Interview with Leif Gregersen, author of 'Through the Withering Storm - Win a Kobo Mini E-Reader

Through the Withering Storm
Mental illness is something that is a great deal more common than many think. Statistics show that 1 in 5 North Americans will require treatment for a major disorder at some point in their lives. This means either you or a family member or friend close to you are very likely to be stricken down by a failure of our most essential and complicated organ in our bodies. When I was first treated for a mental health issue there was so much stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness that I completely denied I had a problem. Despite that mental health issues ran in my family, no one talked about them, everyone shunned those who were different, and as a result I wasted years of my life not understanding that there was help available and that I didn’t just have to ‘tough things out’. My denial and pain was so bad at one point I tried to join the military during the first Gulf War just to find a way out of life, I thought I would either gain the discipline needed to overcome my illness or die trying. I needed neither. Some find my story funny, some find it sad, but it is a story that is being played out among more people than you may think right now, right around all of us. Depression, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Addiction. It‘s something we can no longer avoid, especially with America now deploying and redeploying troops en masse to combat zones where even the strongest among us can succumb to the pressure of such a situation. It is my hope that those who read this book can walk away from it having had a look inside the mind of someone who lost his mind and one day regained it, but not without first going through incredible pain and suffering. This suffering doesn‘t have to happen. What has to happen is that attitudes and knowledge have to improve.

How long have you been writing? 

I think some of my earliest writing goes back to a sick day when I was in second or third grade. I sat down and made up some rhyming poems, I wish I had saved them or at least showed them to someone. Later in elementary school I would use paper ribbon from the calculator at my Dad’s business to write and illustrate my own comics, mostly war stories or about spaceships. I think I did my first serious piece in grade 8 when we had a contest for our local Legion to write something about the World Wars and I wrote about the pride I felt as an Air Cadet on Rememberance Day, November 11.

When did you first know you could be a writer? 

In grade 11 I had this amazing teacher who cared very little about being liked and cared very much about preparing her students for academic pursuit. We read some amazing books in that class and the teacher explained literature to us better than anyone I had known, and I had the bug. I can even narrow it down to one day, one minute when everything about good literature just sort of came to me and I thought to myself that I could do it, I could put something like that together.

 Who or what influenced your writing once you began? 

I have had a couple of girlfriends who took an interest over the years in what I’ve written, especially before I really published anything significant, and sometimes I think if it weren’t for them reading and enjoying my stuff I would have seen no point in continuing my efforts. Also, I would say as far as authors go Robert M. Pirsig, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was huge for me because he struggled with a mental illness and put out some incredible writing. I really wish he had written more than the two books he did.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years? What made you want to be a writer?

I guess if I were to be truthful, I would say that I wanted in some way to feel superior to people and to have that one in a million shot of making big money from my writing. I had been told many times after I started though that reasons like that soon fade, and eventually they did, though I have derived a great deal of self-esteem and pride from my writing and I have even made a little money if you count the newspaper and magazine writing I have done. I could be making fairly good money writing for magazines still, but I have a great job that is well-paying and allows me tht time I need to devote to my writing, so I’m not worried at all about things like that which is a huge help.

How did you come up with the title of the book? 

 It took a number of years of tossing around ideas and the title kind of just came to me. The word ‘withering’ came from a comic book I used to love reading about a Tank and crew from World War Two that was haunted by a civil war general. Even after I grew up and moved out I still would look for these comics and enjoyed reading them. In one issue the Tank was described as going through the ‘withering’ fire of the enemy and years later the word just seemed to fit. I have thought about changing the title or the cover of the book so that it tells more about the subject of the book, but the title has kind of become part of the book so if I am going to make any changes, I will save my good ideas for the sequel which is hopefully going to be out soon.

Are there any current books that have grasped your interest?

 I don’t know how much I want to admit it, but I have been doing some in-depth reading of Ayn Rand. When I was younger any writer so conservative would have turned me right off, but now that I see the world through different eyes, I am starting to see the genius of some of her work. She was a great philosopher and an amazing writer. The scope of the work of hers I am reading right now (Atlas Shrugged) is incredible, it must be over 200,000 words. I’ve also taken a recent interest in J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert’s Dune series. It kind of feels great because there are so many amazing writers and amazing books out there I have just started to discover. I just hope I live long enough to read a lot of them.

ABOUT LEIF GREGERSEN
From a young age I showed promise in writing and poetry, and did well in school. Even in grade five I used to draw and write stories for my own comic books and post them on the bulletin board in class. When I got to high school, I began to read voraciously, and though I failed my first academic English course, I took continually more advanced courses and got higher and higher grades in them. I was hopeful to attend University and study English, but before I finished school I was stricken with a severe breakdown and had to be hospitalized where I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. From that point, family and friend relationships broke down and I ended up sort of drifting until I signed up for Flying School in Vancouver, BC. In the middle of this training, I took off for the US with a friend and tried to join the US Army as a helicopter pilot. All of these adventures are detailed in my memoir, which covers my life from the age of 13 to 21 which was the point at which I decided I had to stay in one place (I had returned to Edmonton near my home town and where my parents lived) and I took treatment for my disorder and began to write seriously. I spent some years just studying and writing poetry and then moved on to short stories, and my book, “Through The Withering Storm” is actually partially short stories I wrote and collected at that time. Now, since I turned 30 I have been living in an assisted-living house for males with Psychiatric Disorders and life has gone quite well. I landed a great job doing labour work/stage hand/security work for the stage and screen Union, IATSE. I have seen many concerts, worked closely with some big stars, and made enough money to continue writing and self-publishing my books, which have already paid for themselves in sales for the most part.

Check out my author central page where my books can be previewed and videos watched. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00DK44DAG Also, I have set up a website with free chapters of my book, "Through The Withering Storm", plus short stories, blog entries and even podcasts at: http://www.valhallabooks.com/ Finally, I have a YouTube Channel with tons of free videos at: https://www.youtube.com/user/viking3082000
 

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