Name: Eunice Lewis
Where are you from? Los Angeles, California
A little about yourself, i.e., your education, family life, etc.
The only class I really excelled in was sewing, and I received a full scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). I barely got a D average, so I quit after the first year. In 2007, I received my Associates Degree in Business Administration and graduated with honors, a 3.91 GPA.
I now research my paternal and maternal history and I’m the Genealogy Manager for these families. Surprisingly, I only received mediocre grades in History and English, and now I’m a writer and have been doing historical research for over 15 years.
I have two adult children; is it proper etiquette to say a “boy” and a “girl”? Anyway, they are the air that I breath, they represent the left and right side of my heart.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Presently, I am working to promote my book. I am seeking venues and organizations to share my story and educate individuals about bipolar disorder.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After I received the final draft of the book from the publisher. When I held the book in my hands for the first time, I realized that a new phase of my life had begun.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I began writing in 1992 after I moved from Los Angeles, California to Atlanta, Georgia. After arriving in Atlanta, I wrote a letter back home to a friend about my journey across the country. It was very detailed…the beautiful scenery, my fear of driving on the bridge over the Mississippi River and finally arriving in Atlanta. My friend wrote me back and told me that my writing reminded her of Terry McMillan’s writing. I had never heard of Terry McMillan, so I purchased one of her books. I loved it!!! I purchased another book and another. I had never considered myself to be a writer, and when I received such a high compliment, I figured, “Why not?”
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Narrative. I Can’t Wait ‘till I’m Grown! is a very expressive and revealing novel. The character, Louise, gives clear expressions of her feelings, anger, happiness, and sadness as she takes you on her life’s journey. She describes places to make you feel as though you are right there with her, and you can see the people that she describes within your minds eye.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Of course, growing up, there aren’t many children who haven’t expressed their anguish with parental rules, whippings, boundaries, and dreaded punishments. I Can’t Wait ‘till I’m Grown! are the words that I screamed so often during my childhood, so it was natural for me to come up with this title, as this novel tells the story of my life as a child and what I began to fear as I approached adulthood and throughout.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As a parent, I’d like to convey that what you instill in your child will remain with them for the rest of their lives; negative and positive. There are portions of this novel that touch on the issue of there being little to no communication about continuing education beyond high school and how it can shape your child’s life.
In African-American communities, we don’t recognize certain behaviors as symptoms of mental illness, and once diagnosed, we are quick to reject it as we have always considered ourselves to be strong and proud people. Our anger has often been blamed on the history of our ancestors, so mental illness is not the first thing one thinks of when there are behavioral problems and/or issues with depression.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that plagues all races, creeds and colors; once we begin to understand the intricacies of the illness and become educated to the fact that there are actually two forms of bipolar disorder and the difference between the two, then we will be able to accept the realities and begin to heal. As individuals in our society become more volatile, we should be able to at least recognize mental illness when we see it or if we could actually be plagued with it.
My goal is to also reach young adults, parents and individuals who may be facing some issues in their lives and not understand what they may be experiencing. As a young girl, I was labeled mean, bossy, moody, and grouchy. Never once was there a consideration that I might have a mental illness. I grew up fast, learning the hard way that adulthood isn’t always a pretty picture. This novel is a lesson to young people to live their childhood and don’t rush it, adulthood and its challenges will come soon enough.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I write best when I’m feeling passionate about something. I stripped myself naked and told almost every aspect of my life. I’m not a fake person, so the truth was the only way I could tell my story; it is 100% real. I give kudos to authors who can write a great story that they created within their own mind, but my best writing comes from real life experiences and situations.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
In 2000, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, so I don’t read much anymore. Prior to then, I read computing and technology books so that I could excel as a Secretary. The last book I attempted to read was a book published by Que; I wanted to learn HTML to design websites. I couldn’t grasp it, I had to keep reading the same sentences over again. I knew something was wrong, which led to the diagnosis of the brain tumor.
My mentor has always been my mother. She was a strong woman, raising six children on her own. She did a great job raising us knuckle-headed children. She had great values and wanted the best that life had to offer each of us. Of the six children, she only lost one to the streets and then prison. That’s pretty good statistics for a Black single mother on welfare and in South Central Los Angeles. I miss her to heaven and back.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I recently went to a book signing to see and understand what happens there besides signing books. I met Monica A. Coleman, the author of Bipolar Faith. She read a few exerts from her book and her words let me know that she understood my depression and I knew that she could feel my pain. Though it was just a bit more than I planned to spend, I purchased her book and she became my new best author.
