Lynn Jerabek’s Novel, How Many Me’s, Seeks a Home



LP:  I am pleased to welcome my good friend, Lynn Jerabek, here today to talk with us about her book, How Many Me’s. I met Lynn in 2009 when we both attended the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.  We formed an immediate bond when we discovered we were both writing novels about mental disorders.  Lynn is at that exciting and scary point of launching her manuscript out into the world in search of a home.

LJ:  First, Linda, let me say thank you for inviting me to participate on your interesting blog. You have already interviewed Lyn Miller-Lachmann, a friend in my local critique group, on her new release, Rogue. I am honored to be in such company.

LP:  Your book is about dissociative disorder, not something that everyone is familiar with.  What is it and how did you come to write a novel about it?

LJ:  Dissociative Identity Disorder, DID for short, used to be known as Multiple Personality Disorder and may still be recognized by that term. People who have DID have developed many hidden personalities, usually unknown to the ‘core person.’ These ‘alter personalities’ endured intolerable abuse, which the person experienced starting in  very early childhood. Rather than a sickness, DID is a wonderful way some minds have of protecting themselves from any conscious knowledge of the abuse: what happened, who did it, how it felt—everything about it is known only to the alter personalities, allowing the child to grow up with a healthy core.

While volunteering on a helpline, I met a woman who was diagnosed with DID. Her therapist dropped her from his caseload and she turned to the helpline volunteers. Over the course of twelve years, I learned much and listened and prayed for and sat with her as memories surfaced, flashbacks occurred, and alters were identified and healed and integrated back into the core of her personality. Today she has one totally integrated self. She has earned an MSW and is a highly respected counselor. That gives me hope.

This is why I wanted to write Emily Perskee’s story. It is totally fictional, but relies heavily on the experiences of several people I know who have had DID and are healed or healing. I hope that for some the book will be entertaining and enlightening, and that for others, who might have a need to know, it will point the way to self knowledge and help and hope.

LP:  You are at a strategic place in the life of an author.  Your book is ready to be sent out on the agent/editor quest.  Which are you targeting and what is your game plan or approach?

LJ:  I am reading websites of both agents and editors who have worked on books that are similar to mine and also books that I just like. Industry books like Harold Underdown’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books and Ariel Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published are never out of reach. And of course, my critique group. Where would any writer be without one?

I will first offer my book to agents and editors I have met at conferences and workshops. This whole business seems very personal and I think I would rather have some small acquaintance with such an important person in my writing career from the get go. Many years ago when I was learning to sew in 4H, I was told that setting in sleeves, zippers, matching plaids–all were difficult. Of course, that good news made those skills harder than they really were. Now this is hard, but I am trying to look on the bright side and be positive. That can’t hurt, can it?

LP:  What have been your most significant, instructive, and supportive writing associations along the way?

LJ:  It all started when I clipped a coupon for the Institute of Children’s Literature. During work for their introductory course, I identified Emily as my character and her story began to be written as the course progressed. That correspondence course was very helpful. I only wish I had taken the publishing business part more seriously. But who knew?

Then there was the 2009 Highlights Conference at Chautauqua, NY. Peter Jacobi was my mentor. He encouraged me and showed me how words can make all the difference. I owe him a lot! And to Chautauqua I owe you, Linda, since it was on that 5-hour ride back east that we talked about everything that matters and became friends.

In 2010 I attended a Whole Novel Workshop at the home of Highlights in Boyds Mills, PA. Stephen Roxburgh was my mentor there. He said this very important thing to me: “The story is important and could really help some hurting kids, but, even more than the DID stuff, you have to get the writing right or it will never get published.” Since then I have been trying to get the writing right!

Second Sight by Cheryl Klein and her workshop by the same name taught me how to map my ms and see the parts of it separately and then as a whole. This was very helpful, too.

The North East New York SCBWI group and the critique group that formed out of it have given me invaluable help. Thanks to them for keeping the project alive.

LP:  What is your emotional barometer telling you right now?  In other words, what is the most exciting and what is the most daunting part of trying to find a home for your book?

LJ:  My emotional barometer? Oh, my! The most exciting part is the hope that the thing will actually see the light of day and be published. The most daunting, even more than the work, is the fear that it may not see daylight after all. But truth to tell, I am more hopeful than daunted. I feel there is a purpose behind the effort and that Steven Roxburg was right: it is important. Is that too optimistic?

LP:  Experts say you should already be working on your next book.  Are you, and if so, what is it about?

LJ:  Ah yes. The next book. It is, of course, more about this wonderful character, Emily Perskee. I have written several disconnected scenes giving back-story that answers some questions neither asked nor answered in How Many Me’s, but in need of exploration. And closer to my heart, I will take Emily through some of her healing process; not all of it because I would not wish to imply that one size fits all. And there may be a wedding.

LP:  What advice do you have for writers who are at this stage of the game, ready to start the submission process?

LJ:  What advice could I give those of you who are just putting tippy toes into this great stream? Stay close to the lifeguards and just keep swimming!

LP:   Great advice, Lynn!


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Lynn Jerabek’s Novel, How Many Me’s, Seeks a Home — 6 Comments

  1. Interesting article. I’d love to know what you think about the huge body of research refuting the existence of multiple personalities & Dissociative Identity Disorder. As you know, anecdotal evidence is void of science. What have you learned about the fallibility of recovered memories and false memories.

    Jeanette Bartha

  2. Thanks for the question, Jeanette. It is a hard question to answer because it comes with biases and controversy. I am aware of concerns over ‘false memories,’ but I have not encountered any. The dissociative person I worked with was not in therapy and her memories only came out as I listened, mostly as a volunteer on a helpline similar to The Samaritans, some in person. I am not trained or paid as a counselor. I have seen total healing of DID. I suppose the huge body of research you speak of proves something, but it does not prove that all traumatic memory is false, as I’m sure you know. I’d like to point out again that my book is a novel.

  3. Hi Lynn, Thank you for your response.

    I’m unclear about what you mean, “I am aware of concerns over ‘false memories,’ but I have not encountered any.” Are you referring to the person you counseled on the phone?

    Yes, I’m aware that you wrote a novel, yet it is, as you say, based on your experiences. People, therefore, may likely take your novel as true and as you pointed out, you are hoping your work will help others who have DID. If the others you speak of are people without DID, or questioning, they could be unduly influenced by what you write without knowing that the mental malady of which you write, is steeped in controversy, has been documented to cause harm to patients, and to many psychiatrists is a cultural phenomenon that does not exist.

    Just wondering, in general, if novelists bear any responsibility especially when written from a limited point of view i.e. based on a personal relationship.

    Best, JB

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