"Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum." Graycie Harmon
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Interview with Tiffany Fletcher, author "Mother Had a Secret."
Tiffany Fletcher is the second oldest of six children, born to a mother diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was her love of writing that helped Tiffany cope with the difficulties of her childhood and offered her peace in the mist of chaos. That peace led Tiffany to serve an LDS mission in Independence, Missouri, with a special assignment to serve in the LDS Visitors' Center. After her mission, Tiffany received her Associates degree from Rick's College and went on to receive her BA in English from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. While at Weber, Tiffany met and married the love of her life and they are now the proud parents of five young children. Tiffany enjoys reading, writing, and playing her flute and spends her spare time home-schooling her five children. Tiffany and her husband reside in Eagle Mountain, Utah where there is plenty of room for small children to grow.
As a teenager, Tiffany Fletcher knew that her mother, Vickie, had been brutally abused as a child. She knew that the abuse caused her mother’s severe mental and emotional instability, which brought painful complications for the entire family. But until a horrific car collision landed Vickie in the hospital, Tiffany didn’t know that there was a name for the turmoil gripping her home: Dissociative Identity Disorder, which produces multiple “personalities” in victims of profound trauma. It’s hard enough having a mother with one personal identity — Vickie had fifteen.
The true story of this complicated mother-daughter relationship unfolds in a weave of memory and emotion as Tiffany recounts the challenges of growing up in the care of a woman held hostage by her own shattered mind; a woman who inadvertently hurt the children she only wanted to love and protect; a woman whose premature death brought deep waves of loss, but also much-needed healing. Poetic, poignant, and heart-wrenchingly honest, this riveting narrative offers hope to victims of mental illness and their families and provides insight to readers unacquainted with this struggle. It invites compassion and inspires positive action in our most treasured relationships.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tiffany and having her tell me about her book. Immediately I was impressed by her depth of humility and strong desire to share her story, hoping to give help, insight and hope into mental illness and those who are affected by it.
This book is raw, emotional, and inspiring. Tiffany opens her heart and shares her experience with complete honesty and courage.
Here is my interview with Tiffany:
M.B.: When did you decide you wanted to write this book?
Tiffany: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I knew I wanted to write this particular book when I was in college. I took a journalism class where the assignment was to do a profile piece on a person who had an interesting life. I chose to do the piece on my mother. When I interviewed her, I realized that there was much more to say than could fit in a 600-800 word article. I kept the notes from that interview, and collected other information that I thought I might need for a book. After my mother died, I knew I wanted to write the book, but didn’t get up the courage until four years later, in 2008.
M.B.: Because this book was so personal, did you have a hard time sharing something the was so emotional and close to your heart? How did you break through that barrier?
Tiffany: This book was very personal, which made it very difficult to write at times. There were times when my husband would come home from work and I would be in tears because of the memories and emotions that I was recalling. He would lovingly force me to take a break just so I could get back to a place where I could function again. After a day or two, I would jump back in and once again go through the cycle. It was very therapeutic, though, and by the time I was done, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. During those difficult days, it was the power of prayer and the love of my husband that brought me back to reality and helped me see the beauty and blessings around me.
M.B.: What was your experience like to write this book?
Tiffany: As I said before, it was very therapeutic. It allowed me to see my mother from a different perspective and to appreciate her for the good things she brought into my life. Seeing how she forgave her own father helped me forgive her and to see her as God sees her. This book is very dear to my heart because it was my journey from anger and hate to love and understanding. It’s not just a book to me, it’s my life outlined with every imperfect detail written in black and white for everyone to read about. My experience writing it was both bitter and sweet, up and down, disheartening and spiritual, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
M.B.: What is your writing and educational background?
Tiffany: I have a BA in English with a minor in Communications and I have been writing since I was in the first grade, where I won an award in the Young Author’s Fair. I was Editor-in-chief of my High School’s literary magazine, and Feature’s Editor of my college newspaper. I have published poetry, but “Mother Had a Secret” is my first book.
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your book published?
