Recently I read The Elegant Art of Falling Apart by Jessica Jones and it touched me, it made me think of all of the people in my life who have faced cancer and it inspired me to courage. Jessica Jones has faced a lot in her life and grown stronger through it all so I had to approach her for an interview and this is what she has shared with us. I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as we did.
Firstly congratulations on your recovery, and on the book. How did you feel when you saw the first copy of your book ‘The Elegant Art Of Falling Apart’?
Amazed, dismayed, proud and a little bit terrified. ‘Oh my God, it’s a book – with my name on the cover!’ closely followed by ‘Oh no, what have I done?’
What made you decide to share your experiences with the world?
My story was dramatic, but that wasn’t why I wanted to tell it. I feel that, really, it is a tale of getting through a tough time. My tough time happened to be with cancer but we all go through dark days at some juncture in our lives – days when we are at a loss to know how to carry on. And we may feel that our confusion and despair is not worthy of attention because, hey, how can I moan about my lost dreams and hopes when people are starving in the world… But it does matter. Experiencing trauma, loss and grief is an unavoidable part of life. If we can learn from those experiences how to accept love and to live each day as it comes, we become more humane. I wanted to tell my story of stumbling along through a big pile of poo so that someone else might feel okay about stumbling through their own shit fight.
First you had a blog where you shared the journey, how did that then expand into writing the book?
I started writing Chemo Chic simply as a way to tell a few jokes, get things straight in my own head and to communicate daily with my friends and family. Then complete strangers started reading the blog. The next thing I knew, it was being written about in the press.
Can you tell us a little about the process from deciding to write the book to getting it published?
At first I was dubious about the idea of turning the blog into a book. I mean, who would want to read a book about someone getting cancer and buying lipsticks in between crying jags? Not me. But when my boyfriend left me I seriously began to disintegrate and then I knew that I had to write it, otherwise I would never be able to make sense of what had happened. I was fortunate to meet Vanessa Radnidge, a visionary publisher at Hachette, and she believed in the book from the very beginning. Writing the book was tough – I had to relive all those heart scalding events – but with the constant encouragement of my publisher, my wonderful editor and my therapist I was able to get up off the floor each day and wring out a few pages. I also had the writer’s secret weapon and best friend: a deadline. Without that I would still be sitting here drinking tea and sobbing into my laptop.
Did writing the bog help you get through the experience, can you tell us a little about how it benefited you?
Blogging was a way for me to get some perspective on the crazy events and intense emotions that avalanched around and through me constantly. I found that if I could get the tornado of confusion out of my head and onto a hard drive it helped me to make a bit more sense of what was going on. If you are going through one of life’s ghastly periods I highly recommend that you write, or take photographs; draw; write songs; dance; sew; cook – do something creative.
Throughout your life you have worked through some very tough issues from addiction to destructive relationships. Do you think they prepared you at all for dealing with the last couple of years?
To be honest I did slightly think ‘I’ve done all this personal development work so now my life will be trouble-free. That will be my reward.’ Oops, don’t get smug too soon. But there were a few things I’d learned that helped me through. One was to take things a day at a time, sometimes even an hour at a time. Am I okay right now? Yes? Then carry on… Another thing I’d got the hang of was don’t try to do it all on your own. I was fortunate to have collected a motley bunch of fantastic friends and I knew that I could rely on them. But I still had to learn one huge skill: how to ask for help and to accept it when it was offered.
Has this affected your views on relationships?
Not really. Relationships underpin our lives: with friends; with family; with the your hairdresser; the greengrocer and also with lovers. Romantic relationships hold a lot more potential for damage because they are necessarily so much more intimate and hence require a greater level of trust. When times get tough, and they always will, relationships either strengthen or disintegrate. You can never know if you’ve chosen the right person until difficulties arise. And those difficulties are always painful. But no risk equals no relationships. I only hope that in the future I meet someone who is capable of reciprocating that intimacy and trust.
Can you tell us what’s next for Jessica Jones?
A long holiday in the sunshine. That’s all I wanted in the first place! I’m going to learn to scuba dive. And I might buy a lottery ticket too.
If there is one message you want your readers to walk away with what would it be?
I’m not really one for messages. Love the people who love you and don’t worry about the rest.
And lastly, what might seem a strange and rather personal question (please feel free not to answer if you would prefer), what have you done with your wigs?
I’ve kept them – for Halloween.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Jessica, your strength and courage is inspiring and all the best for everything that’s to come for you.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!