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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Interview: Michelle Balge

I am welcoming author Michelle Balge to The Writing Greyhound today for a chat about her latest release A Way Out. The perfect way to get to know a writer is through their words, so why not read on and find out what Michelle had to say?

How did you first become interested in writing?
Ever since recovering from mental illness I’ve been wanting to write about my experience. A couple of years ago I wrote several guest blog posts and began presenting speeches to the community. Wanting to share my experience in a different way to more people pushed me to write this memoir.
Tell me about A Way Out.
A Way Out is about my experience with mental health and illness, specifically depression and social anxiety. I share the darkest points in my life, the most embarrassing, and the happiest. A Way Out is a balance of light and dark. You may cry from sadness, but you may also cry from joy. It is really a book about perseverance and hope.
a-way-out, michelle-balge, book

Why did you decide to write it?
I wrote A Way Out to show people that there is hope. I want others to know that despite how hopeless life may seem, there is a way out. It may not be the path I took, but mine isn’t the only path. There are twists and turns, and sometimes you may go backwards, but there will always be a light at the end of the path.
What drew you to writing about mental health?
Mental health has been a big part of my life for many years now. While in university I was the President of a mental health club and was super involved with mental health in other ways too. If I was going to write about anything, it was going to be my experience with mental health.
Did you find writing the book a challenge?
I found writing my memoir to be a fun challenge. I had never written a book before, fiction or non-fiction, so it was very new to me. I always enjoyed writing essays in school and wrote the occasional poem, so I knew there was a fair chance my writing would be up to par. It’s scary to share my deepest secrets and thoughts with the world, but I know it will help others.
Was writing your memoir a therapeutic process?
I believe that in order to write a good memoir, it can’t be for therapeutic reasons. I wrote it not for myself, but for others, and I kept that in my mind throughout the whole process. There were definitely points where I thought “wow I’ve come far,” but I knew I had already gotten to a point where I’m happy.
What’s your writing process?
I began writing A Way Out the day I decided I was finally going to write a memoir. That day and the next week were filled with writing thousands of words and doing hours of research in-between. By the end of the week, I had written half of the first draft. The other half took several months to write, and in order to use my authentic voice, I only wrote when I felt the urge to. This includes waking up in the middle of the night with an idea and writing it out before I fell back asleep. To write different parts of the book I had to listen to different types of music. I listened to Linkin Park on repeat to write the darkest parts, while switching to upbeat music for inspirational sections. Music was incredibly helpful throughout the process.
michelle-balge, author

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing about writing is worrying about my writing. Worrying that a scene isn’t good enough so I’ll start all over, or worrying that I’m forgetting something and if I leave that out I’m not telling the whole story.
What do you love most about writing?
What I love most about writing is that it gives me another way to express my feelings and remember my past. It has brought back so many memories, both good and bad, which I’m grateful for.
Do you have any tips for aspiring memoirists?
Whenever a memory comes to you, no matter how small, write it down somewhere. I often forget what I’m thinking about minutes after a thought runs through my head, so I was careful to write down any memories or words that came to mind. The more you write about your memories, the more that will come to you that you had forgotten about.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently busy with promoting A Way Out and finishing my post-graduate certificate in web design. I’m definitely considering writing children’s books related to mental health, and perhaps I’ll delve into other genres as well.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m reading Suddenly One Summer by Julie James. I’ve read a few of her books now and am really enjoying them.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite book is Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I have a fascination with knowing how people lived their lives around the 1800s, so reading a book by someone who actually lived through that time was amazing. I have yet to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (which I’ve owned now for over 6 years) because I worry about how emotional it will make me, but I’m betting it would come to a close second or even first.
What are your ambitions for A Way Out?
My ambitions for A Way Out are to reach people who are experiencing or have experienced mental illness, people who know someone who is going through it, and people who want to learn more about mental health. I truly want to be able to make a difference. If I can help even one person to feel like they’re not alone, that would mean everything to me.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Outside of writing and reading, I’m really interested in web design, hence me being a student. I’ve dabbled in web and graphic design for many years but only recently considered it as a career. Another interest of mine is animals. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 7 years and have grown up with pets my whole life.
A Way Out is available to buy now. For more about Michelle and to stay up to date with the book, you can visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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