My favorite author for a very long time, though I have only read one of his books, is Ray Shell, the author of Iced. Although the book is fiction, I found myself asking, “Are these real experiences of his life, or the life of someone he knows?” The book was written with a poetic style, nothing rhymed, but some of his sentences were short and to the point; some even one or two-word sentences. The story was so vivid and powerful. I enjoyed the book so much, when I thought I lost it, I bought it again, even though I had finished reading the book. I also purchased the book for other people. I hope they read it.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Cathryn Marshall, a wonderful woman who has been my mentor for about 5 years. Of course, I can’t really remember if that’s how long it’s been, but she’s still my buddy. Whatever I decide to do in my life she always has positive words of encouragement. For a woman with such a small stature, she’s such a powerhouse. I admire her immensely.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not really. I’ve told my story and it’s one of the most important stories I could ever share. I have always seen myself as an advocate and I’d like to ensure that my story is heard in order to help others. For now, although I am not an expert on the subject, through my own experiences, I’d like to just focus on educating the community on bipolar disorder. If I come across another story that I need to tell, perhaps I’ll write again.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Of course, I’d like to correct a few typos I found since the book was published and add a snippet of information that I forgot to include. But, I don’t think adding anything would really give readers greater clarity or even improve on the story itself.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It was the comparison of my writing style to Terry McMillan. Prior to that, I hadn’t written anything other than letters to family and friends, and business correspondence.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Bipanic mode…Slamming doors. Loneliness. Cursing. Crying. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Oversleeping. Rambling thoughts. Mood swings. Accusations. Pity. Drama. Got another emotion or behavior you’d like to toss in? Go ahead, it will probably fit.
I’m working but not talking. My face tells my story. Don’t talk to me. I’m in one of those moods – you know, the one where I’ve already got you pegged. You’re gonna say some shit and it’s going to piss me off and we’re gonna argue. You’re gonna make it all about you and it’s not about you. I need to go home.
Don’t cut me off, I’m talking. Don’t act like I’m a ghost and you can’t hear me talking. I fuckin’ know you can hear me. Stop talking and listen!
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” My manager asks.
“I told you what’s wrong with me!” Now you’ve opened up a can of shit and I need to go home.
“I’M NOT GOING THROUGH THIS WITH YOU TODAY!” she says.
“Do you want me to go home?”
“Yes. Oh, there’s my manager,” she says.
Now the big dude’s involved and that’s supposed to make this shit go away. That’s supposed to solve all the problems that “you’ve” got because there’s a bipolar bitch in your crew. This shit ain’t going nowhere. This garbage will be rolling around in my head until I die. Death. Final solution. No. Then God will have his say. Oh, shit! My kids. Nicholas…will he cry? Will he care?
“You wanna know why I keep saying the same thing day-in and day-out? It’s because I know my concerns aren’t pointless and I think if I keep telling someone, they’ll finally understand. Somebody has got to understand. But nobody does. And I just keep on trying.”
“Miss Louise, I want to understand. But, I don’t. I don’t understand. I just don’t understand!” She’s lowered her voice some, but she’s still yelling at me. She’s frustrated. I can hear it in her voice. I see it on her face.
Oh, we’re in the walk-in freezer and I’m trying to explain my feelings. “I just need for someone to understand. I’m a smart person.”
“I know you’re smart. Oh my God. I’ve never said you’re not smart. All of us here say all the time, ‘Why does Miss Louise work here? She’s too smart to be pushing mops and washing dishes.’ Why are you here, Louise?” she asks with great concern in her voice.
“I’ve been out of the administrative field for seven years. I started working here on a part-time basis. I quit my full-time administrative job at the spur of a hot-headed moment and I haven’t been able to get back in. So, I’ve been out of the field for so long and I’m no longer a spring chicken. I’m stuck.” I say all of that through buckets of tears and sniffles.
“I’m cold. It’s cold in here,” my manager says.
“I’m not cold.”
“This is a freezer and it’s cold. Your snot is going to freeze.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I don’t like offending people, although sometimes I do. I curse a lot and in order to be true and honest to my readers, I needed to use the same language in my writing. I feel that my story, I Can’t Wait ‘till I’m Grown!, is so important that if the curse words are offensive to some, I hope they can move past them and understand the purpose and message I am trying to convey. So, I find it challenging to write for a diverse audience and stay true to myself.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book?
Not yet, but I expect that will change soon. My plan is to go where my audience leads me, and since the topic I’m sharing is so wide-spread, I plan on traveling quite a bit.
Fiona: Who designed the cover?
