Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Interview with Louise Gornall, author of Under Rose-Tainted Skies and US giveaway of her book

Dear Readers:
I am so excited to put up this special holiday interview post and giveaway of an amazing book that I have recently read, Under Rose-Tainted Skies by the terrific Louise Gornall! What better way to ring in the new year than with a slam dunk of a YA contemporary?

Goodreads Description: Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

My Rating: 5 couches

My Review: Holy cow. Where do I even start. I can count on one hand the number of YA contemporaries that I've given 5 full stars, and this is one of them. YA contemporaries are not really my thing. I don't really love teen romances, it's a period of my life I'd honestly rather forget. But this book... even as a physician, I didn't have a lot of experience with agoraphobia, although I learned about it in medical school. To see a young person who was relatively normal, and then one day, suddenly had to deal with such a dramatic and debilitating condition (which is typical of this disorder), it was eye-opening and heartbreaking for me.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall is based on the author's true experience with grappling with this disorder. The book stars Norah, a teen who is now homeschooled because of her OCD and agoraphobia and overwhelming anxiety, and she lives an isolated life with her mother, who is one of the nicest, most perfect people I've ever read about. I kind of hope she isn't true to life because I feel completely inadequate as a mom compared to her. A new guy, Luke, moves in next door, and what happens next is a gift. A gift for Norah, a gift for the author I'm sure, and a gift for me, one of the lucky readers of this book.

This is a special book. Norah is a special character, who I will carry in my heart long after the book goes on the bookshelf. I wept, reading this book. Norah is such a wonderful character, so three dimensional and brave even though her agoraphobia would make most people give up. Everything we take for granted is so hard for her. She can't even open the door to go outside. Taking a step or getting in a car is beyond agony. She can't have normal friendships. How can she even imagine a relationship? And yet, there is Luke. Oh Luke, I haven't had a book crush in a long time. He's so tender with her, so sweet. He almost makes me believe that teen boys can think of more than just sex. All Norah needed was a window. And she gets that in Luke. Although this book is moving and heartbreaking and all that, there are wonderful, funny moments. Great lines by Norah both in her head and out loud. And you can't help but love her, and hope your darnedest she is going to make it.

I loved this book to pieces and tore through it in a day. It was a joy and privilege to read it and I can't wait for everyone else to get the chance to pour through its pages as well. Not only was it a wonderful read, it really educated me (and will educate others) about this tough condition, and hopefully be a ray of light for those who suffer from it. A phenomenal book and I'll be picking up all of her future ones.

Author Blurb: A junk food enthusiast, film nerd, and rumored pink Power Ranger, Louise Gornall writes about her own experiences to help encourage and facilitate conversations with other people also facing challenges with mental illness. She lives in England. Visit her website at, and follow her on Twitter at @Rock_andor_Roll.  

Author Interview:
1. You are so brave to write a story about your personal experiences and share a bit of yourself to inspire others. Can you tell us a little about this journey-- what was easy and what was hard? What ultimate message would you like your readers to get from the book?
Thank you so much. That's really nice of you to say. Real talk? Getting Rose out was really hard. Almost everything Norah goes through I've been through myself, and a lot of those things were a guarded secret. I was embarrassed by my "behaviours". So many of them seemed absurd or far-fetched, but they were, and still are, very real to me. The idea of having people see inside my mind was horrifying, and I would have quit after the first three chapters if I hadn't been surrounded by a support system, telling me it was okay to talk about my illnesses, telling me that it was brave, that this story was important. I hope if Rose teaches readers anything, it's that mental health is a long and lengthy battle, but you don't have to fight it by yourself. You're not alone. There is always going to be someone who understands what you're going through, or someone who wants to understand, and, more importantly, wants to support you.

2. I absolutely love both Norah and Luke. If they were to be sorted by the Sorting Hat in Hogwarts, which houses would they belong to (I have my guesses) and why? How about you?
Ooh! This is such a cool question. So, Luke would be Hufflepuff. That's an easy pick. He's patient and kind and very loyal. He's humble, too. The kind of guy that would look at you like you've lost your mind if you suggested he was in some way saintly for befriending Norah. He sees Norah, not her illness.

Now, Norah is a little trickier. At first I was like, Gryffindor, because I feel like she's brave and exhibits an extraordinary amount of courage just by getting out of bed in the morning. But then I was thinking that the ability to fight her demons comes from a place of self awareness, which is a byproduct of her wit and wisdom. So now I'm leaning toward Ravenclaw. Can we have a hybrid house just for her? We can call it Gryffinclaw!
3. I know parts of Norah come from you, but some do not. What is similar to you and which parts are different?
Norah is me at the peak of my illness. She talks like I did, acts like I did, dreams like I did. As of 2016, I'm a lot better than I was, but back then I was terrified of everything. I had a therapist just like Doctor Reeves, a sci-fi nut mum who changed jobs to work around me, a Luke who helped me see things a different way. Norah and I are twinsies. I think the only big difference in our lives is that ending -- you know the one. But even then, I went through something just as traumatic, but that didn't fit with YA so I had to improvise.

