Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples

Leaving the Hall Light On charts the near-destruction of one middle-class family whose son committed suicide after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder. Madeline Sharples, author, poet and web journalist, goes deep into her own well of grief to describe her anger, frustration and guilt. She describes many attempts – some successful, some not – to have her son committed to hospital and to keep him on his medication. The book also charts her and her family’s redemption, how she considered suicide herself, and ultimately, her decision to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother and writer.

A note from the author: I encourage you to read my book if you have been touched by bipolar disorder or suicide. And even if you have not, my book will inspire you to survive your own tragedies. As author Jessica Bell says: Leaving the Hall Light On is “a remarkable book and it SHOULD be read.” – Madeline Sharples

Guest Post:

Challenges I Faced in Writing and Publishing My Memoir
by Madeline Sharples 

I didn’t set out to write a memoir. I started out with a pile of journal entries and a poetry manuscript.

However, my writing instructors and fellow workshop members urged me to get my story out there, and finally I took them seriously. Luckily I had help organizing my material and a talented editor who guided me in how to put my words into shape. It took me about eight years to turn my raw truths and deepest feelings into a memoir manuscript.

I also took several memoir-writing classes. One lesson I learned early on was that memoir is unreliable truth. I kept reminding myself of that as I struggled with how I would portray the events and the real live people in my story. I knew I was telling my truth, not anyone else’s, and that is what helped get me through.

Once I had what I thought was a viable and strong first draft ready to be seen by others, I began querying. That’s when the trouble began. The very first agent I queried asked to see my entire manuscript. But after three months she sent me a rejection note – the first of many over the next two years. Most agents sent me a form letter with the usual “not for my list” comment. The majority didn’t have the courtesy to answer at all. A few wrote encouraging notes, and others said, ”I don’t want to deal with such pain,” or “our past experience has been that very few books of this nature can make it through a publishing committee unless there is someone famous involved.”

The few small presses I contacted were just as discouraging – one said, “The subject matter is too hard to sell.” Another wrote, “Not a huge chance I’ll want to publish it. I’ve received lots of submissions written by mothers or spouses of deceased people, mostly written to honor the deceased it seems, and they are almost never strong enough to warrant publication.”

Still I persevered. After two years of querying sixty-eight agents and five small presses I finally had a contract with Lucky Press, LLC to publish my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. Lucky Press published a hardback edition in May 2011. Then just about one year later, this small traditional press went out of business, and I was back to querying again. This time in just a few weeks I contracted with Mike O’Mary, owner of Dream of Things, publishing to release paperback and eBook editions of my memoir. It turns out that what I thought was bad luck turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My book is in the best hands now.

Still the major challenge now is marketing. Although my story is specifically about how I lived with my son’s bipolar disorder and survived his suicide, I very much want to get my story read by people touched by any kind of tragic incident. So I work almost full time to let people know my story.

1. What is one book everyone should read? 

Be Here Now by Ram Dass

2. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? 

Peanut butter and blueberries

3. Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. 

My book has much to share with anyone grieving the loss of a loved one or suffering any kind of loss.

4. Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 

I’m writing an historical fiction book based on my family’s history, yet with a twist. I also want to have a book of poetry published. I also want to have a CD made of my son’s jazz music with proceeds of sales going to a charity that helps erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide.

5. What inspired you to want to become a writer? 

Writing always seemed to come naturally to me, and because of that my teachers were very encouraging.

6. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 

After my first publisher went out of business, I was fortunate to find a wonderful new publisher, Dream of Things, that recently released paperback and eBook editions of my book. The first publisher going out of business was a blessing in disguise.

7. What is your dream cast for your book? 

Jane Fonda as the main character (me), and my son Ben playing himself

8. What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen? 

 The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

9. Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book or any of your characters? 

My son was a very talented jazz composer and pianist. I would want his music as the theme song with sprinkles of John Lennon, Miles Davis, and J.S. Bach throughout the film.

10. What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? 

Don’t give up. No matter how many rejections you get, keep on asking. Be persistent.

11. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? 

Italy. It is my goal to live in Rome someday and travel throughout Italy by train. First stops would be Sicily and Naples – places I haven’t visited yet. Plus I love Italian food.

12. What is your favorite Quote? 

“How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?” Golda Meir

13. When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?

Brenda Starr Reporter or a shoe designer. I loved to draw and paint as well as write.

14. What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? 

A friend called me ten days after my son’s funeral and advised me to come back to our morning aerobics class. I did. Working out again helped me begin my healing process. I still workout every day.

15. What movie and/or book are you looking forward to this year? 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

16. What was your favorite children’s book? 

Me Too, story and words by Fritz Willis (The Marcel Rodd Company, 1944). My dad gave me the book because I always said, “me too,” whenever I wanted something my brother had. (I recently bought a first-edition copy of it.)

17. How do you react to a bad review? 

I haven’t had one yet, but if I did I would want to know why or if the reader even read my book. Needless to say, I wouldn’t feel good about it.

18. If you could have a signed copy of any novel what would it be and why?

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. One of my all-time favorite books.

19. What do you do in your free time? 

Workout, take long walks on the beach, read, go to movies, theater, and opera

20. Who or what inspired you to become an author? 

I was inspired to tell the story of my son’s bipolar illness and how I survived his suicide. I felt that if my story could help just one other family, my writing it would be worthwhile. Also, my writing teachers encouraged me to get my story out into the world.

21. In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with? 

Norah Ephron. She had the career I wanted early on. But she didn’t live long enough to get to write with me.

Buy Now @ Amazon 

Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

Connect with Madeline Sharples on Facebook

This tour hosted by Orangeberry Book Tours :)

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