Since my book was published last year, lots of people have asked me why I wrote it. I suppose there are many answers to that question ranging from, “Because I wanted to see if I could write at length.” to “Because I wanted to think through how I felt about the topic.” In order to write this article I have spent some time thinking hard about the answer to this question and I think that the most honest answer I can give is that I wrote ‘Isolation Junction’ because I believe I have a contribution to make to the whole current debate about domestic violence and coercive control. In writing my book as a narrative rather than as an academic discussion paper I was hoping that it would appeal to a new and possibly different audience. Those who perhaps enjoy relaxing, reading a novel as part of their busy lives and who in reading the novel will relate to and recognise aspects of unacceptable behaviour.
It is my belief that often books which deliver the most powerful message are those where the message is hidden within the story. Why else would some of these stories hit the headlines as Hollywood blockbusters if their message was not compelling and powerful?
It is often said that everyone has a book in them and I believe this to be true. So, how do you go about recognising this and beginning your journey?
Here’s a good place to start discovering your message/what to write about:
1. First list topics you’re interested in, love or feel passionate about – this could be anything from a hobby to a taboo subject to an interest in fairytales- it could be anything.
2. Do an old fashioned spider diagram of aspects of the topic and include any thoughts for writing material.
EG. For me it was the taboo subject of domestic abuse so I wrote my passionate feelings on it : awareness, show abuse for what it can be like, focus on the emotional abuse and coercive control side as it needs to be uncovered, my fears, my sacrifice, women need to know about unhealthy relationships, what does a healthy relationship look like. A life changing message, education through entertainment. And so on.
3. Which of your topics has the most depth? Which one are you drawn to? Which one is screaming out the be wrote about? Which one has a message?
——> The message doesn’t have to be a life changing but it could bring someone an escapism, it could be that you want to help people through a self help book (how does it help?), it could be that you want to feed those who love fantasy (how does your idea bring something new to the genre). One of the common questions is why did you write your book? so its great to find that why before you put pen to paper, fingers to keys.
4. Keep all the spider diagrams in case you come back to them at a later day. Focus on the topic and spider gram you have chosen to write about and test it out, get some ideas together. Continue to build on the spider diagram and think about the basic wireframe of a book.
5. Write a short story, blog or even your thoughts about the topic and post it out to the world, ask followers, friends and family to give you feedback. If you don’t already have a social media page and website then begin growing this right away. You can let people know that you’re working on and gain feedback. Take on the feedback and rethink or build your idea. Making your why a powerful one.
Not only will this help the beginning of your writing journey but it will help your marketing because you can tell people why you wrote your book, blog post, short story etc.
Let me tell you a little more about my why that I touched on earlier and where the inspiration came from.
I was on an awareness course about Domestic Abuse. Alongside me were about 8 other women who had been in abusive relationships. As the day progressed, I found that I simply couldn’t believe that some of what the other women were saying was exactly what I had gone through but just in a different format. Domestic Abuse tends to go in a cycle and whichever way it begins, the behaviour spirals again and again. At first it could be months between incidents but for me, as time went on there were many instances within one day. It is quite normal to try to prevent the cycle from starting again by changing your behaviour as much as possible. By the end of the course I had come to understand that we were all subjected to the same behaviour and that no one knew before that this could even happen to someone i.e. that a relationship can be so unhealthy and soul destroying. I realised that others simply needed to know more about this unacceptable behaviour; they needed to see the warning signs before the relationship goes further or the behaviour gets even more serious. On the other hand I needed others to see the behaviour for what it is. If people are in a relationship and the behaviour within it is not acceptable and is not their fault, it can’t simply be changed by changing yourself.
I knew I had a story to tell and with my previous unfinished written work I realised my first novel had to be more than a book but that all important message – a way for others to be able to pass a book on to help victims and to get the penny to drop and bring about realisation of what is happening sooner. This means that when the relationship ends victims and survivors realise they are not the only ones out there and its ok to talk about the abuse. But also uniquely in an ‘entertaining’ way and using a form of media and the work of fiction to bring it to light.
It didn’t take long to get going as I had written a lot of notes about my own feelings as a way of releasing my emotions, I found the process therapeutic and as I started the journey I also brought my friends and family and followers on it with me. I set up social media FB page and Twitter feed early on to start sharing thoughts, updates, quotes, memes and links relating to writing, the progress of my journey and domestic abuse. It certainly made an impact and unfortunately a lot of messages from fellow victims and survivors of their own struggles and the feeling of not being able to talk about it until seeing my posts and messaging me.
The novel was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which received 110% from those who followed my journey of this idea over a period of 12-18 months.
Isolation Junction was released to the world in October 2016 (domestic abuse awareness month). My book follows the story of Rose who is stuck in an abusive and coercive relationship referred to as Isolation Junction. After years of emotional abuse, the self doubt about her future and the erosion of her confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself alone, penniless and frightened Rose wonders how she will ever escape from the situation to provide a better life for herself and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1000 reasons why she perceives she can’t – will she have the courage to do it? And will she find the support to regain control and confidence?
The novel has received a fantastic amount of local press coverage and those who have read it have expressed their feelings towards the taboo subject and the novel:
“Jennifer Gilmour has taken a taboo subject and turned it into a book of hope … she has shown we do not have to be victims of domestic abuse …. but survivors”
“Isolation Junction shows that there can be life after abuse, that a woman finding herself in a similar situation deserves to be valued.”
”This book I was not able to put down”
“A hugely important book!”
“A very gripping and interesting read”
“Thank you Jennifer for highlighting this issue and hopefully inspiring women to break free from emotional abuse”
“A fictional account of an everyday, unacceptable issue”
What’s your message? Whats your why? What makes your work a value to the reader?
I look forward to hearing your responses.
I am also working on another project that involves other survivors and victims of domestic abuse, if you feel able to talk about an experience involving domestic abuse then please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is brought to you by Jennifer Gilmour.