Mental Illness

Talking about Sick, Mental Illness, and Book Marketing with @MoreStorgy

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Storgy is a high-caliber literary site, lovingly edited by a staff of creatives who are passionate about art, film, and books. I can’t tell you how honored I am to be featured on Storgy among so many talented writers. I’m looking forward to having Storgy on the blog soon. In the meantime, check out my interview today and celebrate with a free copy of Sick (with its updated cover).

About Storgy Magazine

STORGY was founded in 2013 by Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self as a means by which to explore the short story form and engage with readers and artists alike. An online literary short story magazine consisting of a core group of dedicated writers, STORGY aims to inspire artistic collaboration and provide opportunities for creative minds to meet.

INTERVIEW: Christa Wojciechowski

So Christa, thank you for having this interview with us, we were interested to learn that you used to tame lions and chase storms; how did this come about and why?

When I lived in Florida, I managed a private animal sanctuary that was open to the public. I took care of nearly a hundred animals. We had tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, lynx, primates, canines, bears, macaws, a camel, llamas, deer, a horse, a donkey, an otter, raccoons, and a wallaby. There were also snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, all the way down to scorpions and tarantulas.

The big cats were all fed by hand. I had to hack up eighty pounds of bloody horse meat each day for the carnivores. Then I’d chop up buckets of fruit and vegetables for the herbivores. We bred rats and mice to feed the snakes. There was lots of poop. Lots. It was a dirty, laborious, and dangerous job, but I loved each of those animals as if they were my own children.

A few years later, the animal sanctuary was forced to shut down because they were widening the highway in that area. That’s when I went to work with my dad at the power company. In 2004, we had a crazy series of hurricanes – Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. During emergencies, all the staff at the power company is called in for hurricane duty. This means you work about 16-20 hours a day in very dangerous conditions. My dad and I teamed up to go survey the power lines to see if there were any urgent situations and to tell the crews where the damage was. We also turned on some customers’ power while we were there. That was not protocol, but we did it anyway, and they were very grateful.

Your website says that you’re an Internet marketer which can be a full time job in itself, so when did you first discover your passion for writing? And how do you find the time with all the other things you seem to be doing?

I was a child when I first discovered my passion for writing, but I never committed to it until I moved to Panama. I couldn’t legally work here so I had a lot of free time and solitude. I decided to try writing a memoir about experiences I had in my new country. I’ll probably never publish it, but it broke the seal and helped me to realise that I had the ability to finish stories.

My job as an internet marketer came later. I used to just help family and friends with their websites and social media. It was a part-time gig for travel and Christmas money. Now it’s a full-time operation that continues to grow. I have had no time to write during the past six months and am a little grouchy because of that. You know what Kafka says about a non-writing writer, so I’m planning to turn my freelance operation into a firm and hire some people to join my team. I’m also in the process of developing some e-courses to generate passive income.

kafka

Your fiction, in particular the Sick series, demonstrates an incredibly subtle style of Horror-writing that arises from psychology and character. How did you come to develop this unique style?

This is a great question because I never consciously planned this story or the characters. I had a nightmare about this pale, sick man covered in bruises. I think he had a broken leg. I was his wife–not myself, but another woman entirely. The bedroom was disheveled and dirty. The scene was repulsive to all five senses, but the most frightening part about it was the way this woman I inhabited felt. Her husband was obviously very, very ill and yet he exuded this powerful menace. The uneasy feeling of the dream stuck with me, and after some months I decided to purge it by writing it as a story.

The psychological aspects of your writing are one of its greatest strengths. Where did your fascination with the human mind arise? Can you name a key event or moment in your life that triggered your interest and desire to explore further?

I’ve always rooted for the deranged characters in books and movies. I’m drawn to the troubled souls and insane villains, but I know I’m not alone in this. Everyone loves a good pyscho or they wouldn’t be so popular.

Some of my family members have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. I, too, went through times in my life where I felt like I might lose my mind (I’m really not quite sure if I haven’t). I’m mystified by how thoughts and emotions can break your sanity. Sure, some brain diseases can be seen in a scan, but most mental illness is in the intangible. You can look at the brain and it will be physiologically sound, but the person is incapable of functioning. It’s this invisible entity that is damaged. How does that happen? How does this ethereal organ break?

