Lorraine Pestell is the author of the series A Life Singular, about the life of a famous rock star who suffers from depression due to a very traumatic upbringing, and the love of his life who helps him cope and heal.
Lorraine, who has also suffered from depression for many years, is three books in to her planned six book series, and hopes that her work will not only inspire those who suffer with depression to seek the help and support of others, but also that those who do not suffer with depression might better understand the disease and those who do, and perhaps become part of the support system that helps them do what her protagonist has done.
Lorraine Pestll Interview
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A Life Singular by Lorraine Pestell
Lorraine Pestell Transcript
Tim Knox: Lorraine, welcome to the program!
Lorraine Pestell: Thank you, Tim! It’s great to be here.
Tim Knox: It’s great to having you here. You and I are having a little discussion earlier about the weather, I’m on one side of the planet, in Alabama, and its winter time and you’re in Australia and it’s about to be a hundred degrees.
Lorraine Pestell: It will be today, yes, I’m in Melbourne, Australia which is on the South Coast and the South-East Coast of Australia and we are heading towards 34 degree Celsius today which is around your 97-98 degrees Fahrenheit, yes, holding up.
Tim Knox: Well, I’ll be thinking of you as I’m wrapping up with my warm coat and playing on my gloves. Great having you on the program, I’m very excited to talk to you about your work, about your process. Before we get started, if you will, give the audience a little background on you.
Lorraine Pestell: Certainly, I’m 52 years old, so I’ve had a lot of life experiences, which I’ve pour into my writing. A 30-year veteran of the IT in the industry which is incredibly boring to most people. Mainly, I started in London and I grew up in London, went to university in Scotland and then fortunate enough to get into the IT industry which took me all over the world, so I’ve lived a few years in the US, in New Jersey, in New York and I’ve also lived in most European capitals. Headed to Singapore and found myself in Australia.
I had a personal ambition to be in Australia by the year 2000 and I scraped in with a couple of months to spare and I’ve been in Australia ever since. I first got into writing, well, I’ve always been into writing since I was about 5 or 6 years old, but seriously wanting to publish my serial about 5 years ago when I had a specific message that I want to get across to people that I’m sure we can kind of talk about it later, so that’s about up to now!
Tim Knox: Alright, so what made you want to get to Australia by 2000, did you think that Y2K was going to wipe us out and you think Australia was the safe haven or what?
Lorraine Pestell: Well, I certainly found out pretty early, New Zealand found out that there was no actually, no actual impending disaster associated with Y2K first, but I think I’ve always been fascinated by Australia and my mother tells me that when I was a child I used to get books out from the public library on Australia for some reason, I have a bizarre concept that I might have been in Australia in former life, who knows but I’ve always have been fascinated by the country, it’s a great place to live, it’s a country the size of the United States with a population of 23 million people so there’s not many of us many of us here which is attractive too.
Tim Knox: Very good, you certainly have the accent working there, I teased you in an earlier call that you’re sounding like sounding like an Aussie so lets go back in time a little bit because you said you’ve always been a writer, when did you first know that you have the ability to write? Did you write when you were a little girl, or a teenager?
Lorraine Pestell: I did, definitely all the time, obviously a great reader as well. I was very fortunate to have an extremely inspiring English teacher at school, both who unpicked the English language and I found that extremely fascinating how language is constructed and how we can use it to express different things and also reading fictions and the classics, so I’ve always been interested in words and I think when I’ve became a teenager and I started being interested in current affairs and the news and politics such as it is, I then started to look for the back story behind everything, there’s always a reason why people behave the way they do and I became very fascinated about writing back stories and trying to explain life.
Tim Knox: Was there a particular genre that you were interested in and your first writings what were they about?
Lorraine Pestell: I suppose like every adolescent female, there’s always a large elements of romance in there, you’re looking for the perfect love story and again I think really I was fascinated by celebrity, myself and my siblings are very musical and we were always playing in bands and singing and that kind of thing so I think we all grew up expecting ourselves to be pop stars or rock stars, so I guess my first writing was really around sort of the typical teenage fantasies.
