- Before we begin, I would like to congratulate you both for your sumptuous debut memoir and your excellent work at “Voiceless to Victory” (Voiceless To Victory By James Coast). As I’ve already mentioned in my review of “Pardon My Psychosis”, you’ve realized a dream of mine that I’ve been harbouring for several years. To deconstruct the manic experience and put it down into words as eloquently as possible. How many years was this project in the making? I’m sure it involved a great deal of introspection that always takes time as all people struggling with similar issues know very well.
Thank you for the kind words and the opportunity to share my journey with you and your readers. From start to finish, the process took roughly eighteen months. I feel like I was given the story to share with others, and putting pen to paper was easy. Trying to arrange them in a way so that others could experience what I went through proved to be a challenge but nothing short of therapeutic. Before I began writing, I would lay in bed at night with the experience playing repeatedly in my mind. I couldn’t shake it. As soon as I began writing, a wave of relief washed over me, and I no longer had to live through the experience daily.
- When did you decide that you were ready to begin writing your memoir? Did it come naturally to you as you were gradually rebounding to normalcy or did a specific event/experience convince you that you can begin your work?
I have a business mentor and friend I met through work who is a wonderful man of faith and highly successful in the corporate setting. Upon returning to work, he and I resumed our monthly meetings to discuss business and personal growth. He knew I had returned to work as soon as I possibly could because that’s just who I am. I’m the kind of person who wants to take on the world and never look back. Lucky for me, he is the type of person who knows how important slowing down and reflecting can be. He challenged me to spend some quiet time each day with the Lord, which I had never really taken the time to do. Quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure how to do it.
Over the next few weeks, I tried my best to work in that quiet time. Then, one weekend afternoon, it came to me. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but when He does speak, it’s like an instant download of information. I would compare it to knowing every detail of a movie in a split second without ever having seen it. I was supposed to write a first-person novel about my experience. Only later would I learn it was considered a memoir. I began working on it, but after a few weeks, I doubted if I could take on a task so big. After all, I was still trying to get back to normalcy, and attempting to write a book while working full-time seemed like a huge hill to climb.
I gave the writing a rest for a few weeks and tried to focus on quiet time. Was I supposed to write, or was it all in my head? Then, my clarification came. Our nondenominational church was hosting a prophetic night, which they do once a year. My daughter asked me to go, and I agreed. I had never been to one before and wasn’t sure what to expect. When that Sunday rolled around, we went to the morning service as usual, and I spent all afternoon praying. I wanted to be sure I was supposed to share all the intimate details of my experience even though I didn’t yet understand it myself. I didn’t need a prophetic word that night; anything pointing me in the right direction would work. We arrived that evening and found our seats among the three hundred or so people there. After the worship music, two prophetic guests spoke over a handful of people on stage. Then, they worked their way into the crowd with a few minutes left in the service. The gentleman spoke over four or five people, and the lady spoke over a few. I thought they were done until the lady made her way directly towards my daughter and me. After asking our names, she got right to the point. Her first words were, “James, you speak up for people, and God says you speak up for people with no voice. Your voice is loud in the spirit.” I had my answer. That is also when Voiceless to Victory was born, but I wasn’t sure what it would turn out to be. I thought it would be the title of my book, but it turned out to be something much greater than that.
- Did you always want to become a writer, or was the need to write exclusively a byproduct of your brush with psychosis?
The need to write was a direct result of my experience with psychosis. I have always been artistic and enjoyed a good book, but I never thought about writing as a hobby or professionally. The whole experience has been a blessing, and I plan on writing many more books in the future.
- Despite the book being a memoir based on your own personal experiences and battle with mental illness, it possesses a thriller-like quality that is reminiscent of plot-driven works of fiction. Could your journey from the mouth of madness to healing and regaining your faculties be perceived as “cinematic”, in the sense that it involved events and a pacing that resembled a fictional story?
Yes, I believe it is cinematic in a sense. When I began writing, I also began researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. After reading a few memoirs on bipolar disorder, I realized they were missing something for me. I felt as if they only grazed the surface of what it truly felt like to experience all that comes with mania, depression, and, in my case, psychosis. I was trying to find someone who experienced what I had. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone.
While researching, I also learned that memoirs are the most successful when they read like novels. I realized then that I had been given a perfect story structure. All I had to do was write it as I had experienced it so that others could see it through my eyes. The story structure was already built in.
- I found the opening sentence of the book to be one of the strongest and most effective that I’ve encountered, regardless of genre, during the last few years. Was that intentional, or something that just happened?
