One Sweaty Night Results in Debut Novel

Please help me welcome Anne O’Connell as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. She is here to share how her first book came about.

I’m thrilled to be here on It’s Not All Gravyon the occasion of the launch of my first novel, Mental Pause. I’ve been a writer all my life but mostly corporate communications and PR but I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic and dreamed of one day writing fiction. About three years ago I tested the waters and submitted a couple of short stories to The Fiction Writers Platform (now The Writers Platform) and both received an editor’s choice award!
Prior to that, I had started freelancing and was doing corporate copy writing while thoughts and dreams of being a novelist did a water ballet in the back of my mind. Simultaneously, I began experiencing some rather uncomfortable peri-menopausal symptoms. I honestly didn’t know what was happening at first, only that I was horribly irritable. So much so that I couldn’t even stand being around myself. I was also having crazy thoughts, tinged with paranoia, along with such startling memory loss that it felt like I had had a lobotomy.  It wasn’t until the night sweats started that it finally dawned on me that I was experiencing ‘The Change.’  It was a shocking revelation as I was still in my early-40s. It made me feel a little better knowing there was an explanation for it all but didn’t make it go away.
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Then one very sweaty, steamy night as I was lying there in a disgusting pool of sweat, even though the A/C was blasting, and trying not to slime my poor husband sleeping soundly beside me, I did what any writer would do… hit the keyboard and poured out what I believed to be the mad ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman. If anyone had seen me they would have thought I’d lost it! I stifled the giggles so as not to wake my husband and wiped the tears and just kept writing. I thought I might turn it into a blog but wasn’t really comfortable exposing myself that openly. Then the idea hit. I could have even more fun with it if I turned it into fiction.
As luck would have it, I had recently heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which was about to start, my husband had recently retired and we had just moved to Thailand. I hadn’t really met anybody and had a lot of time on my hands. I signed up and plunged in headfirst.
I started segmenting the ‘ramblings’, categorizing and developing a loose plotline. The first chapter sort of spilled out and characters started to take shape. The more I wrote the more I dreamt about my main character, Abbie, her thoughts and feelings, family and friends. I’d wake up with a start and run to my computer to type out a description of one of my characters that I had seen so vividly in a dream. The best plot twist in the book (in my opinion) came in a dream!
It was really cathartic to write it because no matter how bad I was feeling, how crazy my mood swings or wild my thoughts were, Abbie’s were always worse. I could also live vicariously through her. Without ruining the story for anyone who plans to read it, I can share that I’ve always teased my mom that we’d both get tattoos when I turn 50 and she turns 90! I’d really never do it because I have absolutely no pain threshold and the thought of even one needle makes me go weak in the knees, so I had Abbie get one.
Focusing on writing and publishing Mental Pausehas really helped ground me and allowed me to face my change with a more positive attitude. I talk more openly about it now and hope that, along with enjoying the storyline, it can help other women as well. My mood swings seem to have tapered off; I’m not having nearly as many night sweats and the hot flashes aren’t noticeable since I live in a very warm and humid climate anyways.
I’m already working on my next novel so I hope that my diminishing symptoms won’t limit my creativity! Having said that, I will happily seek inspiration elsewhere.  
Thank you for your guest post, Anne. I’ve heard of creativity coming from a lot of sources, but this is the first to come from menopause. (smile) I can’t wait to read the book. 
For more about the book and Anne, check my Sunday post.   You can visit Anne on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  

On another note, and certainly not to take the spotlight away from Anne and her new novel, I do need to announce the National Wormhole Day Blog Hop sponsored by Laura Eno and Luanne Smith. Participants will be sharing where they would go if they could go forward or backward in time via a wormhole. This is to celebrate Albert Einstein’s Birthday on March 14th. Come back tomorrow to see where I will go.

12 thoughts on “One Sweaty Night Results in Debut Novel”

  1. Writing is definitely cathartic. It also lets you explore the water ballet in the back of your mind without risk of drowning, lets you torture your enemies with impunity, and may even bring readers a few moments’ escape from their own daily madness. Just a few of the reasons I love it, too! 🙂

  2. Can I hear an amen and a hallelujah! Marian, two women in the house with raging hormones must have been a real picnic for the rest of the family 🙂 Glad you both came out on the other end successfully. I think a mother-daughter murder mystery sounds intriguing!

    Nick, you’re absolutely right! Which is why I hold out hope for lots of creativity down the road.

    Holly, I’ve got lots of diabolical plots swimming around in my head that will only hurt the fictitious ones I love… because I have to admit I did get attached to my characters through the process!

    Happy Writing!

  3. Hi Helen, I think all husbands, boyfriends and sons should read it too! But, that’s just my humble opinion 🙂 I really enjoyed writing it so I hope others will enjoy reading it just as much.


  4. Dang. I wish I’d done something so productive with my nights sweats. I know I plotted murder during that time (of any number of people who were annoying me) but I never thought to put it in a story.

    Nice job.

  5. You all have been having such a good time without me. (smile) I have been away from my office most of the day. Just popping in to say howdy. So glad that everyone is enjoying the post today. I thought turning the agony of menopause into something creative was such a neat idea. I’m with Marian in thinking maybe I should consider some of the murderous inclinations I had when I was going through the Change as fodder for future stories.

    Nick, you are right about inspiration coming from anywhere. I do think we all draw from personal experience and give those experiences to our characters.

    Holly, I love the water ballet analogy. So neat.

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