Bully: Questions. Answers.

I have been asked numerous questions about my novel, from very personal to technical and thought that it may be worth posting about my experiences.

1. Is this book semi-autobiographical?

This is my first book. I think a lot of writers start learning by taking lived experiences and writing about them. I did experience workplace bullying, and was injured and later became ill in much the same way, but most of the book is fiction. It is a great way to learn the process of writing.

Narrative therapy is quite interesting in that after I wrote the book, I felt better as though I expressed the pain hidden deep within. The epilogue – which begins in the future or one year after she publishes her first novel, which is this novel – was empowering to write despite being purely creative and fictional, because it expressed what I wanted in the near future. I feel ‘ready’ to be with a good man, to establish a good career, to travel and have heaps of fun in my life, something I never felt before because I lived with depression. Writing really is healing.

I did find some sections in the novel very hard emotionally, especially the accident and what followed. It was very tough trying to bring out memories I had unknowingly [and perhaps even knowingly] hidden away because it was too hard to face. I feel proud I went through that daunting experience, but I certainly don’t recommend others to do the same, not without the right support around you. Those chapters were probably not edited well because it felt like I was being re-traumatised each time I tried to read through it again.

I really look forward to writing my second novel, which I think is going to be more ‘writing’ and less ’emotional’ – well, maybe.

2. Can you talk a little bit about John and why you included him in the epilogue?

There were two reasons. I don’t believe all men are bad, and given my history of bad men in my life, I felt the need to include a good man to show that I believe in equality and in the goodness of men. The second is due to talking with so many women [and men] who have been victims to a similar personality that Kieran had, that ‘toxic masculinity’ which is really destructive and leaves you feeling distrusting of men. I want victims to always hope that there are good men in this world and that love is possible after such pain. John personifies that.

While I have never met someone like John in real life, it was easy to re-create my dream guy, a best friend who makes you laugh, is fun and kind, but also himself and independent. An equal. We all want love, want to be validated by someone, and we also want to love and take care of someone, and so I was also expressing in some ways my inner desire for meeting someone like John, and also that I still believe that there are good men out there. I think this *hope* in men is important.

3. What prompted you to write the novel?

I guess I was waiting for so long for *the bully* to talk to me, to do exactly what Kieran did in the novel and make amends and make things right, and because he never did, the hurt continued to cause me pain until I finally got sick. It was like I was relying on him to help heal the suffering I was enduring because of him, which is a paradoxical nightmare. I guess I just really couldn’t believe he would hate me that much, so I denied the humiliation and disrespect he showed me by blaming myself. I felt like something was wrong with me, that no one would ever like me, that everyone should be distrusted because they will hurt me, and most of all, I felt safer being on my own. I feel like waiting for him to repent is what destroyed me, because when he never did, it made the fact that he treated me so badly even more hurtful.

I realised that I couldn’t wait for him to apologise anymore. I had to stop hoping he would find the courage to do the right thing. I had to find a way to heal myself. So I decided to write the novel as a starting point. I was in Canberra working for the Attorney-General’s Department and despite leading a major national project on sexual harassment at that time, I somehow managed to write the novel on the side. I surprise myself, and proud of what I have achieved.

The next step now, for me, is the healing part. I am so much better, but I still have moments. I wrote in the epilogue that it took her a year after she publishes her novel to fully recover, and that is what I am doing this year. Spending the time on myself, healing by speaking with a counsellor, building a new life and a new framework to make sure that I am happy and successful into the future.

4. Do you have anything you want to say to the person who bullied you?

Not really. I think I have done everything I can now to express what I have gone through , and I am certain he has known for many years now and still chose to do nothing, neither does he care. For him to change would be to completely change his entire perception of reality, and I just don’t believe that is possible for him. His reality relies entirely on other peoples perspective of him, not what he feels or thinks, which is the birthplace of cowardice. It means we hold different moral values as people.

4. Will you write another book?

I have had some positive and some negative reviews come in about the book, but in all honesty, this is my debut novel and I only wrote it for me and for the man who bullied me. I decided not to traditionally publish for that reason, but the experience of writing was wonderful. I already have plans to write my second novel, and that will be more of a practiced effort to write it for publishers, unlike this, but I am hitting pause due to working full-time and studying at the moment.

5. Any advice on healing after trauma?

I am not fond of the idea that ‘time heals all wounds’ because in memories, there is no such thing as time. The pain is always in me as the bad memories will always be there. I think that the answer is really about filling your life with good memories that the bad memories become smaller. Set boundaries. Only allow good people in your life, people you are compatible with, people who have good hearts. My friends are photographers, philosophers, good and kind people who care about the world. Build a fortified structure around you to protect you from the bad, but still enough doors to let in those who will enrich your life. Structures and routines build strong foundations to give you the safety and the peace to build a good and honest life. One of peace.

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About Me

I am an aspiring writer and photographer, particularly nightscape, landscape and astrophotography. I am also a passionate human rights advocate, especially for women and children.

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