Author: Victoria Sawyer
If you suffer from panic attacks or any type of debilitating anxiety (or know someone who does) and you feel alone or confused, you'll want to read this. Victoria has a knack for describing the mental and physical pains of anxiety. Her writing feels honest, brutally so, and is packed with raw emotion.
Many of the passages touched me on a deep level and I found myself teary-eyed on more than one occasion while reading.
Don't think that Angst is all serious, sad and depressing. There is some outrageous and raunchy dialogue between the main character and her girlfriends and it cracked me up a few times. It was much appreciated levity in between truly emotional sequences.
I recommend Angst.
Q: Angst is a fictionalized autobiography. Was it difficult to write about something that was so personal to you? Was it fun, therapeutic, painful or a combination of all those things?
A: For the most part I didn’t find it difficult to write about because it’s something that is almost second nature to me. I am so accustomed to feeling that way, that it comes natural for me to describe how it feels, however that being said, there were some parts of this book that did make me squirm. I felt like I had to “take it there” to bring her into the places that scared me the most and then make her live through them. This was difficult. For example, the scene in the car with her friends and then the mall was hard for me. I have been to that place before, mentally and physically, however I never made it as obvious to friends as she does in that situation. But I felt like I had to push it, push the limits of what she could handle to bring home the idea that life is pretty difficult for her.
The other aspect that made me squirm was knowing that people were going to read it and I’ve always had this fear that people wouldn’t understand me or would think I was very strange. But I think sharing it actual accomplishes my goal, that of educating people on what it feels like to suffer from anxiety and panic and therefore gain their empathy and understanding. I did just that with my editor who is a friend of mine. She said I opened her eyes to what it’s like. She had always thought it was no big deal. Have a panic attack, get over it. So I think that it was worth it, to expose that secret side of myself, those secret fears.
Q: In Angst, we find out that your mother also suffers from anxiety. Has she read the book? If so, how does she feel about it? What about other family or friends?
A: My mother has not read the book. There are two reasons I have not shared it with her. One is that there is definitely some scandal and bad decisions making in there and I know my mother and the rest of my family will automatically think that everything that happens in my novel is something that happened to me (and yes, many of those things did happen to me, in different ways) however, letting your family read about it is another matter altogether! Those are like the skeletons in your teenage closet and it’s fine for most of the world, but my poor sweet, innocent mother, not so much (You’d have to meet her to know, she’s the sweetest woman ever). The second reason is that I think reading it might make her panic because sometimes talking about it does. I have talked with her about the book and my writing in general quite a bit though and we share our experiences with panic all the time. I think she’s proud of me because like me, she hopes that my book can help people.
I do have some friends who have read it and others who sort of know I’m writing or was working on a novel. I may share more and more as time goes on because, why not? If I can achieve my goal of opening people’s eyes and thereby reduce the stigma both for myself and for others, then that is what I want to do.
Q: I’d love to read more of Victoria’s story from where Angst left off. How is she coping, etc. Is there any chance you’ll write more about that?
A: My goal is actually to write and publish a second installment at some time in the future. I don’t have the exact story line down yet, but I do know that I want it to involve another breakdown and more healing and learning for her. In my own life, I have had suffered breakdowns and near breakdowns since that time in college, however I have also learned a lot about myself and about natural means to deal with panic and anxiety.
Q: You self-published Angst. Is there a reason you went with self-publishing over traditional publishing? Did you enjoy the self-pub process? Anything you’d do differently next time?
A: I guess the blunt answer is that I went with self-publishing because I am a control freak and I am impatient. Waiting for someone else to validate that my book was worthy to be published just didn’t rub me the right way. Although I must say that most of the time I was writing my novel, that is exactly what I was looking for because I felt that it wasn’t good enough and I needed someone to tell me it was. And when that aha moment finally happened with a new friend who suffers just like I do who read it for me, it was like a light bulb went off and I realized I could publish it myself, I could be strong enough, bold enough and in fact I hoped that I could help others like me and educate those who don’t suffer.