What makes it even more interesting is that the mind can repair itself through words. Therapy or writing can fix mental illness–words, which are nothing but a sound vibration. They are ink marks on paper. They’re black pixels on this screen, and they have the potential to destroy and heal. It’s all very spooky when you think about it.

Continue reading this interview on Storgy

 

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The Horror of Being Human: Guest post on @ScifiandScary

Originally posted on ScifiandScary.com

horror psychological thrillers

Christa Wojciechowski is just an awesome person. There’s no other word for it. She might write stories that utterly disturb me, but she’s great. She is, to date, the only author I actually correspond with on a semi regular basis. That says a lot. She’s written Sick, which I’ve reviewed here, and Sicker which I hosted a giveaway for. She’s got a talent for getting under your skin, and was the perfect person to write this piece on Why Psychological Thrillers Terrify Us. I hope you enjoy reading it, and high recommend you check out her books!

The Horror of Being Human: Why Psychological Thrillers Terrify Us

by Christa Wojciechowski

Horror books are scary because they trigger human beings’ most basic survival instincts: fear of creatures that might eat us, fear of the unknown, fear of the bogeyman, and fear of other nasty possibilities such as disembowelment or possession. It’s easier to face our fears by inventing monstrous archetypes because it’s “just pretend.” But the most terrifying monsters lurk within each one of us as life twists and shapes us by our experiences.

I’ve been told my psychological thriller series, SICK, is disturbing. I didn’t necessarily set out to frighten and disgust anyone. My goal was to tell the story of John and Susan Branch. I see their relationship as an exaggerated version of any marriage dynamic. Beneath the “honey-dos and sweetie pies” is a constant power struggle and insatiable craving for the beloved’s attention. At the heart of SICK is a romance that shows how two terribly f*cked-up people are trying to survive with their mental health issues.

The reasons behind their freakish behavior are desires we all share: safety, acceptance, unconditional love. I think that’s why readers understand John and Susan even when they hate to admit it to themselves.

One of my readers, a mother, felt uneasy when she associated John’s clutching neediness with her relationship with her toddler. Several readers identified with Susan’s resentments and frustrations about caregiving and the conflicting emotions between wanting a sick person to live and wishing they would die.

We all have a shadow side, and depending on what school of psychology you ascribe to, this side can be slightly different things, but what’s agreed on is that this darker side is lurking in our unconscious mind. We are either unaware of it, or we blot it out and ignore it.

Another reason I write about psychologically disturbed characters is because mental illness is present in my family, and losing my mind is one of my greatest fears. As a writer, I’m always analyzing and observing people. I pick up little clues in their body language and in their speech. They’ll flash their shadow side, exposing some selfish or childish trait or pattern that I recognize in myself. I wonder how easily I could end up like them. Are they aware of how crazy they sound? Will I know it if I’ve lost my mind?

That’s why it’s important for me as a writer to explore this shadow side through my characters. We must be vigilant of our true motivations, fears, and desires so they don’t consume us.

The reason books like SICK may affect readers on a deeper level than a traditional horror novel is because they expose this desperately hidden dark side. Underneath the bright and ordinary exterior of everyday life, people like my characters DO exist. We see parts of ourselves in each of them, and facing the inky void of our shadow side is the most frightening confrontation our conscious selves can imagine.


About Scifi and Scary:

SciFi and Scary is run by Lilyn G., a female with a serious love of horror and “hard” science fiction.  I also have an almost obscene love for bad puns. Since the beginning of the year, including about 30 short stories, I have read 120 books according to my Goodreads Challenge for 2016. Pagewise, that comes out to 24,174 pages as of 11:39 p.m. on 4/8/2106.

So, you could say: I Read. A Lot.

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Start the SICK series…


What do you think is scarier? Zombies, vampires, or your own inner demons?

 

Photo credit

New Release in Psychological Suspense: SICK

Psychological Suspense Release

It’s out!

Susan Branch’s life revolves around the care of her charming and inscrutable husband John, a man who lost his family’s fortune when his mysterious chronic illnesses left him bedridden. Together they live a decrepit existence beholden to the current owners of his family’s former estate.

After years of devoting herself to John’s care, Susan is worn out and frustrated. Yet she is determined to scrape together whatever resources she can to keep John as comfortable and as happy as possible. This includes stealing Demerol from the doctor’s office where she works to feed John’s ever-increasing need for pain medication. 

