Lindsay and I are excited to share our Q & A with Lana Grace Riva author of The Existence Of Amy. A powerful look into the daily struggles of a character with a mental illness.
Lindsay: Hi Lana! Thank you for being with us! I really enjoyed your book and feel like my eyes have been opened to better understand OCD and social anxiety. Amy was an incredible character who I loved. How did you come up with Amy’s character?
Lana: Hello, thank you so much for inviting me! I’m so glad to hear you feel you have a better understanding of OCD – one of the main reasons I wrote this book was to facilitate some more understanding around mental illness. It can be an incredibly hard thing to grasp if you have no direct experience of it, so I created the character of Amy to give readers an insight into what daily life is really like for someone suffering.
Brenda: Hi Lana! Thank you so much for joining us! I thought you did such a great job capturing Amy’s thoughts and voice. It was easy to follow her thoughts without getting overwhelmed by them. I also thought you kept the plot simple and that allowed me to really connect to those thoughts.
How did you go about capturing Amy’s thoughts and voice? Did you plan anything out or it all came together as you were writing?
Lana: Hello, thank you so much for inviting me! I didn’t actually do much planning at all for this book. I had one main goal which was to illustrate the reality of mental illness, and from that starting point the rest came together as I was writing. I have personal experience of mental illness so that led me quite easily into creating Amy’s voice and thoughts.
Lindsay: I really enjoyed the secondary characters and felt that their relationship dynamics with Amy really helped show the true struggles that Amy faced everyday. How did you come up with each of those coworkers characters? Were they based on any real life inspiration from people you know?
Lana: I have seen first-hand how relationships can be fractured and sometimes even ruined by mental illness. However, that is not every relationship. Friendships can still exist and be strong, so I wanted to portray both sides.
I also wanted to highlight how we are all guilty of judging a person without taking proper time to consider what they may be dealing with. I hope that Amy’s story will make people stop and consider this in future, and practice empathy when reacting to a person’s behaviour.
Yes, parts of each character were inspired by real life people I have known. I’ve been very fortunate to know people that really are as kind and amazing as some of the characters.
Brenda: You kept the plot simple here and we follow Amy thought her days and experience her thoughts with her. Was there a reason you kept the plot simple?
Lana: Yes absolutely. The plot was deliberately kept simple to reflect the fact that mental illness is all consuming. In the life of someone suffering, there is often little going on outside the illness, in comparison to what is going on inside their brain
Lindsay: What kind of research did you do for this novel?
Lana: Whilst the story is fictional, it is very much based on real experience of mental illness. I have personal experience of this, so not a lot of research was required.
Lindsay: How long did it take you to write The Existence Of Amy? What was your writing process like? Did you have a daily writing schedule or daily word count goal?
Lana: I wrote it pretty quickly – I can’t remember exactly, but I think the initial draft took only around a month or two. I wrote early mornings and evenings mainly. I didn’t sleep much because that seemed to be when most of my ideas would appear, so I would have to then get up early and write them all down! I didn’t worry too much about word count because I didn’t want to attach any targets to my writing. Most days I felt like writing, but I didn’t want to feel pressure to meet a certain word count if I wasn’t able to write one day.
Lindsay: Is there a next novel in the works? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
Lana: I am working on something new, yes. It still has a focus on mental health, but this time it is more about how relationships and experiences can affect a person mentally, as opposed to a specific mental illness. It is very much still in the draft phase and taking me much longer to write than The Existence Of Amy did!