It came out less than two weeks ago and already I see it has 11 raving reviews on Amazon. This is a wonderful book, though heartbreaking, terrifying and emotional. Paula Lucas, an abused expat wife who managed to escape with her three children and not only tell the tale but start a charity to help others in her situation, is a fabulous writer. Here I interview her about her book, Harvesting Stones.
JP: Tell us about Harvesting Stones. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences?
PL: It’s about my journey as a young American woman who thought her life was going to be wonderful living and travelling overseas, but instead it turned into a nightmare. Even more so, it is about overcoming the terrible things that happened and instead of taking the stones that were thrown, and throwing them back, harvesting them to make a better life for myself and others.
JP: Why did you write the book?
PL: To raise awareness of the problems faced by Americans abused overseas. Also, to rally support for the Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC), so it doesn’t have to close and stop providing life -saving services for American domestic violence and sexual assault victims overseas. Services to Americans overseas are not written into the legislation of the Violence Against Women Act that provides funding to domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the USA, despite our efforts and the efforts of other victim’s rights advocates. No other government funding is currently allocated to serve American victims overseas and the possibilities of future government funding are bleak. We need AODVC to become a community-supported resource.
JP: Why do you think your book needed to be written?
PL: There is a misconception that American freedoms travel with us overseas and I think it is important for people to understand that is not the case. So many times I have been told, “There is no need for AODVC services. All Americans have to do is go to the American embassy for help.”
The help American embassies can offer is very limited though and they don’t do direct service, just provide referrals. They are bound by the laws of the country they are located in, so diplomacy has to be their priority. Our first priority is the victims. The wrap-around services we provide for American victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are extensive and life-saving. Victims often have to break laws of foreign countries if it means getting back home safely to the USA. AODVC fills the critical gap in services desperately needed for victims.
JP: Who do you think will read your book? Or who would you like to read your book?
PL: I think the book has a wide audience. It’s an American success story… maybe not a financial success story, but success in terms of overcoming insurmountable obstacles, starting a grassroots movement and successfully helping thousands of Americans in crisis overseas. There are many themes weaving through the story: corruption, testing belief in God, the oppression of women, betrayal, abuse, terror, and so on. It has something for everyone. It is a book about empowerment and determination. It reads like a novel, a thriller I guess, so hopefully it will appeal to a wide range of folks and not just women, but men too.
JP: What steps have you taken (or do you plan to take) to promote your book? Which methods do you think work best and can you give any examples?
PL: I have a Facebook page and a website, where folks can read the first chapter for free.
AODVC has a monthly e-newsletter. We put an article in the September newsletter and will do it again in October when the book is published. I do speak nationally and internationally as an expert on the abuse of Americans overseas. In the past five years my staff and I have presented on the ground in 40 cities in 25 foreign countries, and much more via webinar. I have several speaking engagements lined up in Washington DC and Boston in October and November, and will do more speaking engagements on the West Coast when I get back. I have sent out review copies and have gotten some wonderful feedback. I will put out press releases on 7 October when the book is published.
JP: How did you choose your publisher and publishing method? Why did you decide to take this route?
PL: I have known Jo for many years and felt that Summertime Publishing was a good fit for my memoir. I had thought about self-publishing because I knew my self-imposed deadline was tight, but I am glad I didn’t. Having the Summertime team supporting me has been fabulous. They understood the urgency of getting the book out as a fundraising and awareness tool for AODVC and have been just amazing to work with.
JP: What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of your book? How have you overcome that?
PL: The biggest challenge was going back and reliving the abuse so the reader could truly experience what happened, but do it in a way that is compelling and not traumatizing or makes people want to stop reading. I hope that folks, knowing from the onset that the book ends triumphantly, will stick with me through the tough times so they can also experience the accomplishments. I will have to wait and see what the readers think to know if I was able to achieve that.
JP: What has writing Harvesting Stones done for you, your family, your self-esteem or your business?
PL: Writing the book for me was cathartic, although I admit I feel vulnerable putting intimate details of my life out into the public. So far I have had great feedback except for a few nasty remarks, but with anonymity on the internet, people say mean things to you that they would never say in person. So I will just send love and light to those that feel they need to be hateful.
There has been some re-traumatization for my sons after they read the manuscript, so we have had lots of talks and tears lately. We are very close and they are strong. To heal sometimes you have to go back to go forward.
JP: If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book of this nature, what would be your number one tip?
PL: It’s normal to second-guess yourself. Multiple times I thought, “No one is going to want to read my memoir. Why am I writing it?”
So write it for yourself as a tool to purge the memories, move beyond the pain and don’t worry about anyone else.
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