I designed my cover, front and back. I had a vision of what I wanted the cover to convey. I have been enjoying and designing marketing materials, special occasion cards, presentations, and websites for years; so there was no one more qualified to design my cover.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
First and foremost, the recall of so many aspects of my life. I had to call upon some people who shared portions of my life with me because there were things I couldn’t remember exactly as they happened. Determining which storylines weren’t as important was a bit difficult because there was so much thought and work that I had put into writing everything. Some of the timelines were misplaced, so moving portions and putting them in the right place presented a challenge. Once I was done with the story, there were some portions that had to be edited out. It was hard to chop out experiences that helped shape my life while making sure that the entire story flowed without losing integrity.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Although I have threatened to physically harm people, I kept believing that in reality, I never really would. However, after writing about my experiences, I realized that during my younger years, I had actually been combative a few times when I felt emotionally threatened. Writing about my life, and being honest about it, has truly opened some old deep wounds.
Because I had to do so much research about bipolar disorder in order to understand it myself and give my readers a clear, non-clinical picture, I learned a lot about the illness. I now understand why I acted on negative behaviors and why my emotions could change from high to low in a matter of seconds.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
I think I would like for Kimberly Elise to play the role of Louise. Kimberly is a great dramatic actress who is able to generate tears and emotion from her audience. I have a great respect for her talent.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Start!!! When your mind is filled with stuff, art, emotions, words…write!!! It doesn’t have to be in order, that will come later, but everything we do in life has a beginning. If you never start, you will never finish, and you will never know what you could have accomplished.
When I started writing my book, I completed 65 pages and I put it away. I didn’t pick those pages up again until 20 years later, but when I started typing again, I didn’t stop until I finished. My second go-round took less than a year; but I guess in reality, it took 20 years to write my first book. But, I know that if I had finished the book back then, it would have been solely entertaining, having no educational value. I needed those years for my life to develop into what it is now.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope that you not only love the story, but learn from it as well. There are a lot of situations throughout the book that I’m sure many will be able to relate to. I hope that each of you find the book both entertaining and educational, so much so, that you share it with someone you know; because it could be a tool that helps positively change someone’s life.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Bipolar Faith, by Monica A. Coleman
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. Because I read the book so many years ago, I don’t remember anything about it, except that I really liked it. There was one incident in the book where Margaret was becoming a teenager, she felt her breasts were too small, so she began to exercise and chant, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust!” My older sister and I echoed those words for years!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Funny stuff…not much. But, babies and toddlers can bring a smile to my face no matter what mood I’m in; their such cute little people, and so honestly funny. What makes me cry? Too much to mention.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, that you would like to meet and why?
I’ve always wanted to meet my maternal grandmother, Francis. From the short stories my mother told of her, she was soft spoken and kind…but not one to cross. I’ve seen a few photos of her, and her face was so beautiful and her hair, although in a bun, I could tell was of great texture and long in length. Her photos seemed to tell the story of a hard life, but one she shared with her children freely. She didn’t smile in her photos, it seemed that not many people smiled in photos prior to the 60s.
Looking at her photos, I could speculate on her life, but I’d like to ask her, “Were you happy, Grandmother? Your daughter, my aunt, says that you never verbally spoke the words, ‘I love you’, but she knew you loved her. I don’t remember my mother saying those words to me either, but I knew she did. How is it that you go through life without speaking those words to the ones that you love?” I’d like to ask my mother that as well, but she’s gone too.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
I’ll be cremated, but if I were to have a headstone, I’d like it to read, “She gave so much and took so little”
Fiona: Other than writing, do you have any hobbies?
I love art…painting, sewing, redesigning rooms, and believe it or not, organization…that’s art too.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I particularly enjoy most drama shows dealing with medical, policing, fire, and law; like Royal Pains, Law and Order, and Chicago Fire. I also like dramas, like Empire, The Haves & The Have Nots, and you can throw a couple of comedy dramas in the mix as well.
I used to like watching reality police shows like the America’s Dumbest Criminals, which can be excluded from the list of the real, real police shows, like The First 48, but with the world becoming so volatile, it seems as though those type of shows strike me in my “reality,” and I don’t watch shows like that anymore.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Pizza, ice cream and Publix Cola! I like earth tones, brown, red, gold, and yellow. But, for clothing, I like black, it makes me look slimmer. As for music, Reggae, R&B, Jazz, and whatever that music is in the Enrique Iglesias genre.
Fiona: If you were not a writer, what else would you like to have done?
If my brain hadn’t flaked on me, I would like to have really learned to develop and design websites. But, my brain did betray me (partially), so I’d like to spend all of my time creating art…painting, sewing and bringing drab rooms to life.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website address is http://www.eunicelewis.com. My blog is on my website. I can’t wait ‘till I’m Grown! A Diary, can be purchased from the following entities:
Create Space, an Amazon Company