Kerenza and I met through Twitter. We had a lovely conversation about writing and what we both work on.
Kerenza Ryan is a poet and writer who tells the world, sometimes loudly, about what it’s like living with schizophrenia. She works as a peer support specialist at a community mental health agency, and volunteers with the Crisis Text Line, a texting suicide hotline. All in all, her voice is caught up in helping those with mental illness. She has a poetry book out and a novel on the way, and more information can be found at www.kerenzaryan.com.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Kerenza. I sometimes go by Ren, mostly so people don’t get awkward while trying to pronounce my name. I have a book of poetry out called “I Am Schizophrenic: Poetry From A Beautiful Brain”, but here today I would like to talk about my upcoming book, “The Romance of Psychosis”.
As you may be able to guess from my title, I enjoy writing about schizophrenia, something I personally experience and that is a part of who I am, even as it does not define me. I also enjoy volunteering with the Crisis Text Line (a suicide hotline over text) and working as a peer support specialist at a community mental health agency. Pretty much, helping the mentally ill is my life.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
There was never a time when I didn’t want to be an author. I won a writing competition in fourth grade, made a teacher cry with a piece about my best friend moving in fifth grade, then was unremarkable for a bit until I resurrected and at sixteen and was first published, finished my first novel, and did my first poetry reading. Since I started taking things more seriously at sixteen, I’ve never stopped.
What genres do you like to read? Are these the same genres you write in?
I mainly, but not only, read science fiction. The novel I’m currently writing is science fiction, and I’ve written a few others in that genre, but never published in it. I also read a decent amount of poetry, like my first book, and listen at open mic nights often, which I think may be the best place to display poetry.
As for my upcoming novel, which is a combination of Christian romance and psychological suspense, I’ve come into the genres more recently, in order to help me work on the book. I also read both genres as a preteen, when I read much more often because I wasn’t spending at least an hour a day writing and didn’t work full time. I hadn’t expected to write either genre, particularly Christian romance, but I think sometimes when you get a good story you have to run with it.
Is your book for adults, young adults or children?
My book is for adults. Make no mistake, though it has no sexy scenes, it has plenty of trigger warnings, mostly including graphic descriptions of delusions, hallucinations and suicide. It also has brief mentions of alcoholism. The last thing I want it to do is hurt anyone. People who have troubles with reading about people who struggle to understand reality or who cannot handle reading about suicide at this stage in their life should probably wait to read this work.
What is your current release or project?
The Romance of Psychosis
Tell us about the key characters
Hugo Sousa is a Brazilian cancer-researcher, an only child of a single mother and a fun loving Christian who does a bit of day-drinking. Julia Douglas is a hairdresser and pastor’s daughter. She had a twin who died as a young infant, and no other siblings. She hopes to settle down and have kids of her own, and can’t wait to be Mrs. Hugo Sousa.
What is your blurb or synopsis of the book?
When Brazilian cancer researcher Hugo Sousa starts seeing things that aren’t there, and believing things that aren’t true, he terrifies his fiancee Julia.
They travel together on a journey through psychosis and mood swings as Hugo becomes more and more sick. He talks to demons, has religious delusions, and believes a bomb will go off if his heart rate gets too high. While the wedding is pushed back again and again, they struggle to find medicine and therapy that will bring Hugo back to himself.
Julia follows him through a hospitalization, suicide attempts, and almost daily therapy. The hairdresser sticks with her fiance through it all, because they have been together since childhood. She only can hope that with the right treatment they will be able to get on with their lives and finally get married.
Share an excerpt
When Hugo got to his apartment, Julia was sitting in the middle of the floor, pictures of wedding dresses strewn around her. “Does this actually help you, seeing them on other people?” Hugo asked, stepping gingerly over them to his favorite spot on his massive green sofa. Still, he wouldn’t complain, after all, he had someone beautiful in front of him, trying to pick out the best outfit to look gorgeous in.
Hugo watched Julia rake her photos into a pile. Wheat colored hair framed her ceaselessly pale skin in layers of curls. Her blue-grey eyes crinkled as she concentrated, and her rolls of flesh jiggled as she moved. He was the opposite: lanky and angular, tall and dark, with a head of wavy black hair almost covering his dark brown eyes.
“I didn’t say you had to move them,” Hugo said.
“But you were thinking it. I hope you don’t mind me working here. My mother was getting a little bit too involved back at my house.”
“You have no idea how happy I am that you are here,” he said, leaning down and kissing the top of her head from where she sat on the ground. “And I want you to find the prettiest dress there is. If this is part of your process, so be it. Not that any dress could make you look any prettier than you are right now.”
“I already said yes, Hugo,” Julia said, rolling her eyes. Still, she blushed.
“I picked out the flowers. Hope you don’t mind,” he said. As soon as he said it, he could tell she minded. The pause made it hard to breathe.
“It’s probably not too late to cancel the order,” he said, pulling out his phone.
“Nonsense. I’m sure whatever you picked out is beautiful,” Julia said.
“This is your wed—”
“I thought I told you to stop saying that,” Julia interrupted. “This is our wedding. I want you to be involved. I’m sure the flowers you picked out are perfect. By the way, I was thinking about tables. Your mother needs a place to sit. Generally, we’d want her up front, but she can’t be too close to my family.”
“Surely she’ll be good on the wedding day,” Hugo said after some hesitation.
“We can’t take any chances. I think we can put her near the front on the opposite side of the auditorium and—” Julia continued talking, but Hugo stopped listening. He could feel someone behind him, staring. Goosebumps raised on his arms, and his body tensed up as he slowly looked back.
Do you have a favorite scene?
I like the scene where Hugo sees demons and takes off running from them in the middle of Paris, quite literally dragging Julia along with him– but you’ll have to read the book for that.
What advice would you give a beginner?
Read all the advice you can find, then do what feels right to you.
Social media links:
Other: www.kerenzaryan.com (My newsletter subscription box is on the bottom)
Purchasing links: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YLW7F2P