I met Simone Yemm a couple of years ago through the Tasmanian Indie Author Group. Simone is an incredible woman whom I’m proud to call friend. She constantly inspires me. She’s an amazing advocate for mental health, and I am in awe of her strength and determination. I daresay, after reading her memoir, you will be too.
Simone spent more than three decades teaching and performing the flute before transitioning into writing and editing by completing a master’s in journalism and working with a mentor. A cacophony of life circumstance, combined with chronic sleep deprivation, impacted Simone’s mental health through depression, anxiety, and disordered eating. Her mental health crumbled, culminating in three psychiatric inpatient admissions, and she is now wading through the recovery.
Simone is married to a very devoted (and very lovely!) man. Together they’ve brought into this world three incredible young men. She lives in beautiful Tasmania, and is an avid fan of hiking. She has climbed some lovely mountain peaks in and around Hobart. She’s yet to do multi-day hikes but they’re on her to-do list!
Stalked by Demons, Guarded by Angels: The Girl with the Eating Disorder is her first book.
Here’s my interview with Simone:
1. Why do you write – and why did you decide to write a book?
My writing evolved from journaling which was part of a therapeutic and cathartic healing process when my mental health spectacularly imploded. As my writing gradually morphed from journal to blog to writing courses I was encouraged to bring it all together into a memoir. So, I did 😊.
2. What genres do you enjoy reading?
Memoir. Fantasy. Women’s fiction. Any good book really. I have become fussier as my years proceed. I used to labour through any book I picked up – determined to get to the end. Now I will give it 50 pages and if I’m not engaged, I’m moving on. I don’t feel limited by genre but I am easily swayed by recommendations.
3. How long did it take you to write your first book from first word to publish? If you’ve written or published more than one book, how long does it take you now to write and publish a book?
Oh – I am slow! I thought I could be quick and efficient like I am with so much of the rest of my life but as it turns out… no. I am a slow writer. It probably took me two years to write my memoir? And another year to publish it. A mental health memoir is a very emotive place to be, so it is hard to stay in that place for weeks and months on end. I often needed a break. And as a first time author I found the publishing process quite overwhelming. But I got there in the end.
I am halfway through my second memoir, and it is still a very slow process. I have been working on this project for perhaps eighteen months now. I have let go of timelines and I’m just letting it unfold as it’s meant to be. It will be ready when it’s ready.
4. What’s the most challenging part of being an author for you?
Staying focused and motivated. It takes a huge emotional toll on me and I don’t always want to go into that dark place. When I do start writing it often just flows out of me like honey on a butter knife. But sitting down to write feels like a difficult journey. I find myself much more motivated when I join writing groups or have someone to answer to.
5. What do you love the most about being an author?
I sincerely hope my words touch people and maybe even change someone for the better. I love that I am trying to shine a light on subjects that are often hidden and shamed. If one person feels more understood by the words I have crafted then my job is done.
6. If you could give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do it. Write from your heart and for yourself. Don’t focus on publishing your work when you’re first putting words on paper. Craft a story because that story is in you and you need to share it. The early stages of writing are very intimate – just you and the words. As time passes, it becomes more universal and the baby you are birthing is ready to be shared with the world. Every story that has ever been written started with a single sentence. Start at the beginning and see where it takes you.
7. What is the best line you feel you’ve written in your published work(s)?
When I was born I had a body.
8. What’s the shortest time you’ve ever written a story?
I have written extensively in my blog, for mental health websites, and for insomnia websites. I have drafted articles in as little as half an hour. The short, sharp writing process I can do very quickly when I’m in the right frame of mind. It’s the long projects that slow me down.
9. What was the hardest lesson you learned in the writing process, and what did you take from that?
That I am not like other authors. My writing is unique to me. My writing process is unique. My publishing journey and my marketing experience are all deeply personal. I can listen and learn from others, but at the end of the day every single one of us has unique experiences, and we can only learn to do what works for us.
10. What is the best book you’ve found on the writing process?
“Your Story: How To Write It So Others Will Want To Read It” by Joanne Fedler.
11. Are you self-published, traditionally, or hybrid-published, and why did you take that publishing route? Would you choose that route for your next book?
Hybrid-published. I was oh-so-close to receiving traditional publishing deals, but Covid hit and the publishing houses were nervous. I did not have the confidence, support or knowledge to solely publish on my own. So, I chose the hybrid route. I would never do it again. It is expensive (I had to crowd fund to do it) and I feel I do not have sufficient control or information over the distribution over my book. Once the book is produced there is next to no support from the publishing house.
12. What drew you to the subject of your latest book?
I was drawn to the subject matter of mental health and eating disorders because, at that time in my life, it consumed almost every waking moment. I felt I had a story to tell. And shame dies when it is spoken out loud (usually) so the sharing of my story lessened the shame. It had to be told.
13. What does writing process look like?
Very haphazard. I find it difficult to write at home so I tend to go to writing groups or hole up in a café or go for weekends to a shack and dedicate whole days to writing. Then I go weeks and months and don’t touch it at all. But the stories nibble away at the back of my mind, I keep notes on my phone, and when the time is right I open the computer and get back into it. It becomes like an old friend I’d lost contact with, but the moment we reconnect, it’s like we only spoke yesterday.
14. What does your typical day look like, when you are working on a book?
I think I’m atypical. I don’t have a typical day. When I do write it becomes incredibly focused and I don’t do anything but write. The rest of the world becomes a blur. I have the music going really loudly as that stills the thought distractions. But then I’m erratic and don’t write at all. Or spend an hour in a writing group editing some existing words but writing nothing new. Then I disappear for a weekend and craft half a book. Then I edit the bejeezers out of it for months on end. I know – a bit unusual.
15. What’s the most interesting book you’ve read in the last year? Or at least, one that kept you thinking about long after?
“The Good Wife of Bath – A Mostly True Story” by Karen Brooks. Man oh man I am glad I wasn’t a woman in the 14th century…
16. Have you ever read a book outside of your usual genre – and found it surprising? Why?
When I was young (and by that I mean well into my thirties) I exclusively read fantasy and science fiction. I couldn’t really get into other genres. Oh – and memoir. I’ve always been drawn to memoir. Then I went years without reading anything hardly at all. When I returned to reading I was drawn to recommendations rather than genres. I have found some wonderful stories that have really inspired me with their delicious words and beautifully crafted worlds.
17. Would you still be an author if you knew no one would read your books?
Yes. I wrote my book entirely for myself. Once that was done I worked with a mentor to craft it into a publishable work. But the essence of my book was about healing and I would do that even if nobody ever read it.
18. What three words would describe you?
Mum. Muso. Manic. And all those things have passed me by in life. They were the first three words that came to mind. But my children have grown and flown the nest. My musician days are long behind me. And my mania (hypomania) is cleverly controlled with medication. I have found it difficult to find a new identity as I sweep through middle age.
Perhaps my new three words could be, loved, lost and lazy.
You can find Simone here:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/simoneyemm
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