Name Linda Naomi Baron Katz
Age – 46
Where are you from? Flushing, NY
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I was born on March 21, 1969, raised in the Jewish Faith where both my parents sent me to a Modern Orthodox Day School (Yeshiva). When I was 15, my family moved to Fair Lawn, New Jersey where I attend a public school and a Hebrew School. At 18, I went to Queens College and studied Economics and Sociology. After college, I tried to get a job but was unsuccessful and made me very depressed which triggered my mania. At 24 I suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Being a modern orthodox woman, I soon discovered how biased and stigmatized the orthodox community was towards mental illness. This made me struggle hard to find someone who would understand what I was experiencing. I finally met someone who also had a mental illness. His name is Charles Katz and is the best husband and partner close to my heart.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I recently published a children’s book that I coauthored with my husband, Charles Katz titled Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Story. It is about two adults with mental illness who sought help through medication and support by family and friends. It is a story that children will love and learn that people with mental illness can recover. My other book, which is my first book was published in March 2012. It is titled Surviving Mental Illness, My Story. It is a memoir of my experiences growing up with bipolar disorder and how I achieved recovery.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing a few years ago. I realized that I had a story to tell and started writing my own recovery stories in a newspaper called New York City Voices. A consumer journal for those with mental illness.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself as a writer when my first article in New York City Voices was published. It was titled, My Fears in Overcoming Bipolar Disorder.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I wanted to be remembered but also to educate the public that recovery is possible with mental illness. It was also important to help break through the fear and stigma that so many have of mental illness.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
No. My writing is simple.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I wanted something that was meant to describe my recovery and the word Surviving was perfect because it show that I am a survivor of mental illness. Therefore, I titled it Surviving Mental Illness.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I would like readers to remember that mental illness is treatable and people can recover and be active in society just like everybody else.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Most of my experiences that I went through are real but some characters I had to make up. Like my cousin Sharon because my own sister did not want to be included so I had to come up with another name. But everything else is true.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes most of my experiences are based on what happened in my own life even when I wrote my second book, Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Story, which is fiction. It is based out of real life experiences.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Books on mental illness – especially those who have written their own recovery stories.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Reis’s pieces. A book about a professor experiencing schizophrenia.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Not as of yet.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Right now, I am focusing on promoting both books.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My therapist always supports me and helps me figure out problems on my own that build my character and self esteem.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not really. Because I can not make money of it, although some do. I just did it to make people more aware about mental illness.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I like the fact that my children’s book is easy to read and simple for children to understand.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
No. Probably in high school.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is an excerpt from my book, Surviving Mental Illness: In 1993, I had my first manic attack. The first time this happened frightened my family, yet in my mind, I was on top of the world. It started with Al, the boy that I had an infatuation with during college. I could not get him out of my mind. I heard a variety of voices in my head, but none of them were as powerful as those I heard about Al. I though these voices were real, so I listened to them. I told my friends that Al was my boyfriend, when in reality he was not. When I volunteered at Forest Hill Community House, a senior citizen center, I met an elderly woman who I thought was Al’s grandmother, and a young woman who I believed was his sister. Once, when the community house took the senior citizens to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to visit a museum, another racing thought about Al came to my mind. In this thought, I believed I was getting married to him and having his five children. When I told these things to my friend, she told me that Al did not have a sister and that I was not going to be married to him because he did not feel the same way. Can you imagine what my friends thought of me?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
There were some parts that were so emotional to write about-things that I considered private. Having to share them with the world was most challenging and courageous.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I think my favorite author was Karen Tyrell because she went into great detail about her mental illness in her book, Me and Her. I thought it was interesting that she thought of her bipolar disorder as the “Her” like it was another person.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I have only travelled locally within New York City area. I speak at conferences, synagogues, mental health organizations, etc. I would like to travel more often if my schedule would permit me.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher, Outskirts Press.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Sharing most private thoughts.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that writing my book was also another form of therapy. Every time I read it, I feel proud that I am contributing a subject that is most heartfelt to society.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Do not worry about how much money you will make on the book, it’s the exposure and education to others that is most important.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Continue to strive for success. Have faith and never give up hope.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My husband’s sense of humor makes me laugh at times. I cry when I feel very overwhelmed at times.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I think I would like to meet Al again to test if we still had some sort of friendship between us eventhough I fear he may trigger my illness.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Beloved and devoted wife, daughter, and sister. Famous Author and Mental Health Advocate. This describes who I am and what I have accomplished with my life.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I like to read, exercise, watch TV, go to concerts, etc.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Current shows – The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, Two and a Half Man, etc.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Pizza, Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream, Chicken and Rice/ Red and Blue/ Classic Rock and Country Music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
If I could have been a social worker or teacher that is probably what I would have done.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is : http://www.surviving-mental-illness.com