From the back of the book:
“After stumbling upon his suicide, Kate Nardek sees her dead neighbor everywhere – hanging from the ceiling fan, in her rearview mirror – dark holes where his eyes should be. Three days after Michael’s suicide, Kate envisions her own thirteen-year-old son, Josh, hanging from a garage rafter. She realizes the kind of despair that led Michael to kill himself fuels Josh’s increasingly violent blowups.”
So, what is Kate to do? She turns to a psychologist, to her godmother, to her priest. Yet, it often seems so hopeless. It’s not easy diagnosing a teen’s mood disorder. And Josh is exhibiting several different forms of mental illnesses.
As the family works to figure out how to cope with Josh and his anger toward them, Kate must stay strong and hope it doesn’t tear her marriage or herself apart.
This was a fascinating book, to say the least. Charrie did an excellent job of bringing mental illness to light as she shares in fiction form issues she faced in her own life.
When I was in college, I took a course in abnormal psychology in children. Most of the disorders are not able to be diagnosed in those under the age of 18, yet once an adult, the same symptoms must have been manifested when the person was a child. It makes it very tricky to find the solution, to say the least.
As I read Charrie’s book, I was reminded of some of what I learned in that class.
I would recommend this book to those dealing with these types of issues in their own families. It would also be an excellent read for teachers or other adults who deal with children on a day-to-day basis.
I hope Charrie follows this book up in a few years to let readers know how everything turned out for Josh. I know I’d definitely read a sequel.
And now for the interview!
Readers, please welcome Charrie Hazard to Reading Frenzy. She has been gracious enough to agree to this interview and I'm sure you'll all enjoy it!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up on the Potomac River in Virginia, at the end of a large wildlife preserve, and spent much of my free time sailing with my parents, reading, or riding my chestnut hunter through the preserve.
After graduating from the College of William and Mary, I became a journalist and worked two and a half years at the Lynchburg News and Daily Advance in Central Virginia. I then took a job with the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, where I became first an investigative reporter, then an editorial board member, writing editorials, op-ed columns and in-depth Sunday Perspective pieces.
I left journalism after the birth of my second child, spent a few years earning my master’s degree in English literature at the University of South Florida and then began teaching literature and writing at the university level. Currently, I teach rhetoric and composition at the University of Tampa, am president of the Clearwater, Fla., branch of the National League of American Pen Women Inc. and am a board member of the Gunston Hall School Foundation, Washington, D.C., a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to students with learning disabilities who cannot afford the specialized education they need.
I have three children: Leo, 21 (now a successful university student); Ellie, 17; and Emma, 13. I play acoustic-electric guitar and sing in my church’s rock band and enjoy sailing and reading when I’m not at flute competitions with Ellie or at horse shows with Emma and her hunter paint pony “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or J.J. for short.
Talk a little about your book.
Falling into the Sun begins when protagonist Kate Nardek discovers her neighbor’s suicide. She realizes the kind of despair that spurred Michael’s self-destruction fuels her 13-year-old son’s violent blowups. This prompts her to seek psychological help for her son Josh, a decision that propels her not only into the labyrinth of mood disorder diagnosis and treatment but also on a spiritual journey that forces her to rethink her beliefs about mental illness, good and evil, blame and judgment and even death.
Parallelling her journey is that of her dead neighbor, whose soul flies into the center of creation. There, he discovers something has noted every twist of his life. This being’s perfect knowledge generates the healing salve of perfect, non-judgmental compassion.
Michael is given a choice: He can face the truth behind violent episodes in his recent life or he can choose the seeming bliss of ignorance. He chooses the harder path: knowledge.
Why did you decide to write this book?
The novel is loosely based on my own experience. Like my protagonist, I walked in on my neighbor’s suicide. He had hanged himself in his garage.
This tragic incident was a defining moment in my life, one that forever changed me and redirected my life’s path. It prompted me not only to get professional help for my troubled son, but also to pursue my long-abandoned dream of writing fiction.
From a young age, I had always dreamed of fiction writing. As an adult, however, I took a parallel path, journalism. Though I was a very successful journalist and did much good in that profession, I felt unfulfilled.
I was also a good teacher and have many notes from students thanking me for opening so many doors for them, but still, I felt I had compromised.
The suicide prompted me to do something about that ― to take up my childhood dream and write in my own voice, write my own stories. I initially started to write a novel titled In Our Midst, which followed the parallel paths of two women thwarted in the pursuit of their dreams. But every time I sat down to write, my neighbor’s suicide and my son’s story bubbled up.
I was simply compelled to write this story, so I put aside the unfinished In Our Midst and began writing what ultimately became Falling into the Sun. I feel much of the story flowed through me rather than came from me.
How difficult was it to share such intimate feelings with readers, even though they were fictionalized?
Very! Writing, for me, is equivalent to putting myself on display, not the professional, scripted photo of me, but the real me, with all the seeming mess. I’m not talking about events of my life, but my beliefs, my emotions, my fears, my philosophies, my perceptions, some or which are keen, others skewed.
Having all that judged by strangers is scary. However, I’ve learned that the more vulnerable I allow myself to be when I write, the better my writing.
How did writing the book change your life?
Actually, deciding to write Falling into the Sun changed my life more than the actual writing of it. Making that decision was very difficult. I had to overcome the critical voice within that for years had told me I was no good and my dream was hopelessly stupid. I had to let go of my fear of failure and my perfectionism (if I couldn’t write the great American novel right out of the box, then I should just give up). Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and the Bhagavad Gita helped me greatly in this area.
I also had to change my priorities. I quit teaching for a number of years and concentrated on developing my art. I joined a serious critique group, attended writers’ conferences and forced myself to write every day. As I moved forward on this new path, for the first time in my life, I felt I was doing what life was calling me to do and with that came a budding sense of fulfillment.
What’s next for you?
Can’t say for sure. I’m continuing to go wherever my writing leads and as I’ve discovered about practicing art, I often don’t know where I’m going until I get there.
Thanks, Charrie for joining us today. I'm sure my readers were able to learn something positive from you. I know, I did!