Serena Bishop Author Interview

Hi everyone and welcome to an interview with Serena Bishop, author of ‘Beards’.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Elevator summary of me: I’m a scientist by day and author by night. I’m married to a wonderful woman and we have a fur baby. Aside from writing, I like nerdy things, good beer/wine, and movies…even the bad ones because then I can make fun of them.

I’m an only child, so when I was growing up in Western Maryland and Pennsylvania, I was in charge of making my own fun. This philosophy (and practicality) has followed me in life. I’m rarely bored because I know how to use my imagination to my life exciting.

As an adult, I was most affected by two events: coming out and teaching. Both have shown me that everyone has a past or struggles or thoughts they keep buried from others. I never assume I know anyone because so many keep these secrets.

2.        How have these major events affected your writing?

Being in schools, both as a student and as a teacher, has exposed me to thousands of people who had different socio-economics, cultures, beliefs, etcetera than me. More importantly, I observed these people (as I do everyone) noting their backstories, changes in speech patterns, strengths, nerve tics, or anything unique I feel this helps me write very different types of characters believably.

3.        What inspired you to start writing and when did you start writing?

I loved writing stories when it was required in school, but as I became older, that didn’t seem practical to me as a career. This is what caused me to pursue careers in education and science. I didn’t start writing fiction again until my wife made a bet with me—whoever wrote a novel that became a movie the fastest won. That moment was the fire I needed to motivate me to start writing again.

4.        What’s been your personal biggest stumbling block when it comes to writing?

This is the easiest question for me to answer: it’s focused time to write. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and less sleep doesn’t help because then the quality of all my work suffers.

5.        What is more important to you, character development or plot?

It’s funny, as a writer I think the plot is more important because I need it to structure the story I want to tell; however, as a reader I prefer characters. If I don’t enjoy the characters (love them or love to hate them), then I really don’t care what happens to them.

6.        What makes your work and this one in particular special?

Other than Beards being my first published novel, I think this work is special because it takes a social issue (gay marriage) and explains its evolution in a narrative that is relatable and entertaining. This was something I wanted to read but never found. Knowing history is crucial but is often presented in a manner that is dry; I wanted to change that.

7.        What happened ‘behind’ this book? Any funny stories that occurred to you?

I had a great time painting the picture that is used for the cover. I remember asking my wife, “Does it look like a five-year-old painted this?” Also, in the first draft my wife despised the character of Roni so when I revised my draft I added traits or comments that would make her more likable and Gina less likable. It was very important to me that they have equal weaknesses in character.

8.        What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?

Writing the bigotry was challenging. I think it was because I needed to get into the headspace of someone who simply hates another race/orientation or who is utterly ignorant of other people’s feelings. I could have gone further with it, as many authors do, but I felt so uncomfortable using those words I didn’t feel it was worth making myself feel like that. I made my point and decided to move on.

9.        What personal elements did you draw upon to write this?

This story takes place in an area and time where I grew up. I vividly remember conversations I heard about homosexuals or seeing the news coverage of Matthew Shepard or even the impact pop culture had on creating new discussions. Essentially, this first-hand knowledge is what gave me the confidence to write a story about something so emotional and complex.

10.     What objective material did you draw on for this novel?

I researched items in this book to the point of insanity, including what day did L.A. Law air, did Ryan Howard ever hit two home runs in May against the Atlanta Braves, and, of course, all of the laws and significant dates surrounding gay marriage.

11.     Any final takeaway lessons from this book?

I’ll never have a human baby, so this is my firstborn. I hope anyone who reads it enjoys it, and/or discovers a new perspective. Also, please review J

‘Beards’ Book Review

‘Beards’ is one indie book that I actually knew about before the author approached me for this book review (or maybe I hounded them until they gave me a free copy? Who knows, really?). Back when I was hoping to buy books and was unable to afford them, I had looked at ‘Beards’ and wondered if I would like to buy it, were I to have the means to do so.

Now, as a book reviewer I’ve tricked authors into giving me their books! Unlimited books muahahahaha!

Alright, in all seriousness, what’s the good, bad, and short stick of this book? Uhm, well… it’s kind of not well written.

Now I don’t mean this to be mean. But it all felt too short. Under-described. Character conversations were stilted and felt fake. And YET -> it still managed to be a good read.

Yeah, the characters sometimes felt a little bit like charicature-like lessons (I’m looking at you, Early). And sometimes the situations felt overly dramatic and predictably so. And yeah, the back and forth between the past and the present wasn’t always that ‘smooth’.

But you know what? It somehow still manages to be a good read. The author wanted it to be a bit of an lgbt timeline about acceptance, and it accomplished that, to a degree. And really, it made for a pleasant and entertaining read, DESPITE all its flaws. Which somehow boggles me. How did this author make so many mistakes and still make a book that’s entertaining? Must be the characters. Or their interactions. Or the funny premise of the book.