Tim Knox: Did you actually share that writing with anyone, was there someone there, you mentioned the teacher and I guess she wash very encouraging to you?
Lorraine Pestell: Yes, I mean being much an introvert, I’m always terrified of sharing anything with anybody and I didn’t share any of my serious writing with any one, apart from perhaps my sister, we shared the bedroom so it was difficult not to share everything. She did not receive my writing too well, she doesn’t have the patience for it so I sort of, I didn’t share anything until much later.
Tim Knox: Isn’t it great when your sister is your worst critic?
Lorraine Pestell: Absolutely!
Tim Knox: So you did some writing when you were younger, did you spend a considerable amount of time in IT, did you put the writing aside to pursue the career or have you written all along the way?
Lorraine Pestell: I’ve had bouts of really serious writing where I’ve use it probably as therapy more than anything. I have mental illness long suffering with depression and post traumatic stress disorder so I tended to use writing as a therapy for trying to exorcise various quotes goes from my mind but professionally speaking, I’ve always written business cases and software specifications and all that really dull stuff and I actually received quite an edifying feedback for some of my business cases because the people I was writing them for says this is first business case that I’ve actually found interesting, so I guess its good to try to bring a story out no matter how dry your topic is.
Tim Knox: So if you can make a business case interesting, you know, you got some talent as a writer?
Lorraine Pestell: I hope so!
Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about, if you will, about your journey about the depression and how you have channelled that into your writing and of course we are going to talk about your serialized novel a life singular here in just a few minutes but talk a little bit about dealing with that depression and how the writing was therapeutic to you.
Lorraine Pestell: Yea, definitely, well I think I first realized that I was suffering from depression in my early teens, 13, 14, I felt like I didn’t fit in at school, I was just constantly down, feeling very tearful, not enjoying life but this was back in the mid-70s and mental illness then was not terribly well understood.
Certainly from a middle class aspirational family in London, mental illness was not something that was going to affect any of our lives and we were very much unaware of any mental illness within my family and my brother also suffers and so I think there is a fair amount of hereditary genetic disorders that are passed down between families, but when I became in my 20’s I went to university and I had a counsel because I began to experience daily suicidal thoughts and really didn’t want to be part of life anymore.
I found a counsellor who was prepared to listen to me and took me seriously and then I explored mental illness and depression especially, in greater details I started to understand myself a little better.
Unfortunately, I experienced a very violent marriage in my mid to late 20s and that left me with post traumatic stress disorder so I think I have learned through the science and through talking to other people, depression chooses you, you don’t choose it, there’s nothing you can do about it once you have and then if you have a challenging event in your life I think that just sort of exacerbates the symptoms of depression and anxiety and nightmares and all of the things that go with these particular chorus and I very much reverted into myself, I had a complete lack of trust for any other human being in my life which is kind of isolating if you can imagine so I poured my heart out into writing and found that writing was definitely the only place where I could really feel like myself.
Tim Knox: So the writing was almost an escape for you.
Lorraine Pestell: Absolutely, it was a way to sort of create a world where I felt comfortable and to isolate myself from all of the horrible things that are going on around me.
Tim Knox: And what were you writing then, what sort of things?
Lorraine Pestell: I was writing this very same serial which I’m now publishing, it’s now got to a whooping 1.5 million words, but at that stage it was only ever intended to be a single book.
Tim Knox: That is a very enormous amount of work!
Lorraine Pestell: That’s right, it got kind of out of control.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk about that a little bit. The series is called A Life Singular. Give us the premise of the series.
Lorraine Pestell: Yes, it follows a story of a very successful celebrity, if you think of people like Bono and Bob Geldoff who sort of use their fame and their success as a musician to enter into more political and social arenas, so it follows the life of a successful celebrity who also changed into someone who wants to change the word for the better. He himself comes a very violent background and he like myself has post-traumatic stress disorder and all of the difficulties that come with that.
