Today, Australian author, Karen Tyrell is visiting to share her tips and experiences writing her just released memoir, ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness

1. What was the most difficult thing about writing a memoir?

Working out what was important to my story and what would drive my narrative forward.

2. How did you decide on which real-life characters to use?

In my earliest drafts, I had a cast of over fifty characters. I had to cut back to those characters who made the greatest impact on my story and recovery. I often combined two real people to become “one” character.

3. How did you know where to start and when to finish?

I started at a pivotal turning point in my story, where I hooked the reader in, enticing them to read more. I ended my story when all the conflicts were resolved and all the questions were answered.

4. Did you have any legal considerations?

My memoir surrounds the real life drama of parents harassing me, a teacher, to breaking point. I had to protect myself from being sued. I changed the names of the bullies, their descriptions and specific details of the harassment. I omitted dates and places.

5. How difficult it was to write about something so personal?

It was extremely difficult to reveal the most traumatic events. Originally, I showed these via short flashbacks. Later when I became braver, I disclosed my gradual decline and disintegration over six chapters.

Any tips on how you handled that?

I had to be comfortable with what I disclosed and only added the confronting events when I was emotionally ready. I had to ask myself, ‘Do I want the world to know this detail?’


To find out more about Karen Tyrrell and where to purchase ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness, please check out her website.

Please go to http://www.karentyrrell.com and click on BUY BOOK to purchase an eBook!


ME & HER: a Memoir of Madness launches this week on Amazon as an eBook.  Please comment here or ask a question, sharing why you want to be in the draw for a FREE eBook. Two copies to be won!


Karen is also visiting these great blogs:

ME & HER Blog Tour 14th – 20th May

14th May Kaz Delaney- Writing Inspiration http://kazdelaney.wordpress.com/

Prachi S.Vaish – Psychologist – Interview http://www.hopenetwork.in

15th May Tuesday Writing Tips- Writing Memoirs https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

Dr Happy – Happiness after the Gloom http://www.thehappinessinstitute.com/blog/

16th May Sally Odgers – Writing & Editing Process http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com.au/

17th May Gabrielle Sheppard, UK – Bipolar Recovery www.bi-polargirl.com/blog

18th May Natasha Tracy, Canada – Writing for Recovery http://natashatracy.com/

19th May Jill Smith- Book Review & Interview http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com

Kids Book Review- Mental Health Books 4 Kids http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

20th May Ang Hall – ME & HER Book Review- http://bluedingonet.wordpress.com/

23 thoughts on “WRITING A MEMOIR

  1. I just love the book. I’m almost finished. It is an amazing story – and she has told so much personal detail that I feel she has been very brave in revealing. Anyone who knows someone with bipolar may get a better understanding of this strange illness. I highly recommend it.

  2. Thanks so much Dee for supporting my writing and publishing journey with ME & HER : A Memoir of Madness, my positive recovery story.
    Thanks too for hosting this stop in my Blog Tour. Love all the interview questions you asked me.
    I’m eager to answer your readers questions about How to Write a personal Memoir.
    I’ll be “LIVE” here to reply to their comments too … Karen 🙂

  3. Hi Di,
    Thanks so much for buying and reading Me and Her.
    I really apppreciate your postive feedback and recommendation.
    Personal reviews like yours will help Readers understand its not a memoir to be “scared of”.
    But more … an honest insight into an illness that can be managed 🙂

  4. i have followed Karen’s journey with her campaign to promote her writing and her book. I would be very interested to see the finished version.

  5. Thanks Kelly for your awesome support over the last few years. I really appreciate your encouragement with ME & HER and with my books for children too. Good luck with the competition 🙂

  6. Hey Karen, I’m really enjoying your blog tour! What a great idea. Just a few questions – Did you find any books/blogs on memoir writing particularly helpful when writing Me and Her?

    Did you get legal advice on what aspects of the story you needed to change to protect yourself legally? if yes, where did you get it from? What sort of details about the harrassment did you have to change? Was it just omitting the dates and places? Or did you have to change details about the actual incidences themselves? Ta, L.