As John’s condition continues to puzzle doctors, Susan begins to notice strange objects appearing around her house. Ever wary of the creepy groundskeeper, Susan decides to confront the elderly man and put an end to his snooping for good.

John suffers a critical emergency, but he is saved by his skillful doctor and is soon released from the hospital. As his health begins to improve, Susan dreams of a normal life, but her hope for a miracle transforms into a nightmare one fateful afternoon when she discovers the true cause of John’s sickness.

Buy on Amazon

No Kindle? No problem. Read Kindle eBooks on any PC, Mac, or tablet with the Kindle app. Download the Kindle app here.

Thanks to my beta readers, my blog/social media followers, my family, and my editor Candace Johnson for helping me get my speed publishing project done. And thanks in advance for any reblogs or shares. XOXOXO

High on Creativity

Photo credit: David Nitsche

Photo credit: David Nitsche

Creating is a drug that hooks you, and just like with any other substance we abuse, the comedown is brutal and the withdrawals are a bitch. We need our fix.

How do you feel when you’ve created something?

Maybe you’ve thought of a revolutionary way to solve a problem at work, or have authored the best chili recipe ever. You may have developed an extraordinary invention, or have written a book you think just might change the world a little.

My main creative outlet is writing. When I am creating a story, the normal world turns into a fog and I become a storm–synapses firing and fingertips thundering away at the keyboard. It’s a state of zen and a wild, wild ride.

There are ups and downs during the creative process. Sometimes your art veers off into unexpected territory and you don’t know how to find your way back to your original goal. Sometimes you simply get stuck. But you struggle through the lulls and setbacks for those moments of pure creative bliss, when your mind is a gushing fount of ideas and images. I like to call this state Phantasmagoria. The words, colors and sounds are flying at you from everywhere. You enter another dimension where time doesn’t exist and all the rules are your own.

Unfortunately, time hasn’t stopped in the real world. Once you’ve awoken from your trance you realize that the sun is setting. You’ve skipped lunch and you’ve been holding your pee in for five hours.

Eventually, you make that last finishing stroke and stand back to admire what you alone created with nothing but your hands and your brain. An explosive rush shoots through your chakras. You’ve made something that never existed in quite this way before.

That high from creativity is almost impossible to describe. It’s insane, giddy elation. It’s a cross between the madness of a rogue scientist and divine rapture.

Then I read Jack Kerouac’s BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR MODERN PROSE, a set of poetic and spiritual rules I keep pinned on the cork-board in front of my desk. One simple line summed up my experience of the creative high so accurately that it startled me.

 

Visionary ticks shivering in the chest.

 

We feel emotions viscerally–in our organs, in our guts.

I feel anxiety in my stomach and stress in my shoulders. I feel sadness in my throat and joy in my heart. But when I’ve had that spark of genius (at least at that delirious moment, I think I’m a genius) of all bodily organs, it’s my lungs that quake. Why lungs? I have no idea.

My ribcage shakes with this seismic trembling–like the ideas are going to explode from my chest.  A thunder rumbles inside my skull that I can hear in my inner ears.

I thought I was the only one. I was afraid I was a lunatic, until I read that line from good ol’ Jack.

Creativity is associated with mental illness, so it is likely that Kerouac was crazy and so are many of us creative types. (I am working on a post about mental disorders and famous writers, painters and musicians. Stay tuned. It will be juicy.)

That’s why creative types get snarky and morose when they haven’t had their ‘alone’ time to create. Creating is a drug that hooks you, and just like with any other substance we abuse, the comedown is brutal and the withdrawals are a bitch.

We need our fix.

I think it’s logical to assume that our brain has evolved to release these loads of hormones when we are creating to reward new ideas that move humanity forward. So for those who have a creative urge, don’t ignore it. Don’t fight it. You may materialize the next thought or idea that changes our lives forever. Plus, it will make you happy 🙂

 

Do you get high off of creating?
 
How and where do you feel your creativity high?
 
How do recover afterwards?

 

 

Related Posts Coming Soon

  • Slideshow: Jack Kerouac’s BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR MODERN PROSE
  • Mental Illness and Creativity
  • Substance Abuse and Genius

 

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Thanks to Dave Nitsche for posting his awesome work in Flickr Creative Commons.