, “I’m not sick. I don’t need help,” read about anosognosia. Dr. Xavier Amador’s book is a good start.
8. Anything else you’d like to add?
While writing is a very fulfilling career, it is hard work! There aren’t any shortcuts to success. Stick with it if you enjoy it. In the end, it is very rewarding to see the finished product.
9. Can you please provide a photo, as well as buy links for LOSING DAD?