Reposted from author Emily Colin’s Blog:
On your website, you identify yourself as a “novelist, essayist, and freelance academic.” How do those three elements of your life express themselves? Are there commonalities between the subjects you tackle in each arena?
I write essays about mental health and disability in addition to writing novels. I write these essays, in part, because I have a psychiatric disability. Last year, I published my collected essays on mental health and disability (with some new stuff) in a book called LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED.
But here’s the thing: All of the heroines in my novels tangle with mental health, disability, addiction, and trauma in one way or another. For a long time, I kept the side of me who writes serious essays for serious publications separate from the side of me who writes novels about smart women in doing interesting things in Hollywood (and, when the Hollywood Lights series ends, other characters doing other interesting things). I realized that I always explore disability and trauma issues in my work because these issues make up my work. I can’t do one without the other.
As I’ve said before, Miranda George, the heroine in FALLOUT GIRL, is allowed to have mental health struggles AND a bright-lights Hollywood romance. She gets to have both things.
For folks who are interested in breaking into the essay-writing market, how did you get your start—and what tips can you recommend for beginners?
It didn’t hurt that I studied essay writing with some great professors over the years, both at my undergraduate institution and when I was getting my master’s in creative writing in nonfiction. So lots of practice perfecting the skill came first. But mostly, I’m always writing. I get ideas from everything around me, turning the mundane into the fantastic. That’s what makes up the best essays—the tiny details of life. And then you have to read the magazines you want to write for, and befriend the editors on Twitter (and by “befriend” I mean “stalk”), and also you must not give up.