What I wanted to express through this serial is that it’s only through the love and support of other people can people like myself and my protagonist achieve success and great things. So the story starts, the part one, where his wife is actually murdered by a gun man who meant to shoot him and got her by mistake and obviously there’s a lot of grief and taking accounts of what he’s lost, but also in the process of writing his autobiography he goes back and accounts how he has conquered his own mental illness and through the love of his family, he’s achieved great things.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk about your lead character there, Jeff Diamond. Tell me about him, it sounds like there were some things that you could personally relate to or things that you have gone through that you were channeling into him but what made you decide to make him a celebrity.
Lorraine Pestell: Because I think I want to reach the widest audience possible. Mental illness is understood very well by the people who suffer from it but not from people who don’t suffer from it.
There is a statistics that 50% of our population at some point during their life will suffer from some form of depressive illness of some kind, so that means there are also 50% of the population who don’t understand.
My quest is really to inspire sufferers to find a way to rise above their own symptoms and make a success and have as happier life as they can but also to encourage non-sufferers to learn more about mental illness to support and love people like myself who are going through difficult times and not walk away because we see different and often negative and don’t like to have fun and all of the various things that typically we get criticized for.
Tim Knox: So the book is really about how Jeff, I mean he is writing his autobiography but it’s about how he handles his loss, how he handles the illness that he has, is that correct?
Lorraine Pestell: Exactly, it’s the back story, I love the back story. He is grieving in public, in front of people who are very angry with what happened to his wife. The public sees him as this inspiring charismatic figure, but the back story is he is imploding inside and the public never sees that side and as he writes his autobiography, the following parts of the serial go back in time and see how he dealt with his own childhood difficult situations and works through his life.
Tim Knox: So him writing an autobiography is almost a therapy for him?
Lorraine Pestell: Exactly, yes.
Tim Knox: Have you ever thought about writing an autobiography?
Lorraine Pestell: A lot of people told me I should, the reason why I’ve not tended to do so is because you implicate a lot of people, whereas there some people who, it would give me great pleasure to publicly humiliate them, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. So I’ve not came to air my own detail story, maybe one day I will but at the moment, not.
Tim Knox: When you’re writing a book like this with the character like this and you have the background that you have, what comes to your mind when you hear about someone like Robin Williams who had suffered with depression and other things and finally it didn’t end well for him, but because he really sounds a lot like your character in his book, a celebrity who has this back story and has this illness. What are your thoughts when you hear something like Robin William’s death on the news?
Lorraine Pestell: In fact Robin Williams death affected me really a lot because I identify with him so closely, I knew that he had been suffering from depression for more or less his whole life and less than myself.
I always describe myself as someone who is dying to die and he was the same and if society doesn’t allow you to think that way, I personally I believe that suicide is a basic human right and society has decided that we can make a decision to terminate a child’s life whether you agree with that personally or not and that suicide is still an absolutely a taboo topic, its considered to be wrong.
When someone like Robin Williams who takes his own life and doubtlessly had probably attempted or thought about it many times. I don’t think it did end badly for him, obviously that’s what he wanted and obviously that does have a knock-on effect to his family and the same with my own family so there are a lot of parallels there where you do think of people who are larger than life, they seem extremely happy on the surface, they seem to have everything, they’ve got huge success, a large fan base, but internally, this depression, this thing inside them is eating them up and sometimes no material wealth, no family happiness can overcome that.
Tim Knox: You know, you make a really good point because when someone like him, we’ll get to the book in just a second, I just find this fascinating, when someone rich and famous like that commit suicide, you actually hear people go, why would they kill themselves, they had everything, but I guess mentally or emotionally they didn’t, did they?
Lorraine Pestell: No, and I think as more and more stories come out about Robin Williams, I mean he was obviously suffering from other medical conditions, I’ve heard Parkinson’s, I’ve heard dementia so obviously his personal life, he saw that physically he was degrading and did he really want that to add to his list of unhappiness rather than go out now and he was relatively healthy.
I think it is a complex issue and no one’s going to agree with each other on this, its one of these things will be debated endlessly, but I think certain things, a lack of trust in your life, that can be extremely exhausting, constantly faking it ‘til you make it, in the work situation, we all have to put on the happy face, we don’t want to bring our colleagues down, we want to always seem positive, that is actually exhausting for somebody who has depression because you’re not being yourself and that will extreme amount of energy out of every day.
