Friday, December 3, 2021

Blog Tour: When I Was Her Daughter



Date Published: November 12, 2021

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Seven-year-old Leslie has a serious problem: someone is trying to kill her.

She must fight to save herself and her little brother from the stark realities of living with their mother’s raging psychosis. To evade the evil Russian spies her mother believes are after them, they forgo sleep, speak in whispers, and live on the run. Her mother searches for hidden listening devices, writes rambling manifestos about the impending Communist takeover, and attempts to kill herself and her children to protect them from rape, torture, and murder at the hands of the government. Controlling the chaos seems impossible—Leslie rebels, which only angers her mother, but when she obeys, terrible consequences follow.

Eventually, the police place Leslie and her brother in foster care. Freedom from her mother’s paranoia and violent tendencies offers the young girl a glimmer of hope, but she plummets into despair under the oppressive weight of abusive, alienating homes. All seems lost until a teacher intervenes, risking everything to bring Leslie to safety, to show her the redemptive power of trust and patience, and to prove unconditional love is possible, even without the bond of blood.

When I Was Her Daughter is a raw, honest account of one girl’s terrifying childhood journey through madness, loss, and a broken foster care system, where only the lucky and most resilient survive.


What was your main drive to write this book?

Even though I tried to suppress my childhood memories, they haunted me. In college, I began journaling and writing poetry and stories about feelings and nightmares. Eventually, this memoir poured out of me. I believed that if I wrote my story and published it, I would be able to heal. 

What do you hope readers will learn by reading this book?

There are three things I hope readers will learn by reading my memoir: 1. To have hope--that even in the most desperate situations, there is a way out. 2. To remember there are good people in the world--everyone needs a support system of good people. 3. To understand a little about what children of mentally ill parents go through and what children in the foster care and welfare system go through. Maybe by reading this book, readers will have empathy for others and remember to always lead with kindness and compassion.


Did you do much research when planning this book?

I spent years drafting and revising. This included poring over photographs and letters as well as interviewing family members, many of whom did not want to talk about details or claimed they had no memory of the events and time periods I asked about. Much of the research ended up being my own journey down memory lane, writing basic outlines and notes, experiencing the trauma again, and trying to capture the essence and mood of much of what occurred. I also read memoir after memoir and books about the memoir writing process.


Did you have any main people who helped you in the process of this book or influenced you to write it?

When I was in graduate school at Chapman University, I workshopped scenes about my childhood. All of my readers and editors along the way, including some family members and friends who so kindly read drafts, helped me create the right tone and voice for the memoir. I struggled for a long time with knowing what to do, how to organize, what to include and what to cut. I tried many drafts--one geared toward younger readers, one disorganized in a way that mimicked the sort of chaos I imagined my biological mom experienced from her mental illness, and one that touched on my experiences in a very superficial way and ended before the protagonist’s (my) transformation. Some very good editors helped me see that I needed to spend time on my manuscript in order to build the story arc and develop scenes through detail and metaphor. Because of my readers’ and editors’ feedback, I knew I had to include the upturn and give this story a more meaningful and hopeful ending.


How long did this book take you to write from initial thought to hitting publish?

This answer will very likely make any budding memoirist cut and run from the endeavor altogether. And it may be a wise decision to do so. However, I wholeheartedly believe that memoir demands to live. It is through our true stories that we can find hope, healing, and joy. Those of us who think we have a story, who feel called on to write about the past and pull meaning from its ashes, must write.

Usually what people mean when they ask this question is how long--how many years--did I spend actively engaged in drafting, revising, editing, and polishing this book. And I usually say it has taken me nearly two decades. From completion of the book to publication, it took thirteen months. And even then, I continued to revise and perfect until the book was uploaded to distributors.

Memoir is one of the heaviest genres because it attempts to define the meaning of a life. And this takes time. All writing and reading is an exercise in understanding, but memoir in particular, much like poetry, speaks the intimate details of past experiences so that we may learn and grow from pain.

This question about how long did it take always throws me for a loop because I believe memoir is always in progress--we experience our lives, live through trauma, and accumulate the armor that helps us survive. Then, when we are older and wiser, we need to make sense out of the trauma. Memoir does just that--it requires that we do our very best to make sense out of senseless events. We hope we can explore the past and intentionally derive meaning from it. A memoirist’s writing journey begins before they realize they have a story to tell. By existing, from the very first time something traumatizing happened to me, this memoir began. Some might say it’s taken me my entire life…


Do you have plans to write more about this topic or new topics?

I plan to write another memoir, and maybe two, one about my journey toward self-compassion after love and loss, which has roots in insecure attachment and abandonment as a child. The other will be about my journey to understand body image issues and the role of food and gratitude in healing the body and the brain. I also have two novels outlined. The hope is that fiction will let me create something that can go anywhere I decide to take it. I like the idea of letting stories occupy my mind so that I may veer from the worn path that time and again leads me to my past.


About the Author

Leslie Ferguson is an accomplished educator, editor, and writing coach. As a youth in foster care, she dreamed about becoming a teacher. She earned her credential at the University of Redlands and returned to her alma mater to teach advanced English before obtaining a master’s degree in English literature and an MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. A member of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association and the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild, Leslie is a repeat performer at So Say We All’s VAMP! and Poets Underground. She lives in the greater San Diego area with her husband, where she binge-watches coming-of-age character dramas and reminisces about her glory days as an All-American basketball player and collegiate Hall-of-Fame athlete. When I Was Her Daughter is her first book.

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1 comment:

Stormy Vixen said...

I enjoyed the interview, Leslie and I enjoyed following the tour and getting to know more about your book, which sounds like a great read and I like the cover! Thanks for brining it to my attention and have a spectacular holiday season!

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