I have enjoyed the process for the most part, although the small techy bits do get annoying because you are basically relying on yourself to put out a finished product. It can get nerve wracking and there are those back to the drawing board moments where you fix, revise, reformat and try again and those do get frustrating. But I also like the control. No one is telling me how to market my book, no one is telling me how to write or edit it or how to design the cover. It’s all me. (I did design the cover myself, by the way! Another of my passions is graphic design)
Q: In Angst, your love interest is “Jared”. What ever happened to him in real life? (If you’re willing to share.)
A: Unfortunately for me, Jared is a purely fictional character although he is based on someone in my life currently. I did have a boyfriend at the time, just like Victoria, although my story does not correspond exactly with hers, however I didn’t want to tell that story. I wanted to create a fresh character who had some of the qualities of someone I care about now.
Q: Do you plan to publish another story? If so, will it be about anxiety or do you plan to write something totally different?
A: I would like to continue writing and I have several ideas and interests for my next book. Eventually I will finish Victoria’s story with a second edition and for now I might try out something different, something a little less psychological. I have interests in modern fairy tales, reincarnation, time travel, scary stories etc. I have yet to decide which I’ll tackle next. There are definitely word docs out there waiting for me to work on them!
Q: What (if any) ways, other than drinking, have you learned to cope with anxiety?
A: I have learned quite a lot of ways to deal with anxiety. I actually have a post on my blog about my panic attack methods and there are probably 8-10 methods that I use. Some of the best are exercise, meditation and eating a banana a day (seriously I mean this! My mom and I both do it). Basically healthy living, the right foods, etc. But am I always successful? Nope, panic attacks are still my burden every single day. It’s funny for me to imagine that most people have a normal brain and that every situation does not need to be analyzed through “what if” scenarios about panic. It’s still fairly ingrained in me but I think I still lead a pretty decent life, even if it is restricted.
Q: If you don’t mind me sharing, the following is a passage from Angst that I highlighted because it really struck a chord with me.
Ok. I guess that wasn’t a question. But feel free to comment or not.
A: That’s actually a favorite passage of mine as well because it makes you think the person is in a war zone or is being attacked or fears for their life. But they aren’t in a life threatening situation, they are doing something so normal. And it is irrational and even though the sufferer knows this, it still happens. Sometimes I almost think the worst part is trying to hide it, trying to act like nothing is happening. Anxiety really is a freaky mind trip, a bad bad mind trip. The kind of psychological mind knots that I can get myself in are truly astounding.
Q: What message would you most like to impart on people who suffer anxiety/panic?
A: I have several messages I’d like to impart. One is that you are NOT crazy! Really, truly, you are not and if you are, there are tons of us who are crazy with you. Secondly, it’s okay to lean on someone, it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay that you can’t “fix” yourself. Sometimes having someone else affirm the fact that you are not crazy for you, makes you realize it’s the truth. My husband is this person for me. He says to me, all your fears are normal, everyone has felt that way at some point or other, you just take it to another level and this is completely true and he’s the most rational person ever. If he can tell me this, it makes me feel a hell of a lot better. He helps me rationalize my own irrational thoughts. Thirdly, suicide is not the answer! I know it sometimes feels as if it’s the only escape from the thoughts and feelings, but it’s not. There are the good parts of life and they are worth it. Just hang on! The bad shit can’t last forever.
Q: Tattoos. Hot or not? And do you have any?
A: I do not have any, however I don’t have a problem with them on someone else. I can definitely see it being hot, however I’m not with someone that has tats either. It’s definitely a certain look and I can appreciate it on a badboy/girl!
Q: Dogs, cats or other?
A: Cats all the way. Hell no to dogs. They are too drooly and their fur gets everywhere and they are so needy! Take a cat’s neediness and multiply by like 100. I don’t have patience for that. Heaven help my future children. ;) I don’t have a cat now though, he died. RIP.
Q: Kindle, Nook, Paper? Other?
A: Kindle and paper. I like both. But it is nice to have several books on the Kindle at the same time and then you can choose which to read next without dragging 10 paperbacks with you.
A: Honestly, this is like asking for my existential meltdown. I have NO idea. I wish I did. I tweeted once, Our lives, the universe, our very existence is like a mystery novel. Will all the secrets be revealed by the time we’re done reading? I really hope so!
Thanks for being here today, Victoria! I truly enjoyed Angst and definitely recommend it to others!
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