Tim Knox: It really does, if you are gearing your emotions to try to keep everyone else happy, it can be exhausting. Let’s talk a little bit more about the series because A Life Singular was the first book, I think you wrote that in 2013, tell us about the second book, the part two of A Life Singular.
Lorraine Pestell: Yes, as we said Jeff Diamond is my protagonist, he is extremely wealthy, rock musician and song writer, but he came from a very much a criminal background. He grew up in Western Sydney which has fairly rough, a large immigrant population, a lot of mafia or if you will although it’s not related to Italy, various gangland, crime families operate in those areas.
So he was born into this family, he was an accidental baby, nobody wanted him and consequently he had large challenges before he was even born, not to mention the violence that he witnessed on a daily basis just from being in that particular family.
Part Two goes back to his, not quite in his childhood, but to those early days when he was first fighting with the legacy scars that his childhood had given him, but he was actually full of ambition and full of talent and intelligence and he really wanted to rise above and the feelings that he had to live with and make a success of his life and he saw that the way to do this was to meet the girl of his dreams who he had already identified, so part two really sees him pursue her and the love story unfolds from there.
Tim Knox: So the part two is actually a prequel to part one, he goes back in memories and time remembers.
Lorraine Pestell: Exactly, yes, it has six parts and all, three of them are not yet written, so part one is sort of present day. if you like, then part two to five, going back in time and then part 6 picks up from the present days.
Tim Knox: You’ve written three books; tell us about book number tree then.
Lorraine Pestell: Well, three is when Jeff has become a star, a huge star, worldwide sensation, akin to the Beatles or Elvis and he is extremely successful, everybody knows him, but of course nobody knows what’s going on inside, so its really your typical rock star lifestyle, he looks like he’s going to parties all the time, his drugs, alcohol, pretty girls, he’s got everything and he’s got his Aston Martin sports car, but still inside, he hasn’t found that inspiration that he needs to really conquer his inner demons, so part three really sees him team up with the girl of his dreams and they try systematically to work on the joy triggers and all of the mental health cures, the treatments that can actually, it doesn’t cure you completely, but it makes life a lot more bearable and you can achieve your potential without being bogged down with these afflictions.
Tim Knox: These would have been different books if your protagonist had not met his heroine. She really helped him through.
Lorraine Pestell: Exactly and that’s what I’m hoping to spread the word that if you can as someone who doesn’t suffer from mental illness or even as a sufferer, to support someone through is just the most important thing and because within anyone who’s suffering from this type of illness, you’ll just feel so isolated and unloved and undervalued and just to have someone there who will help you and support you is huge.
Tim Knox: So lets talk a little bit about the self help angle of these books if you will because it almost sounds like someone who is dealing with depression might read these books and read about your protagonist’s journey and how he handled things. Do you think that people can actually read these in perhaps learn more about the disease itself and how they can take steps to make themselves manage it better or at least enjoy life a little more?
Lorraine Pestell: I really hope so, Tim, I mean that’s the reason why I’m writing, we have a lot of self help books which are fairly dry and there’s sort of instructional and you must go out and get exercise and you must eat well and all of these things.
There are self help books on every shelf of every bookstore everywhere, but I wanted to bring a different angle and sort of, hopefully people who can immerse themselves in their story and almost learn if you will about themselves and for other people to learn about us weirdos into an affectional sense, so it’s almost, not entirely subliminal that sounds a little bit nefarious, but just so that they can immerse themselves in a story that they will enjoy but also learn a few things along the way.
Tim Knox: And do you think part of the getting help is realizing that you’re not alone, that there are others out there, so many others who deal with this.
Lorraine Pestell: Absolutely and in fact I came out if you will at work not long ago and I had three or four people at work come to me within a couple of days and say, you know, I think I may have depression and some people there’s a stigma associated with it, they don’t like to talk about it, they think that it’s a signal of weakness, they think they should just snap out of it and get on with life and its not until someone else is prepared to stand up and say this is real, its an illness, you’re not pretending, you’re not doing it for attention seeking, its real and then people have the confidence to actually stand up and say, yea, I think I have it too, what can I do? So absolutely.