I really appreciate the strong compliment and am humbled by your kind words. The answer to your question is both. It was intentional in that I wanted the opening line to resonate with the reader and convey how truly broken I felt. It just happened in the sense that, much like the instant download from God I spoke of earlier, the first line was given to me. When the words hit the paper, I knew it was the opening line.
On several occasions during the rounds of editing with different editors, it was suggested to change the wording or start with something else altogether. I knew it had to stay, and I held my ground. That’s why your compliment means so much to me.
- Anyone who will read “Pardon My Psychosis” will realize the massive influence exerted on you by religion and your unique relationship with the divine element. At one point, you have the narrator thinking: “A believer, yes, but a believer who chose self and safety over the faith and the unknown it takes to follow Jesus.” Is that a reflection of a stage in your life during which you felt disconnected from God?
Yes, it was a stage of my life and one many Christians find themselves in at one point or another. I was baptized in my mid-twenties, but like most Christians, I thought that was the finish line when, in reality, it was supposed to be the beginning.
I spent the following years still trying to handle everything on my own, living in what I call the grey area. Not really right, and not really wrong, just getting through the day. I didn’t spend time reading the Bible or even praying. I still didn’t know my purpose. It wasn’t until I was thirty-three, sitting at my dinner table with a stack of bills I couldn’t pay, that I finally broke and told God I couldn’t do it on my own. I owned my own business at the time, always paid my employees first, and whatever was left was what I made. It was the first time my wife had ever seen me break down, and I mean really break down. I prayed for a miracle, and we returned to church, which we had neglected for years. The following job I took on was the most significant payout I had ever had, and while on that job, a company I bought materials from regularly offered me a position with them. We were able to pay off all of our debt, except our home, from that one job that only took a month to complete, and I had a wonderful place to work waiting for me. From that moment on, I have done my best to grow in my relationship with God. It was a true miracle.
- Are you planning to write something next? If the answer is positive, can you tell us some specific themes that you have in mind and would like to explore through literature?
This is a fun one! I have the first chapter finished of four different manuscripts. I’m at a crossroads in that, for the first time in my life, I can be whoever I want to be, if that makes sense. My wife and I had a child shortly after high school, and we’ve been married since 2004. I had to go to work; it’s what men do. I never thought about what I wanted to do or who I wanted to become. I was a father and a husband; that’s all there was time for.
Fast forward to today, and the most challenging part is deciding what I want to create next. I began a middle-grade adventure/fantasy novel. In part because I want to be able to create new worlds and characters but also because my son is right at that age. The next one trying to bubble to the surface is a dystopian thriller about living with the world crumbling around you in a first-person narrative. Then there’s the clean, wholesome romance novel that has made its way through chapter one. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and my wife and daughter are definitely trying to sway me in that direction. Last but not least would be a follow-up to my memoir—a genuine, heartfelt look at the journey to find my new normal despite bipolar disorder. Much like the memoir, I’m waiting for some assurance from above on the direction I should go.
- I’ve reserved a more personal question as the final one. I confess to you and our readers that I’ve never ever prayed in my life. Not even once, not even when I felt like doing it. I never knew how. And now I seize the opportunity to ask a man of faith. How can I possibly “invite the Holy Spirit to join in and connect me to the Father” as you so pointedly put it in your book?
Many religions make this seem overly complicated and ritualistic. God wants a relationship with every living person. Jesus died for all people so we can be forgiven and have a direct relationship with the Lord. Prayer is nothing more than a conversation with God. He already knows what you will say; He’s just waiting for you to say or ask it. Because we have free will, you must invite God into your life. I had to reach the end of myself before admitting that I couldn’t do life alone and needed help. Asking God to come into my life was the best decision I have ever made, and it’s a continuous, personal walk that I’ll be on until He calls me home. We humans are a spirit with a soul living in a temporary body. Our spirit connects us to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, in turn, connects us to God. People overcomplicate this.
Trust me when I say this: if you call on God, He will answer. He has given me the strength to accomplish many wonderful things I could never do alone. If you’re not yet ready to trust God as your Lord and Savior, begin speaking to Him as a friend. Ask Him the hard questions. Ask Him to show you the whys and for strength and understanding.I hope this answers your question, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my memoir and faith with you.
I’ll leave you with this one last thing, and you may leave it in this Q&A or remove it if you like. The most direct way The Holy Spirit can connect you to the Father is if you ask Him to be your Lord and Savior. Once you do, The Holy Spirit will reside in you. It goes something like this and all you have to do is repeat it and mean it in your heart, and you’ll be born again with everlasting life.
Lord, I’m tired of living life my way and relying on my own strength. I’m asking You to forgive my sins and take control of my life. I know that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for my sins. I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and through him, I am born again and have eternal life. Amen.