Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview with Author Ka Hancock

This Wednesday, February 29th, is the last day to enter into the drawing for a free copy of the book Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock. I thought it would be fun to ask the author a few questions about writing this book and her experience with bipolar disorder. I think you’ll find the interview very interesting, check it out!

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Welcome Ka to my blog! When I first heard about your book I immediately became curious about your experience with bipolar disorder and your inspiration to incorporate it into your novel.

What made you decide to write a book about relationships and bipolar disorder?
That happened rather accidentally, at least in the beginning—I needed what I thought was a good reason for a woman to give her baby to her sister rather than trust her husband to raise her. So I gave him bipolar disorder because there is a range of symptoms, many differing opinions on treatment as wells as a variety of medications. All this meant I had ample room within that diagnosis to create my character. Initially I thought he should be a complex man that would not be trustworthy enough to care for his child. Shame on me! As I came to understand Mickey Chandler, I soon realized that his mental illness was an empty argument and certainly no reason—in and of itself—that my heroin would not want him to have their child. So as I got to know Mickey, and he emerged as such a good guy despite his diagnosis, what started out as a mere character trait soon became a driving force in the story. Mental illness is of particular interest to me, and delving into Mickey and his relationship with the world was an exercise in discovery as well as appreciation. Bipolar disorder symptomology ranges from mild to debilitating and frequently cycles between these extremes. I characterized Mickey as having this illness but also layered him with an admirable core and great insight into his disorder—two imperative components of this story.

Do you have any experience with bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses?
I have worked in the field of mental illness for many years as a psychiatric nurse. I have come to appreciate the struggle of those challenged with this diagnosis as well as the families that orbit around them. Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, it can be hell on relationships, and medication compliance can be a huge challenge. And for those living with the extremes of mood and behavior, it can be crazy-making and very frightening. In a hospital setting, I have also come to appreciate the role of individual responsibility—meaning, as with any other chronic illness, BPD requires consistent attention—medication, therapy, and monitoring of symptoms. To successfully navigate this disorder, it requires an understanding of the diagnosis as well as an absolute commitment to treatment. Sadly, this is frequently easier said than done because this mood disorder is very seductive—hypomania does have its allure.

How did you research bipolar disorder for this book?
Lucy’s part in the story was easy; working with mentally ill patients has afforded me a front row seat in their care. I’ve certainly experienced the frustration; the strain on patience; and the clean-up after a breakdown, suicide attempt, or manic episode. Mickey’s part was tougher for me as I have not experienced BPD from the inside out. I relied heavily on the accounts of several people who have been brave enough to share their personal experiences. The best book I’ve come across that depicts the day-to-day survival of this diagnosis is An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jemison. I highly recommend it.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
I think the most challenging aspect was keeping Mickey true to life while conveying his experience with BPD. I did not want to get too clinical because I wanted the story to be accessible to anyone. I also did not want to diminish the experience for those who are living with it firsthand. Because this is fiction, I was able to manipulate what I needed with the goal of creating an enduring, likable man who also suffers from a mental illness. The same is true for Lucy, a woman who did her homework before she ever married Mickey. Building these characters—this marriage—was a labor of love that I hope will offer some insight not only to those suffering with BPD, but those who love them as well.

What do you hope to communicate through this story, is there a life lesson or experience you wanted to share?
I think what I really wanted to convey in this book is that there is worthiness and capability in everyone, despite a diagnosis of mental illness. Mickey doesn’t feel worthy of Lucy’s love or acceptance and nearly opts for a life without her, which would have been tragic. She came to understand his limitations, but also admired his commitment to treatment—that was key for her. Life is hard. A diagnosis of BPD makes it harder, so it requires harder work. That’s just a fact. The key to living successfully with this disorder often lies with treatment compliance—developing insight, taking responsibility, following through. In this work of fiction, that’s who Mickey was, and Lucy knew that beneath all his pathology there was a very good man, a man strong enough and resourceful enough to take care of his daughter.

If there is BPD in your life, whether as patient or caregiver, I wish you peace and long bouts of stability. When you can’t attain those, I wish you respite and a shoulder. This blog is a good thing, Mama Bear. Thank you for hosting me.

Thank you so much Ka for sharing your book with us, I look forward to reading it!

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So are you interested in winning this free book and be one of the first to read it? If so, email me your mailing address by Wednesday, February 29th. By Friday, March 2nd, I’ll draw one of your names and forward your address to Simon & Schuster and they’ll mail a free copy of the book to you after March 13th. (Sorry U.S. residents only).

Email me here to enter:

Good Luck!

Don’t worry, I won’t be using your personal info, it will be destroyed after a winner is selected. Also, in an effort to have full disclosure, I’ll be receiving a free book too from Simon & Schuster.

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Link to the book:

Author’s website:


  1. Great interview, Mama Bear! Sounds like a very interesting book I'd like to read.