Tiffany: After I wrote the book, I sent query letters to several different publishers and agents and the majority of those letters were returned with a rejection, or were left unanswered. One of the publishers forwarded my query to an acquaintance of theirs who owned a literary agency. The agent then sent me an email asking if they could read my manuscript for possible representation. After reading the manuscript, the agent told me that the book read more like a family history book rather than a story, and requested that I change it before they could represent me. With the help of my husband, we were able to revise the manuscript into what it is today. My agent submitted the manuscript to several publishing companies, and again there were several rejections stating that because of the economy, narrative non-fiction was on the chopping-block, and without a following (they called it a platform) that it would be difficult to sell. I decided to put the first two chapters of my book on my blog and ask people to leave a comment if they wanted to read more. Then, with the help of a friend, I made an account on Facebook and immediately found friends and allies. I started a group entitled, “Mother Had a Secret” with a link to my blog and a plea to read the chapters and share it with their friends. After a few months, I had over a thousand people join who wanted to read more. A few months later, my husband, who is a school teacher, was planning to take a group of his students to Utah Valley University for the Book Academy. He kept asking me if I wanted to go as a chaperone and I kept telling him that we could use the money for other things. Finally, the day before the conference, my husband sat me down in front of the computer and showed me the list and biographies of the people who would be presenting at the conference. Among the names was Kathy Jenkins, senior editor of Covenant who had a background in advocating for mental health. Although Covenant had been one of the publishers who had rejected me a year earlier, I felt prompted that it was worth a try because my book was about mental illness, and I immediately registered for the conference. On the day of the conference, with my husband’s students in tow, we attended the Book Academy. I took classes that I thought would help me learn how to get the publicity I needed to gain a publisher’s attention. One of the classes I attended was taught by Kelly Smurthwaite, a publicist from Covenant. She asked if anyone wanted to pitch their book to the class and I raised my hand. I decided I was here to get noticed, and that was a good start. After I pitched my book, the class was buzzing with enthusiasm. At lunch, Kelly found the table we were setting at and joined us. She proceeded to ask questions about the book and even offered her services if I ever needed good ideas. Kathy was speaking on a panel of editors during our lunch, and Kelly’s interest gave me the courage I needed to approach Kathy. After everyone had left, I walked with Kathy out the door and pitched my book to her. She was excited and told me to re-submit the manuscript to Covenant and to put her name on it. Four months later, after meeting Covenant’s board of directors, “Mother Had a Secret” was accepted for publication.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Tiffany: You bet I was discouraged. It was tough getting all of the rejection letters but I decided that I was determined to tell my story and I wasn’t going to let ‘no’ stop me. It was great too, to see how other people received the story and the first two chapters. Of course there were some negative comments made, but for the most part, people kept telling me how my story was going to touch lives. It also helped that I have an incredible husband who has always been supportive and encouraging. He always believed in me which made it easier for me to believe in myself. It also helped that my agent believed in me. It is not very often that a writer gets an agent requesting to represent them and I felt honored that I had been given that blessing. She is also very supportive and kept telling me that we just had to find the right person to read the manuscript. That person was Kathy Jenkins. I also felt Heavenly Father guiding me. I knew that if He wanted it to happen, it would.
M.B.: What do you hope readers will get from this book?
Tiffany: I hope that every reader gets what they need. There are some people who read this book who may come away with a better understanding of those who suffer from mental illness. I hope that it allows them to have more love and compassion for those who are different. Others may come away with hope and the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are others who suffer, and that no matter what, God loves them. Even others may come away with a better understanding of forgiveness and a desire to be more forgiving in their own lives. I hope that after reading this book, people are kinder, more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, and more hopeful. I hope that we can all see people as God sees them and love them as God does. We all suffer from something, and if we can all strive to be a little more like the Savior, healing will take place in all our lives.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Tiffany: I like quiet. It allows my thoughts to flow and the spirit to whisper to me. My husband on the other hand, listens to music while he writes and I can never understand how he can get anything written with the music blaring. But it works for him, and he is a much better writer than I am. Maybe I should give music a try. ☺
M.B.: To let readers get to you know you better, what is something about yourself people don’t know?
Tiffany: My life is an open book, literally. Writing this book has opened up all of my secrets and put them out there for everyone to see. I suppose, though, that the thing that I get the most comments about is that I home school my five children (which is probably the main reason why I like quiet when I write, because solitude is absent from most of my day). I do not home school because I am ultra-conservative, but because I have a background in education and I figure why am I sending my kids to school so someone else can teach them when I paid big money to get a degree in it. It just didn’t make sense to me. I have a degree in English and Communications and was also trained in music, and my husband is a high school teacher with a degree in both history and physics and a minor in math. We figure that between the two of us, we have every subject covered, so why not teach our own children.
M.B.: What are you working on now?
Tiffany: There are a few things I am toying with. I have a poem about the Savior that I am having someone draw pictures to for a possible gift book, similar to “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I am also thinking about a couple of other non-fiction books. I am waiting to see how well “Mother Had a Secret” is received before I make any definite plans.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
Tiffany: I would like to thank you for your willingness to review my book and conduct an interview. All of this is so new to me and I am overwhelmed by the support I have received from not only readers, but other authors who have helped me feel so at home in this strange new world I find myself in.
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
AUTHOR: My books can be found at Seagull Book, Deseret Book, Costco, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.com, including a Kindle edition.
My greatest claim to fame is my family. I am married to my prince charming and have four awesome children. This year I experienced the joy of becoming a grandmother to my sweet baby girl Halle. I love to travel and I love to write books.