But all in all, this review is going to be short because that’s it, really. I could write up a giant list of flaws, yet this book still was in no way a waste of time. This book was fun, light, and really gave insight into the history of the lgbt movement in a vivid way. I would recommend it for young readers, for people trying to grapple our history in a more intuitive or ‘lived experience’ kind of way, without being all about protests.

I would also recommend the book to polyamorous couples/polycules, as it delicately bridges the gap between family and different kind of relationships that make them.

And that’s it folks! I hope this was interesting/useful!


Free Books! (Ish)

Who wants free books? YAYYYY!

Who wants LEGAL free books? OOOOOO!

Who wants all that without having to leave your home? EEEEEE!

Well then, come one, come all, and Join ME! Come and bask in the glory of my fiction writing in my very own reading group.

Yassss, join it. For there, little minion of doom, I will be sharing my writing, my art, and many things more. Join it! And verily, verily, great shafts of light will descend upon you and illuminate your being!

Or maybe not. But hey, it’s free, right?adelaide horse edited

The Problem with Sanity

Let’s be honest -> I got the title for this article before the idea for it. The title just popped into my head and I was like “wait, what’s wrong with sanity?” but the line bugged me so I thought on it.

And lo and behold, I discovered things that I don’t quite like about sanity (and the process of becoming sane again). Here we go!

  1. You feel normal. Now this isn’t a bad thing in the sense that feeling normal helps you interact with the average person in a better way. But damn… it’s surprisingly hard on the ego. To go from feeling special and ‘extra spiritual’ and having all these amazing wordless experiences to… nothing and feeling in commune with the average person you used to look down on? Ouch, my ego. It can feel like losing a magical cape, your ‘you’ and uniqueness.
  2. No more ecstasy for you. This one was really, really, hard on me. I used to get ecstatic out of nothing, literally, I could just lie back and bask in ecstasy during my episodes. And that’s now completely gone. Even when I have a major episode, ecstasy as I used to experience it is always out of reach. Which leaves me functional, but bored and missing my natural ‘high’.
  3. Real life is fucking stressful. Now that I’m no longer cruising through life only half-aware of what’s happening around me – damn! It’s like waking up from a coma and realizing that all your paperwork is out of order. And that no one mowed your lawn. Now that I am aware of things, I realize my failures and actually care because I’m not lost in ecstasy.
  4. No more secret languages/unique experiences. This ties closely in to #1 and #2, but it’s so distinct and was such a surprise for me that it deserves it’s own point. Music used to speak to me. It used to be a language. It used to make me cry and bring me to near-ecstasy if I focused. And I thought it was normal. Imagine my shock when I realized it had gone away? This whole language, this whole way of relaxing – just sucked out of my life. With it went the sensation of flying too, by the way. No more free flights for me.
  5. You really end up questioning yourself and your past experiences. Now when I consider things I’ve done and experienced, I can’t help but wonder what is/was a symptom. Things that the average person can just assume is ‘psychic’, I got the fun of wondering if it was just my symptoms going screwy. Like, the feeling of hands touching my back. Divine intervention/comfort? Symptom? Who knows, and … the uncertainty can be a pain in the ass.
  6. You become more logical, and you suddenly care more about rules. Before, I had a hard time caring about coloring within the lines because a) too busy being in ecstacy to care b) didn’t understand why it was important. Now that I have a better grip on social functionings, I’ve started being less ‘free’ in my judgments. I’ve started seeing the social lines delineating things. It changes who I am and how I react and care.
  7. And finally, I had to rebuild my entire life lens. The way you function and the way you experience the world has changed. It sucks, but I found it for the better. That doesn’t mean it’s not a scary experience though.

Creativity and Mental Illness

Hi everyone! Recently, a fellow blogger published a wonderful piece entitled ‘psychological changes due to medication’. It can be found here →

This piece was very interesting for me, and is the inspiration behind today’s blog post. So please give their post a read first!

Now, onwards! Today I would like to discuss (drumroll) creativity and mental illness! Hark! A fascinating topic, really!

So, how has my mental illness influenced my artistic abilities? Well! At first my answer would be ‘derp? No it hasn’t?’ because on the surface everything appears to be the same. I still draw. I still write. But, aha, ladies and gentlefolk – is the result still the same?

Ahhhhh- nope. Not at all.

You see, before my art felt stunted. I had difficulty experiencing color and expressing myself with it. I couldn’t ‘finish’ a picture, always leaving them as raw sketches. To put this in concept, my wifey bought me coloring books to relax with and I had a hard time coloring them in because that’s how stunted I was.

