What happens if you wake up one day and remember nothing about your past life? Katherine Thompson talks about her book chronicling her memory loss – The Day I woke up and how she got published…
Name, age and area where you live in the UK
Katherine Thompson, I am 29 years old and I live In Cheshire.
Book name, publication date, who book is published by.
My book, which was published on the 16th of May 2012 by lulu, is called ‘The day I woke up’
Is this your first book? If not, how many other books have you published?
Yes this is my first book, though shall not be my last.
What is the book about?
‘The day I woke up’ is a memoir, a personal account of the first ten months of my life living with retrograde amnesia. Recording from that very first moment I looked around and realised I had no idea where I was or who I was right through to life once settling down. Meeting family and friends at the age of 26 and not knowing who they are, yet these people holding photographs of you, from only a few weeks previous, not understanding the concept of God when living with a religious family, there seemed to be so much that happen in the first few months, and this book is an open invite for people to share with me the highs and lows of the first ten months.
It is a story that will inspire you, with moments that will make you laugh, and possibly cry, there shall be insights you may never have considered before as well as emotional rides you will recognise within yourself.
What is retrograde amnesia?
Retrograde amnesia is a loss of memory-access to events that occurred before a specific event or illness; the inability to recall information mainly personal information.
Psychogenic amnesia (Which is what I have) is defined as having retrograde amnesia (the inability to recall past memories) yet being able to form new long term memories. This is different from organic retrograde amnesia as psychogenic amnesia occurs without damage to the brain. It usually occurs from a traumatic incident.
What is the treatment for that type of memory loss?
There is no real answer to ‘treatment’ for amnesia unless you know the cause. If the retrograde amnesia is organic, where there has been damage to the brain or an illness, I.E a legion on the brain then treating the ‘illness’ or the ‘brain’ itself, may cure the amnesia. Whereas trauma induced amnesia usually leaves the person not remembering what happened to them, there for the trauma can not be treated (which would be through therapy, some try hypnosis as a means to try and recall the information).
Have you recovered your memory?
No. Three years later and I still have no recall of memory from before the 22nd July 2010.
When did you start writing/what gave you the idea to write a book?
After I first lost my memory I saw a counsellor who encouraged me to journal, as a manner of coping with the present day life. Towards the end of my counselling Wendy, my counsellor encouraged me to ‘share’ my story with people, to inspire others, and help others who too may be experiencing some of the emotions I had struggled with and overcame, even if there situation was different. One of the ways she suggested was to write a book. I gave it some time, and thought, and decide that actually, I would. I actually wrote the book in 2011.
Why did you decide to actually go ahead and write the book?
I want nothing more in this life of mine then to inspire others, to be a bearer of hope to those who are struggling. As someone who is moving in the field of counselling, helping others is always the foundation of what I do. I realised one day that actually I had gone through some very difficult things and come out the other side stronger, these experiences I have lived through and live with I want to share with people so they know that they too can come out of hardship stronger.
I live by the idea that; ‘If I must endure hardship it is only for another person’s gain, that they too can share in my healing’
How long did it take to write?
In some ways it didn’t take me very long to actually write; only a few months as the bulk work had already been done through the journals, I wrote in the journal for over ten months, so in another way it took me approximately a year.
If it’s a personal book about you, how did you feel about that? Did you set out to write a personal book or did things just turn out that way? Were friends and family surprised or shocked to read it at first?
Writing the book I always knew it would be a memoir and very personal. Ironically I am not someone who verbally shares a lot of personal information about me, so when I wrote the book I knew there would be an awful lot of surprised people once they realised the depth of my journey and struggles. Family and close friends were aware whilst I was writing the book and a lot of them actually had the chance to read the story before it went to an editor, because I didn’t want to expose anything about them they were not comfortable with. It is hard sharing your personal story, mainly as it is your perspective of events and others around you may have had different views. I found myself feeling upset by certain things in the early months, when actually three years later I can look back and understand fully what was happening, so it was a little ‘weird’ to publish a book in 2013 with a fuller understanding of events in 2010 / 2011, rereading it now I see things differently, but did not change a thing because that was of course the true perspective I had then.
How did you get published? Did you approach a literary agent first or go directly to a publisher?
I went to a publisher and an agent at first and found means and ways via both routes. Eventually I decided to self publish via lulu, the pro’s and con’s of self publishing and no longer only different, to the pro’s and con’s of publishing with a particular publisher. I had some interest but the time it would take from signing a contract to actually selling was a lot longer, as well as a lot more work (initially anyway). The work though within self publishing that is the most challenging, is prompting the book. Marketing and promotion is left up to you, defiantly a con to self publishing as it is much harder than I had anticipated.
Where your book is on sale?
Any advice for other book writers?
The best ‘tip’ I could ever give someone is actually a question; “Why are you writing the book?”
Ensure your motives are from the heart! If you are someone who has a passion for writing, or you feel you have a story that could benefit someone else in the world then I would say don’t give up! Keep going, the hard work (as it is hard work) and the emotional rollercoaster ride is worth it. There shall be days you wonder why you are doing it as well as days you enjoy every step, no matter what kind of day you are having, don’t give up. If you are looking to make money, you could be setting yourself up for a fall. Personally I am dyslexic and very untrained in the area of writing I only have a few years of memory don’t forget 😉 so if I can do it, so can you. If it writing your own book is your dream – don’t ever stop until that dream has been pursued.
ENJOY it! If you really are not enjoying what you are doing, don’t do it.