I’m chatting with Jo Johnson today about her debut novel, Surviving Me, a unique work of fiction focusing on mental health from a man’s perspective.
Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, Jo!
Thank you for having me.
Your latest release, Surviving Me, covers some timely issues including mental illness. What inspired the story?
I’m a clinical psychologist so I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s business. I spend even more time in cafes. Over the road from my office there is a traditional tea room called the Vintage Rose. On one occasion, I noticed a middle-aged man, by himself, staring out of the window. I wondered about him and his story. In my head, his name was Tom. This observation inspired the first line of my novel.
‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar. It still puzzles me that, just a few weeks after my first wedding anniversary, I am sitting alone in a café for misfits, miles from my home’.
Did writing Surviving Me change or enlighten you in any way?
The key theme in my book is mind health, a subject I know very well.
The enlightenment was to do with the writing and publishing process. I hadn’t planned to write a novel, it just happened. I started writing as Tom and couldn’t stop until his story was finished. This was all a surprise to me.
I realised how much a gifted editor can do. I thought my book was finished but the editorial process was so enlightening. One of my characters had been pregnant for fourteen months! Lots of beta readers hadn’t noticed. As a result, my advice to authors would be, you can’t edit your own work!!
Do you have a favorite character in the story?
My favorite is probably the main character, Tom. He is a lot like me, he’s an over thinker who has a loud inner voice shouting at him. I wrote from his perspective and with each chapter, my affection for him grew. I even cried proper tears when his life took a terrible turn. My husband was very unsympathetic. Tom is kind and loyal and always does his best. I notice a few readers on Goodreads have confessed to a crush on him!!
What’s your favorite genre to read?
Commercial or women’s fiction.
What are you reading now?
Little White Lies, a novel written by another clinical psychologist.
Where are you from?
Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?
I think I’m a hybrid. I published with unbound digital who I think are the only publisher who let you sell books before they produce them.
Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?
I work as a clinical psychologist and as a resilience trainer.
Where do you get the most writing done?
At the vintage rose tea rooms. Surviving Me starts in the tea room. My office is over the road but I go there for breaks and that’s when I write.
Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?
Yep! You have your hands full!
Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?
I can live without it which is probably why no one knows about my novel despite its good reviews.
What’s your next project?
I’ve just finished a sequel to Surviving Me called Surviving Us. I’m also writing a chapter for a text book.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write what flows from you, don’t try and write like someone else or what’s fashionable. Get your work professionally edited.
Jo, is there anything else you like our blog visitors to take with them today?
Let’s learn to talk about suicide.
In my debut novel, Surviving Me, the main character, Tom Cleary becomes suicidal. There has been a lot of recent talk in the media about what makes people take their own lives.
However, people are often reticent to talk about suicide with friends or family. Suicide is still a social taboo.
Often people fear they’ll say the wrong thing or make things worse. I can assure you that if you are concerned, most likely you won’t say the wrong thing.
We need to get better at talking about emotional pain and how it impacts all of us. If everyone felt comfortable to do this, it would save lives. In the UK, suicide remains the top killer of men between 30 and 50. We need to do something.
Most people who kill themselves have told at least one person they don’t feel life is worth living or that they want to die. Listen carefully to people and ask about how you can help.
1 in 5 people have thought about suicide at one point in their life. It’s actually common to have fleeting thoughts of suicide. Even if someone is actively suicidal, it’s often only temporary. Supporting someone to get help at the time they feel suicidal can save a life.
There is no such thing as them and us, there is just US. You don’t have to be mentally ill to feel suicidal. Many people who don’t seem depressed take their own lives. In my novel, Tom appeared to be ok, but on the inside, he was becoming increasingly distressed and isolated. Look out for subtle changes in people. Signs of distress can include drinking more alcohol, withdrawing from usual routines or avoiding social contact.
Most people who feel suicidal don’t want to die. They don’t want the life they have and the emotional pain feels unbearable, talking can really help. Once someone starts talking they’ve got a better chance of discovering options that aren’t suicide.
Many people who feel suicidal don’t mention it for fear of upsetting or worrying others. But, by asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal often say it’s a relief to talk about what they are experiencing.
If someone tells you they are feeling low or suicidal, it’s you they want to talk to, they trust you and you have sufficient skills to be with them and ask the right starting questions.
Ask this question if someone is feeling low or talks of not wanting to live.
“Have you thought of killing yourself?” If they say yes, ask them to talk about those thoughts and if they have a plan.
Research makes it clear that these direct conversations can reduce someone’s risk of suicide. After you’ve had a conversation about suicide, support the person to get professional help. Go them to their GP or if out of hours or they already have a suicide plan, go with them to A and E.
Follow this link to read the reviews on Surviving Me or to purchase the book on Amazon:
Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specializing in neurological disorders and mind health. She is the author of nine nonfiction publications but best known for a mind health workbook called ‘shrinking the smirch’. This is an innovative resource on how to better manage your mind using principles from the ACT model of psychological therapy.
10% of the royalties from my novel will go to The Beachy Head chaplains.
Many thanks to Jo Johnson for such an enlightening and informative chat today!
Keep scrolling to learn more about Surviving Me and enter Jo’s international giveaway!
Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.
Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.
All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.
If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.
This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.
I’m very excited that my debut novel Surviving Me is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.
I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.
I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.
Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.
In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.
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G I V E A W A Y
Win two signed copies of Surviving Me & five Surviving Me fridge magnets
1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me
5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days, then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.