As we near LIFELINE’s launch, I’m thrilled by the opportunity to interview fellow author, Karen Fortunati. Karen has been a huge supporter of LIFELINE. Her recent novel, THE WEIGHT OF ZERO, is a beautiful and ultimately hopeful story of one teen’s struggle with bipolar disorder. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read it, it’s definitely not to be missed!
A: Karen, thank you so much for joining me today!
K: Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your launch! I absolutely loved LIFELINE – so moving and layered. It’s truly unique in how it tackles the many, many challenges of recovery with a raw honesty, grace and humor. I read it a few months ago and am still thinking about it.
A: THE WEIGHT OF ZERO skillfully takes on the topic of mental illness. What inspired you to write a story dealing with bipolar disorder?
K: The character of Catherine came to me pretty much fully formed – I knew she was considering suicide because of a perfect storm of negative events in her life, including a recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I’ve pondered a long time the reasons why I was compelled to write Catherine’s story with its focus on suicide ideation and bipolar disorder. In large part, I think it stemmed from witnessing the struggles and triumphs of relatives and friends who have different mental health issues. Another motivation was my faith that with the right support network – good clinicians, therapy and often times medication -- mental illness can be successfully managed. I wanted to write a story that dove deep into the nitty-gritty of the condition, treatment, and stigma.
A: I’ve shared here that writing LIFELINE helped me to cope with my brother’s addiction—that it became a “lifeline” for me during that very difficult time. In what ways has writing been a “lifeline” for you?
K: I’m a mother of two and I wrote THE WEIGHT OF ZERO while both of my kids were in high school. I’ve always been a very anxious parent and as my children entered their teens, I was very aware of their natural and steadily growing independence. The fact that they were becoming more and more separate unnerved me because I worried that if something was wrong, I might miss it. A big theme in my book is about being able to talk about your pain, and I think this stems from what I was also trying to instill in my own kids. This is something that I didn’t realize until after I wrote the story and compared my own personal timeline with some of the themes in the book.
A: In what ways do you hope that THE WEIGHT OF ZERO might be a “lifeline” for those who read it?
K: For anyone struggling, I hope they can recognize themselves in Catherine’s despair and isolation and not feel as alone. I hope that for those readers in pain, that Catherine’s journey inspires not only hope but action – finding the courage to tell someone how you feel and seeking the help you need. For those readers who haven’t walked in Catherine’s shoes, I hope her story gives a greater sense of empathy and awareness and encourages kindness.
A: Beautiful! Any upcoming projects you want to dish about?
K: I have two books coming out – book two, THE ARC OF A BULLET, will be out next year. It’s a story that examines mental illness, gun culture and activism in the context of a police shooting. I’m really excited about it!
A: That does sound exciting! It’s been great chatting with you, Karen. I wish you all the best, and I can’t wait to read your next book! You can get your copy of THE WEIGHT OF ZERO here, and make sure to stay in touch with Karen on Facebook and Twitter! Happy Reading!