Here’s the thing though. When I was ‘normal’ I used to draw mathematically. Everything was straight lines and the odd curves. I would start with the eyes, finish them, then draw the nose incrimentally. Yet when I was in an ‘episode’ I didn’t draw mathematically. I drew shapes and curves and motion – but it would have none of the details that my mathematical side would have. It was as if my brain was divided and constantly popping from one skill set to another.

Now that I am medicated and balanced on that medication (so just popping pills didn’t do it – I had to get the right cocktail going on) I have noticed a great difference in my art. I use color now. I am actually able to draw so easily that I am illustrating one of my novels with (gasp!) completely finished pictures! It’s like the two sides have merged and made me even more functional than ever before. Furthermore, I am able to do greyscale drawings in ink relatively swiftly that are adorable.

And my writing? Well my writing is actually more explosive of a change!

Before taking medication I struggled to write a thousand words a day. Writing felt like pulling teeth. I loved it, but couldn’t write a sequence. I would write a scene here from, say, the beginning of a novel, then a scene from later, and then a scene from the ending. I would just write a package of floating scenes and could barely tie them all together. It was terribly messy and disjointed. There would be plot holes, hanging threads, the whole deal.

Now? Now?! The first week I started my antipsychotics it was like a booming revelation. For a week straight I wrote 5,000 words a fucking day. I just felt that good, that inspired. And yes, it was all written in sequence.

Since being on medication, I’ve been writing sequentially. I’ve completely finished two novels and am halfway through 4 others that I’ve been working on the side. There are no more floating scenes, just completed books and so much plot work.

What’s more (oh yea, there’s more!)? I’ve started having stories come to me in dreams. It’s like my medication has allowed a sort of communication to happen, and I’m halfway through one novel based entirely off a dream and have started two others as well as received tips and conclusions to others in dreams. WHAAAAT? This is epic! It’s like now that I’m functional spirits are coming to me like ‘hey, here’s a writer, write my story for me!’ and I’m like ‘yeah sure, hand me that!’… and now I’ve literally got over a dozen novels going. I shit you not. I’m not working on them all right now, there’s just a lot on the back burner. But damn, I got so many tips and revelations for my stories from my dreams, I really really love it!

What’s else? My stories are lighter. My stories are brilliantly, genuinely, funny and light-hearted. I’ve found my tone, my voice, in a fantasy world that I came up with when I started medication. Since its conception it’s been a respite, a ‘happy place’ that I go to. It’s become a bursting series of joy and creativity.

Have I lost my touch for writing dark stuff however? Well, I’ve always had difficulty writing serious series. I can hardly make it a quarter way into a novel that’s all ‘dark and serious’ without losing interest and calling it ‘the most boring shit i’ve ever written’. I just don’t do serious. I just don’t do dark. I do complex, I do epic, I do funny and dork.

And what else what else what else? Y’all, this is the final foot-stomper! I have finally, Finally, FINALLY started working on my theology book about Wicca and Mental Illness.

Ya heard that right! I’m writing a book on mental illness! A theological analysis of mental illness through various aspects and I am just SO PROUD of myself for getting there.

Because it’s not easy to write, ya know. It’s difficult, thick, and I have to think theologically and in a straight line to be able to do it. But I’m proud to say that it’s getting there. It might be short, but it Is HAPPENING!

So that’s that y’all! My medication has really affected me a ton! By helping get me on my feet, it has helped me grow as an artist and writer and I am so so proud of the progress that I have made! 🙂 I know it’s maybe an unusual story and that I am very lucky to have found medication that works so well for me. Not everyone is as lucky as I am and not everyone has found the right medication yet. But for me, this is my story.

Have you felt any changes in your art since starting medication? Has your mental illness crippled your art in any way? Do share!

Exposed ~ Discussing Mental Illness on the Web

via Daily Prompt: Exposed

Exposed. If there is one thing that I feel while discussing mental illness on the web, it’s exposed. Not that the reception has not been kind, generous, and understanding. But it feels so strange to be discussing both spirituality and mental illness, together, without starting an argument. Without receiving backlash, patronizing comments, or sheer ignorance. Whenever I’ve discussed these topics before, I felt as if I was being punished for doing so.

Now, however, I’ve found a gentler platform. A safe place (if such a thing exists on the web) wherein I can discuss topics that for so long have been taboo and ‘wrong’ to discuss. Yet even with all this kindness around me, I still feel exposed.

I still feel raw and open to everyone as I discuss my thoughts, my private theories, and my intimately strange experiences between me and my condition. I keep expecting to receive hate and scorn at any moment. Because of this, I scour my posts over and over to make sure my arguments are as waterproof as can be. I reread and reread them to make sure they’ve got a disclaimer on them.

I wish writing about such things was not as stressful as it is. I wish I didn’t feel like I’m writing in a minefield waiting to erupt. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I feel as if one word, light like a feather, will land in the wrong place and start a war.