Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interview with humorous memoirist Derek Thompson

Today's guest author, Derek Thompson, is here to talk a bit about his memoir Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I’ve Lost My Damn Mind: A Manic’s Mood Chart.

Derek Thompson grew up in South Charleston, Ohio and received a BA in communication in 2005 from Wittenberg University. After graduation, he pursued a corporate sales career at AT&T where he excelled in the high-paced sales environment. That’s up until he was unexpectedly and rudely interrupted by his first manic episode in 2008 which changed everything; they tended to be real jerks like that. 

The episode took him back home where he struggled to understand what his new mental health condition diagnosis of bipolar disorder type I was and meant. To cope with this confusion he began writing a blog as a therapeutic process to deal with his new crazy life and have some fun along the way. He currently resides on one of his family’s farms in rural Ohio.

Welcome to Reviews and Interviews, Derek. Please tell us about your current release.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow is the story of one Millennial’s bipolar life with moments ranging from the ridiculous to the terrifying to the hilarious. By blending pop culture references and cyberspeak with psychiatric terms, it combines the funny, conversational tone of Sh*t My Dad Says with a nonlinear narrative structure similar to that of Manic. The book actually began as blog I started writing as a therapeutic process to deal with the diagnosis of my bipolar disorder type I.           

Somewhere Over the Rainbow will be the first humorous memoir about bipolar written by a member of the Millennial Generation--today’s young adults. The entries are divided into three sections, Depressed, Normal, and Elevated, and cover the past three years: my psych ward getaways, my vision of fighting alongside Jesus at Armageddon, my attempts to find a woman who accepts that I sometimes lose my mind. Therapy “sessions” with a fictional psychiatrist provide my present-day reflections on each entry. (I had to create my ideal shrink because I tend to fight with the real ones.)

More than an account of coming to terms with a mental health condition, it’s a story of being young and feeling lost, dealing with heartbreak and still finding plenty to laugh about, no matter what happens.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, to be completely honest, I never really seriously considered writing a book until I was forced to move from Chicago back home to Ohio. This was last summer and it was caused by the fact that I was suffering another setback in my recovery due to my mania. I had to essentially sit on my hands and wait and see whether my new medicine would work and on top of that complications with my mania had also forced me to drop out of graduate school as well. I guess I figured I wasn’t doing anything else so there probably wasn’t ever going to be a better time to start writing my story than right then.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m actually trying my hand at a novel this time. It’s going to be loosely based off my life and told as a mysterious adventure through my manic mind. By incorporating themes from my blog, memoir, and mania the reader will be able to experience what a psychotic manic episode feels like. The questions I’ve been relentlessly struggling with over the years about my bipolar life will finally be answered. . .maybe.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
For the longest time I only wrote as a therapeutic release and as a way of communicating the difficulties of bipolar with my family and friends. It always felt like it was a hobby to me for some reason and merely as another part of my support system I needed to live with the bipolar. I think that started to change when people I didn’t think knew I wrote began coming up and telling me they enjoyed my stuff. I’d say right about then is when I started to feel like a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like?  If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t write full time in the sense that I consider it my 9-5 job, but I do feel like I’m always trying to be writing in some way. It could be research for my book or simply noticing something peculiar whiling hanging out with friends. I’m constantly looking for inspiration as well. For some reason I find a ton of it when I’m driving around so I’ll constantly find random reasons for a drive. I’ve never really been able to just sit down and say I’m going to write so many pages today or whatever. I usually just start writing whenever something inspires me, whether that’s when I’m randomly driving down the road or during commercial breaks of the Reds game.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
One quirk I’ve noticed when I’m writing for my blog is that if I outline my post for the week too much the writing really isn’t very good. I usually come up with my ideas to write early in the week, but wait until later in the week to actually sit down and write it. When I used to try getting an in depth outline and to really set up the structure for my post it never would turn out very good. But rather when I merely jot down a couple ideas and then just sit down and write later on my post are so much better. So with my blog it almost seems that in a way the harder I try the worse it gets.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in a small farming community in rural Ohio where I was completely out of my element. Despite our family’s long heritage in agriculture I sucked at it. This being the case I just wanted not to be a farmer when I grew up, because I knew I would be a terrible one.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yeah, there’s been this rumor going around that I can’t read. To be completely honest I have no idea where this came from, but it’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean I’m a writer for God’s sake. Thanks.

Thanks for being here today, Derek, and showing us that we can still have some fun with serious topics.

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