Author Interview Questions
- What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Theresa Larsen. I was born in West Palm Beach, FL and grew up in Jupiter, FL. I now reside in Jacksonville, FL. I lived in the U.K. for 12 years, residing in outer London, England for 6 years and Cardiff, Wales for 6 years.
- Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I have wanted to be a writer for about 25 years. I taught elementary school for 12 years, before becoming a stay-at-home mom. It was still several years after that, before I seriously started writing.
- Do you have plans for a new book?
I am working on the biography of Dr. Erik Larsen, a man whose life spanned nine decades. Born into a working class family in Denmark, Erik Larsen would have become a civil servant or tradesperson, with no hope of higher education. Luckily his family immigrated to the United States when his was two years old. Dr. Larsen later went to medical school and was drafted into the army during the Korean War, where he served as a surgeon in the first M.A.S.H. unit. He continued to deliver outstanding medical service in the United States over the next fifty years and was eventually knighted by the king of Denmark.
- Who designed the Cover of your book?
The cover of my book is a self-portrait of my son. He is an amazing artist and I felt that the picture conveyed a dark mood and feeling. He didn’t draw this specifically for my book, this was an art piece he had done several years prior to my writing, but it seemed to fit perfectly. It was pointed out to me by a friend in the psychology field about the fascinating example of the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the body. The right side of the face in the illustration is in shadow, the left side of the brain, that controls the right side of the body, is responsible for understanding and use of language, memory and detailed analysis of information. During my son’s darkest times, his ability to communicate and interpret information was poor or I could say shadowed. The artwork depicts this state of mind beautifully.
I choose the back cover picture of a phoenix because this is how I see my son, “a powerful being with the strength and ability to rise above harrowing and tragic circumstances and recreate himself.” The covers have a mixture of dark and light, creating an element that is a thread throughout the book. I had specific ideas of how I wanted the cover to work and the graphic design team at CreateSpace helped me with the final product.
- There were many setbacks that you describe. What was it that was in you that kept you moving forward?
The desire to keep my son alive was always at the forefront of all of my decisions involving his care. I didn’t always feel as if I had great choices offered to me, but I did my best to muddle through and find the help my son needed. I also have the most amazing and supportive husband. I could not have done this alone without him by my side. He was often the voice of reason when I felt hopeless.
- This is a very personal account about your family that you wrote about. How and why did you make the decision that you would put your story “out there?"
I started the memoir as a therapeutic goal for myself. It helped me to sort out my feelings and answer the question: Why do I react to certain things the way I do? I had made many notes and written in journals and calendar books for several years when my son was in and out of treatment, plus I had all of his treatment documents from professionals who cared for him. Putting the words on paper in a chronological way was the easy part. When it came to difficult sections of self-harm or psychosis I broke those up into small pieces and wrote a little at a time. The hardest part of the book was the editing. It took almost twice as long to edit as it did to write. I cut more than half of the original writing out of the memoir. Polishing and rereading were grueling, but in doing this I realized that I could help others. I would have loved to have a book like this to read and give me hope when I was caring for my son and to have resources that were easily accessible. I decided to publish the memoir and start my website, adding blogs to give information and a resources page with everything I found helpful.
- Did you choose a title first or write the book then choose the title?
I always make up a title first and then start writing, changing it as I go along. I started by calling this book Matthew’s Book (name has been changed to protect the privacy of my son) just to put a name on it when I saved it on my computer, then I changed it to Striking the Match, and finally honed in on Cutting the Soul.
- Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block?" What did you do to get past the "block?"
I have come to points in writing when I’m not sure which direction to take, during these times I tend to do research or edit what I have already written. This gives my mind an opportunity to focus on other information. During the writing of Cutting the Soul there were times when I had to physically get up and walk away from my computer because the subject matter or episode I was writing about became overwhelming.
- What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I love to read, but I don’t do it often enough. I am a member of a book club and read at least one book a month. I can become an obsessive reader, not wanting to put the book down, so I have to limit myself. I enjoy hiking and playing with my dogs.
- Do you have a favorite genre of book?
My favorite genre is Young Adult fiction. I especially love magical YA fiction, where the characters have special powers. I do enjoy a good mystery. Agatha Christie was my favorite author as a teenager. I read all of her books. I also enjoy a well written romantic, historical fiction. My favorites’ are Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett.
- What is the nicest comment that you have received from someone who has read your book?
The nicest comment I have received about my book is from my daughter, partly because I did not expect her to read it. She lived this with us and I didn’t think she would want to relive it by reading about it, but she did. She texted me after she was finished and said, “I have no words--absolutely incredible. I have extremely underestimated all you went through with Matthew. I have absolutely no idea how you coped with that and still managed to be an amazing mother to me. I am so proud to call myself your daughter. Your strength inspires me. If I can become half the woman you are I would be thrilled. I’m so blessed to have you as my mom. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”