I have to admit to having had this authors novel on my T.B.R. pile for some time now. I’ve read the sample and if the rest is as good, I’m in for a treat.
Words! I’ve always loved writing, but until recently this was mostly limited to unsolicited long correspondence with friends and family who I no longer
I didn’t camp out in coffee shops or get up at the crack of dawn, I just did a bit of writing now and then when I felt up to it. Having romanticised the hardships that unknown writers notoriously face it all felt a bit too easy, but I realise I wasn’t portraying a complicated plot. I was writing about what I knew, because that was the story I needed to get off my chest. I hoped it would become a relatable, humorous and easy to read book, touching on a few sensitive issues that are close to my own.
I put the main character through many of the same experiences that I’d had in searching for an explanation for my poor health over the decades. I now know that I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (a connective-tissue disorder) and Dysautonomia, with many peculiar aspects to my illnesses, although I didn’t get diagnosed until I was in my 40s. There are plenty of great websites and blogs about living with chronic illness, but I could find no reference to such problems in fictional literature. So, Lizzie was born – and she tells us what it is really like to live life with weird health problems, negotiating friendships, dating and work… only, she does it in a light-hearted way. The book is not so much about chronic illness; it is about a character that happens to have chronic illness.
Soon after starting to get the ideas down on paper I heard about the KDP Storyteller competition and became spurred on by a fast-looming deadline. Imposter-syndrome hit hard once I pressed the ‘publish’ button to make the book go live. I didn’t tell my family that I had written the book to save myself from public failure, but once the reviews started to come in I began to believe in Lizzie! Initially unsure whether the humour would come across to people who didn’t know me, it was a huge relief to read early reviews that it was ‘very funny indeed’, and even ‘hilarious’! The title relates to both to the unfortunate situations that Lizzie finds herself in, and to the various supports and braces people with EDS often wear to hold their dodgy joints together.
I undertook the classic write what you know, because before I wrote anything else I just had to share this story, but in the same that way you don’t have to be plotting a killing spree to enjoy a good crime thriller, you don’t have to be sick to read Brace Yourself! The Devon-based rom-com thread carries the story along, indeed one of the aims was to cross into the mainstream enough for the book to be shared with family and friends. Wrapping the issues up in a funny tale really helps, and besides it’s in my nature to see humour in most things. My good friend, who inspired the character Kay, described the book as ‘Bridget Jones meets ER‘, which I think was a compliment!
This has been a great experience, and it’s amazing that people like me can self-publish. Of course I learned most of the lessons after I’d published the book, and I soon found out that I’d broken almost every written rule. I wasn’t able to invest financially in the project so I didn’t have a professional editor on board, or a cover designer, and I was unsure whether I would ever break even if I did, so I relied on the good will of friends to help me out with proofing. I know it won’t ever reach the dizzy heights of best seller status, although remarkably it briefly reached number 26 in its Amazon category, but the fact that I received personal messages from readers who wanted me to know that they laughed their way through the book, while finding plenty of me too! moments makes it all worth it! It is extremely exciting when I see that somebody has ordered or downloaded a copy, because I feel as though Lizzie has made a new friend!
In real life I have encountered some amazingly supportive people in the writing community too, including a couple of really lovely writers and book bloggers I’ve met through bookish twitter. Who would have thought that this adventure would have gained me new friends?
I live in Devon with my teenage son and my little fluffy dog Millie. Working part-time as a communications officer, term-time only; gives me the school holidays to explore other interests. Having got the writing bug… I am now developing the outline for book two!
You can find me on Twitter: @BraceYourselfSS
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