4. I love both the mother and Dr. Reeves in this novel, and it is so refreshing to see adults in YA that are so supportive and good role models for us parents out here. Can you tell us a bit more of how we can be supportive of someone like Norah with agoraphobia or general anxiety and what support services there are out there?
This is always a tough one to answer because I believe it depends very much on the individual. I've yet to see two cases of OCD/anxiety/agoraphobia that are the same.  I think the best you can do for a person who is suffering is just be there, with open ears and an open mind. Convincing someone to get help from a medical professional is important, but it can be hard work. It's not easy to spew your worst fears to a stranger, you know? It takes time, but it is possible with some gentle encouragement, and a ton of patience.

5. Luke is my new book crush. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to creating him, and who your book crush is?
Luke is based on my very own, real life Luke. I guess I can't really take credit for creating him. He was already written for me. In-real-life-Luke is a wonder. He blew into my world unexpectedly, and he was so kind and careful with my mind. I'm very lucky to have him, and I couldn't wait to share him with readers. He is my ultimate book crush.  

6. Can you tell us a bit about In Shadow Selfie, what you hope to accomplish and how can we be a part of the movement?
Yes! Thank you for asking. So, In Shadow Selfie is a hashtag I started on Twitter a couple of years ago. It's an awareness campaign, geared toward anyone who is battling mental health issues. I was looking for a way to increase visibility and expose this great community, to people who were feeling alone. With the help of my Twitter friends, we started taking pictures of our shadows and posting them to the #InShadowSelfie hashtag. It's been bittersweet to see everyone get involved, sharing photos, sharing stories. I get some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking messages off folks who needed to feel support, then saw one of our selfies and decided to get in touch.  

7. What is your writing process? Do you have a particular place? Time of day? Snacks? Laptop/desktop? Outlines? Freewrites? Beta readers?
My process is a little bizarre. I don't use a computer... I write on my phone. I warned you ;) See, I like to get in bed, when it's all quiet and dark, with a cup of tea, and just tap away. I only really use my computer to format a manuscript before I send it to my agent (and to watch Netflix).  

8. What are you working on next?
My next book is about a girl who is trying to come to terms with some scoliosis surgery, after it's changed her body, considerably. She's trying to get comfortable in her own skin again... enter: a bully, a boy, and the pressure to have sex in senior year.  

9. Anything else you'd like to tell my readers?
Happy Holidays! I hope you're all having a nice, peaceful, break. Sending lots of love and luck for 2017.

Thanks so much to Louise for this great interview! Now enter the giveaway sponsored by HMH Kids! 

Happy Holidays and here's to an amazing 2017!

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  1. Sounds like a great read and thanks for the interview. This book will be easily relatable for me, as I suffer from most (if not all) the anxiety disorders. Some are debilitating (panic attacks and social anxiety). Some are just embarrassing (they're embarrassing, so of course I'm not posting them, right?). And some are all I've ever known (my OCD started as a toddler and I recognize it but I can't imagine my life any other way). The worst of it--panic attacks--kicked in around age 33/34 for me. People who have never had them will never understand, but I'm happy for those people, because it feels like you're slowly dying (they say you can't die from them, but how would anyone really know? It's sheer terror that I wouldn't wish on anyone.) Agoraphobia is a *very* mild thing for me, and only seasonal. When everyone is excited for spring to arrive, I feel extremely vulnerable and exposed when I go outside, but I have a job and therefore no choice. I can't even explain, like I might get hit by a plane or meteor or attacked by a person or wild animal. I actually have trouble wearing short sleeves for the first few weeks, if that doesn't sound extremely weird! My mom has had traditional agoraphobia but meds helped her. I, unfortunately, have a super high tolerance to meds so I'm a lifer. I think this book would be a great read for anyone, because it might help people understand that many people who appear to be very healthy on the outside, could still have some tough stuff going on that just isn’t visible. "You don't look sick” and all that. Thanks for the chance. - Kristy Petree

    1. Kristy:
      Thank you SO much for this really poignant comment and sharing your experiences. You are really brave to do so and I can't imagine what you have to go through every day. Just know that I and others are rooting for you, and I am so grateful at your loyal readership of my blog! -Christina

  2. I've been looking forward to this book forever, and whenever I've interacted with Louise, she's been nothing but a sweetheart. So much love!

  3. It's so hard revealing your illness to anyone. I should know, as it took me a while to talk about my depression to my blogger friends. I have a soft spot for books that talk about mental illnesses, so it really wasn't a secret to some. I've struggled this year with it a lot, but I have a support system that goes way beyond my doctor & siblings, so I have been very blessed at not having it drag me under. I'd never heard of this book, or if I did I didn't know what it was about. I'll definitely be adding this one to my list. Great interview!