Tim Knox: So I think you said three books in on A life Singular? What’s next? You have six books planned in total, what is the series hold for Jeff, where does he go from here.
Lorraine Pestell: From part three, obviously, they’re very intelligently named, the next one is part four and he has gotten married to his dream girl, they have two wonderful children and so it’s really going through that stage in his life where the depression is absolutely under control.
Through the support of his wife, he goes back to confront his father for all of the violence and the scars that he brought to his children just has an older sister as well who figures as part of the story and so it’s really, on the one hand, everything is really happy, he is married, he is having a family, his career is going absolutely phenomenally and then he feels strong enough now to go back and confront his father who was actually in prison.
Part four takes us through that journey of how he holds his father to account and closes a few more doors if you like on his story. Part five is where he really turns the world upside down in terms of philanthropy.
He encourages everybody to think about those who are less advantaged than them. I think we live in a world today where there is widening gap everyday between those who have and those who don’t have.
Through this story, I’d like to bring the attention of us who are living in comfort, most of us have a roof over our heads, we have cars, we have jobs, there are a lot of people in life who are struggling, who are homeless, who are addicted, who cant find work and that gap is widening on a daily basis so part five explores how we can hopefully close that gap.
Part six I’ve only written about ten percent of part six at the moment and two words of which are “The End” so I know how it ends and I wont give anything away but its beyond Jeff’s life time.
Tim Knox: Wow, so you’ve written there, what did you say, a million and half words so far?
Lorraine Pestell: Yes, I mean that was pre-edit of course.
Tim Knox: Yes, that’s a lot of words, so you must know Jeff Diamond really well by now?
Lorraine Pestell: I am and I’m actually extremely fearful of the day when I’m no longer writing about him.
Tim Knox: That was I was going to ask you, when you get to the end what happens next for Lorraine, do you start something fresh, what are you going to do?
Lorraine Pestell: Well again, this gets a little bit controversial because I don’t have a long retirement planned. I do still of the opinion if I would like to check out or I am a former suicidee if you like, I attempted suicide in April, 2003 and my parents were obviously extremely devastated about that and so I promised them that I wouldn’t do it again until they were both deceased, that time will come and I’m not ashamed to say that that is the day I’m looking forward to which sounds terrible so I will write for as long as I have writing in me and that they will come.
Tim Knox: Well, I hope you’ll write for many, many, many years to come.
Lorraine Pestell: Thank you very much!
Tim Knox: I think you have such a wonderful heart and you obviously have such a wonderful talent, the books, the first three, where can our listeners find those?
Lorraine Pestell: They’re available on Amazon, obviously, everything is these days. I also have a website where I sell the books because sales proceeds go to two Australian charities that work with disadvantaged children, so if the books are purchased through my website then more money will goes to the charities, that is alifesingular.net. I have a blog also which is alifesingular.com where I blog on mental health issues and on writing, so there are links to my books there as well.
Tim Knox: Very good. Lorraine, this has been a wonderful interview, I’m looking forward to reading your books. We will put up the links to your websites alifesingular.net and alifesingular.com. I do encourage the audience to read these books especially if you are dealing with something like this but even if you’re not, I find the story fascinating, I’ve read the synopsis of each one on your website and I’m very intrigued, so the best of luck to you. Do you have a final message for the listeners?
Lorraine Pestell: Only to just listen to your inner person. I think we speak a lot but we don’t listen much so I think just my message is that everyone has a story to tell and you don’t get much of that story in the first five minutes.
Tim Knox: Such a great advice. Everyone has a story to tell but not everybody can write it down like you did.
Lorraine Pestell: Well, no, that’s right, thank you Tim, that’s really lovely to hear, thank you.
Tim Knox: Lorraine, you’ve been a wonderful guest, everyone do check out the books, it is a novel in six parts, three are ready now, A Life Singular, go to the website alifesingular.net to buy the book and she also has the website the blog is alifesingular.com. Lorraine, this has been a pleasure, I hope to talk to you again soon.
Lorraine Pestell: That’s wonderful Tim, thank you very much!