  7. Hi Laura,
    Fabulous for you to drop by.
    Patti Smith, Aussie Author wrote a fabulous series of Memoir Wriitng books. There’s a group on Linked in called Women’s Memoir Writers .. they’re awfully supportive.
    Its good to read as many memoirs as you can, especially those who mirror your experiences.
    YES, I did get legal advice from publishers and several Law Societies. I changed names, descriptions and ‘twisted’ a few events. I ommitted dates, except for my opening sentence
    “In May 2005, my mad half, HER was born” … Karen 🙂

  8. Hi Dee, Hi Karen – following this tour is fascinating. Learning more at each stop. Good questions Dee! Great answers, Karen.

    My question – and one I didn’t think to ask yesterday (until I read this today) – echoes Laura’s. Did you have to seek legal advice? Also wondering, with your very public promotions – have you had any responses (direct or indirect) from the families involved in the harassment?

    I hope you have a great day and a great tour. I’m on crushing deadline and about to (also) take off to Bundaberg for Writefest – so I may not get to pop in to other tour venues – but good luck and have fun!

  9. Thanks Kaz,
    I sought legal advice from as many avenues as possible to “cover” myself. There’s nothing in my memeoir that connects directly with “That Family”.
    “That Family” hasn’t made any contact… and I don’t expect them too. The education system, I worked for, did a thorough legal investigation… and everything about them is well documented…
    Good luck Kaz, with Writefest 🙂

  10. Being a teacher, I can totally comprehend…Unfortunately, sometimes because of administration’s fears of being sued, parents can run rough shod over the system…

  11. Hi Mary Lou,
    Thanks for understanding a teacher’s perspective. That’s exactly what “That Family” did at my school. Unfortunately, their reign of terror lasted several years, and I wasn’t the only teacher traumatized by them

  12. Your thoughts and comments were very informative, Karen. I’ve often wondered about some the questions. Did you get some help on the memoir legal points or did you work them out yourself? Whichever I found it most helpful.

  13. Hi Lexie,
    I received considerable help and advice on the legal side of things. The last thing I wanted was to be sued over disclosures in my memoir.

  14. Many thanks for this, Dee and Karen. This is a great insight for creating a beginning that hooks readers, Karen – start at a pivotal moment, rather than write a purely chronological sequence of events.

    I taught in schools and a parent who was a lawyer threatened to sue me over my ‘lack of care’ when children were doing a science experiment. It was extremely worrying at the time, but fortunately the principal was a smooth talker and nothing eventuated. You have been wise to get everything checked by experts.

    Even when writing ‘historical biography’, I think it’s important that surviving family are not unnecessarily embarrassed by your text. My YA in progress is about a 19th century UK hermit who suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia from 1820-1870 and who was labelled ‘mad’. Though I’m adding imagined dialogue, in order to tell the story accurately I’ve been researching census records and more …and in the process I’ve met his great-great nephew who lives in Germany and has a presence on Facebook. In past ‘difinitive’ factual accounts of the hermit’s life, this branch of the family was said to ‘never have been heard of again’.

    All best wishes

    Peter Taylor

  15. Hi Dale,
    Thanks so much for dropping by to check out the legalities on writing a personal memoir

  16. Thanks Peter, for sharing your research procedures in writing your biography. Your YA novels sounds extremely interesting. Good luck with it 🙂

  17. Wow – I am about to enter into this world with my first child starting school. I have been totally free of any real politics in parenting and educating thus far as I have lived overseas and not been surrounded by typical groups (parents groups etc). I really would love to read this book to understand the challenges teachers face, to make me a better parent in my interactions and to avoid the hysteria from other parents that I am sure will come somewhere along the way. Thanks for being so brave in sharing your story.

  18. Thanks Jodie, for showing your perspctive from a caring parents POV. Thanks for your awesome support … Karen 🙂

  19. You are a brave woman to write what you did. Great questions in your interview. Interesting answers. Thanks.

  20. Hi Teresa,
    Thanks so much for checking my “memoir writing” interview with Dee.
    I really appreciate your support x

  21. I like your tips about combining characters for simplicity and discerning whether you really wanted to know about something you experienced or felt. I am waiting until I am more removed from what I want to write about, but I will tuck these tidbits of insight away for when I take up the composition of my memoir.

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