Renee Antonia’s new book I’m Not Okay is being this June, and is part of the WOW Women on Writing Tour. As a novel that explores mental health, it’s very much on trend and resonates with the wider conversation that is taking place.
I caught up with her to find out more about the book and her writing.
You talk about how you explored books to work out what you wanted to do with your life. Can you tell me a bit more about the importance of books in your life?
Books are extremely important to me. I look to books to bring me out of my ordinary day to day life. They are what truly keep me sane, and once I realized how I utilized books to save me from being just ordinary, I knew that I wanted to write one of my own.
How and why did you become a writer?
Since I was very young, I have always loved to write. However, it wasn’t until I was about 19 that I thought about actually being a writer. When I sat down and thought about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, the only thing that popped into mind was writing. So, I found a topic that I felt extremely passionate about, and just started writing. As soon as I knew it, I had finished I’m Not Okay.
Your central character Alejandra suffers from an almost crippling anxiety. Why did you choose to write about anxiety?
The major reason I decided to write about anxiety is because I suffer from anxiety. I had lived a huge portion of my life thinking that I was alone in my struggle, when in reality, I wasn’t. I really wanted to write about anxiety and mental illness in general because I really wanted people going through the same thing to know that they are not alone.
Alejandra gets through her difficulties with the help of her friends. You’ve also had a good support system in life. Are there any other parallels and echoes of your own life in the novel?
Definitely. I have a really close friend who heavily influenced Leslie’s character. She has been someone that has kept me going, even when I felt like I couldn’t, and I genuinely don’t know where I would be if not for her.
On your website you have a quote from F Scott Fitzgerald – ‘I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.’ Is this a lesson you’ve learned?
Yes it has! When I decided to pursue writing as a career, I was in school for something completely different. I was completely unhappy with my life and who I was, and this quote really pushed me to change until I was happy with what my life was. I even have it hanging in my room so I always see it. It really keeps me striving for more.
I definitely hope to continue writing books. Right now I am working on a duology about a society that lives in the Underground City of Seattle. In the meantime, I put out short stories on both my blog and Patron a few times a month.