Author Spotlight with Lana Grace Riva
Open up to find all about Lana and her book 'The Existence Of Amy' Lana Grace Riva has written two books, one non-fiction the other fiction, both based on her experiences of mental health. Her first book 'Happier Thinking' is a short collection of tips and exercises to help maintain a healthy mind. Her second book 'The Existence Of Amy' is a fictional story based on the reality of life with OCD, depression and anxiety.
Social Media: Instagram: @lanagraceriva GoodReads: Lana Grace Riva
Hi Lana, excited to have you featured on my blog! How are you? I recently read your book that you kindly gifted me called 'The Existence Of Amy' for those who haven't yet read it, or read my review, can you tell us more about it? Hello, thank you for featuring me! My book The Existence Of Amy is about the daily life of someone living with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), anxiety and depression. It is a fictional story overall, but it is very much based on reality. The depiction of these illnesses is entirely accurate from one person’s experience. Everyone suffering with similar will have their own unique experience, but there will be lots of common threads.
Aside from being a detailed look at mental illness, it is a story of friendship. I really wanted to highlight the amazing impact friendships can have.
It primarily focuses on Amy's mental health, and the way her brain works differently from everyone else's, as a sufferer of mental health in the past myself, is this something that you are passionate about?
Absolutely. I am fascinated by the way the brain works. It is an amazing piece of anatomy, but when it goes wrong it can be incredibly scary and difficult to understand. Especially for those around the person suffering. If someone has a broken leg, it will unlikely affect the relationship you have with them, because you understand their pain. You can easily show them empathy and compassion. Even if you have not broken your own leg before, you likely have a good understanding of physical pain, so it’s much more straightforward. When someone has a mental illness, the understanding from the outside world is much more difficult to find. So, if I can help (even in some small way) with facilitating some understanding then I absolutely want to do so.
Gaining the awareness needed for mental health? Is the MC character based on anyone you know? How long did it take you to write 'The Existence of Amy', and have you got any other novels that you can share with us?
Yes – Amy is based on myself. I’ve had OCD for over a decade now. I’m not sure if I could have written the story in the way I did if I didn’t have first-hand experience. I had the ideas in my mind for a long time, but when it came to starting to write, it all came together pretty quickly. I think it was around a couple of months for the first draft.
This is the only fiction book I have written so far, but I am hoping to write more.
Tell us something that your readers may not know about you? I am from the UK, but I lived in Australia for a couple of years. It is such a beautiful place, so I really wanted to set part of the story there.
In terms of Amy's character, many of the sub characters struggle to understand why Amy is the way she is, and thinks. Is this something you think happens in the world today? That people are easily judged without knowing the full context of someone's issues? Yes, it absolutely happens in the world. I have encountered so many situations where I can clearly see someone judging me, but as I can’t give them context around my behaviour, I have to accept their judgement. I don’t blame anyone for doing this, it is unfortunately a very natural reaction to leap quickly to judgements. I have done this myself plenty of times in the past, but I like to think I don’t do it so often anymore. One good thing about mental illness, is that it makes you less quick to judge others.
Your book offers a truly fascinating outlook on those suffering with OCD and anxiety, and also the ability for someone to get help when needed, what was your inspiration for writing a book like this? My inspiration was living through my own experience and wishing desperately that others could understand what it was like. You can’t explain it to people with just a few sentences, so I thought creating a story around it, to illustrate it in detail, might be a good way to help educate people.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to read. I have been in a bit of slump recently with it, but normally it is one of my favourite things to do.
If you could have one wish in your life, what sort of wish would you make?
If it’s allowed to be an unrealistic wish, then it would be that mental illness didn’t exist. Everyone in the world could live with a fully healthy brain. However, if it is to be a slightly more realistic wish… then I wish that everyone would practice more compassion and empathy. Question their judgments always and give people the benefit of the doubt.
What does literary success mean to you? And who has been your biggest supporter within your writing venture?
I didn’t actually start writing because I wanted to be an author! I didn’t think about writing before my mental health struggles. I wrote my first book (a nonfiction self-help type book) because I wanted to remember common useful things that I always forget. I wrote my second book because I saw it as a good means to help people understand OCD and depression. However, in doing so, I found that I enjoy writing so I am keen to continue. My biggest supporter has been myself! I didn’t tell a single person I knew that I had published two books until very recently.
What can us readers expect from you in the future? What are your plans right now?
I am currently writing a new book; however, I am not as sure about the story so I haven’t decided yet if I will end up publishing it. It still has a mental health focus, but it is more about how people and events can affect your mental health, rather than a specific mental illness.
Some people have also asked me about a sequel to The Existence Of Amy which I am absolutely considering, but that wouldn’t be in the near future.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed by me! I absolutely adored your book, and can't wait to read 'Happier Thinking'
You are very welcome. Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate so much you taking the time to read my book and interview me.