iUniverse author Monet Hall discusses her new book, Finding Grace, as well as her recent interview with San Antonio Living!
Please briefly describe your book . . .
Finding Grace is a play by play account of my journey to a correct diagnosis and healing. Encompassing multiple angles, it is also the story of a premedical student who attempts to analyze her situation from the perspective of her doctors, a daughter learning to forgive and love her parents, a college student reexamining the world based on knowledge acquired from class, and a believer struggling to remain faithful in the face of adversity.
Do you have any particular literary influences?
As an undergraduate student in the departments of biology and sociology, I have been trained to compose technical writing laced with jargon and complex sentence structures. Nevertheless, as an individual from a low income family with limited college experience, I understand that although this style of writing is impressive it is often indigestible and inaccessible to the general public. Therefore, for this book I chose simple, straightforward writing that highlighted my personal voice. Essentially, it is a very well edited diary. Though I discuss complex ideas and difficult situations, the presentation is easily accessible to a wide range of people.
What inspired you to write your book, and how long did it take you to finish it?
I wasn’t in a physical car wreck, but to me, that’s what being diagnosed with lupus felt like. I was ejected from the only life that I had ever known and tossed head first into unfamiliar territory. Additionally, before the final diagnosis was determined, there was much uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding my inconclusive symptoms. One day it was lymphoma and the next, porphyria!
Unable to cope or process the fact that my life was unexpectedly and quickly changing, I begin writing. Once I discovered how therapeutic it was for me, I realized that I could not be selfish. I had to share my personal experience, struggles, and insight so that someone else may benefit.
Although lupus may not be the personal battle of everyone, we all have some monster or struggle that we are trying to overcome. Additionally, we have all been blown off course by unexpected events and forced to rewire, readjust, and continue pressing onward. In that sense, I believe that people from all walks of life can resonate and gain something from me sharing my story.
The first manuscript took approximately three weeks. As I took a short leave of absence from school, I had nothing else to do but write! So, I could fully invest myself. Nevertheless, the editing and publishing process took about 10 months.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
One of the biggest goals of this book is to raise awareness about lupus. Though lupus affects more than 2.5 million Americans, it is still largely unknown. As the symptoms of lupus such as joint pain, constant fatigue, and lack of concentration can greatly reduce quality of life and create daily roadblocks for individuals, I believe that understanding, support, and empathy from all people would be greatly appreciated by individuals with lupus.
Additionally, I feel passionately about awareness for all hidden diseases. When an individual has a physical ailment, such as a broken bone, people immediately recognize that as an illness or issue. However, hidden diseases such as anxiety, depression, and even lupus, do not receive as much attention or validity. Instead, a stigma revolves around these titles. I’d like to see a change in this area. Hidden diseases are just as important and real as physical ailments. We must begin to create a culture of legitimacy and acceptance around these invisible diseases.
Are you working on a sequel to your book?
As my book is nonfiction, I have to live a little more so that I have more experiences to document. But yes, I do hope to write a sequel.
Are there any events, marketing ideas or promotions planned for your book?
Months before the book officially came out I generated buzz by writing “Spotlight Sundays” via Facebook. Essentially, every Sunday I highlighted a character from the book. In addition to introducing them and showcasing their talents, I briefly summarized their role or part in the story. Not only did it allow me to express my gratitude and appreciation for certain individuals but it also served as promotion for the book.
Additionally, I was recently interviewed by San Antonio Living to discuss the book and my journey. After the interview, a free book was given to the fourth caller. This generated a lot of buzz and excitement. For the future, I am arranging a book signing and discussion session back home at the local high school as well as a book signing at the local library.
Facebook and “word of mouth” have been extraordinary in promoting the book.
What was your favorite part of your publishing experience, overall and with iUniverse?
iUniverse really helped me to polish my story and fine-tune without losing my voice. They made my story digestible, accessible, and enticing.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Be YOU. Nothing is more captivating and original than that. Too often we as humans “pretty it up” and pretend that our current glorious state was not preceded with months of struggle and pain. Tear down the curtain! Allow people to see you backstage! I strongly believe that my book has been so successful because of its authenticity. It connects with the real person who experiences real life struggles and has real moments of enlightenment, happiness, sadness, and pain. Besides, who wants to read about someone’s perfect life? Not me!