Friday, 8 May 2015


Title: Surrounded By Madness
Author: Rachel Pruchno, Ph.D.
Release Date: 24th March 2014

BLURB from Goodreads
"What was the likelihood my adopted daughter would have my father's hazel eyes and my mother's mental illness?" In this fiercely candid memoir, Dr. Pruchno, a scientist widely acclaimed for her research on mental illness and families, shows how mental illness threatened to destroy her own family. Not once, but twice. As a child, she didn't understand her mother's episodes of crippling sadness or whirlwind activity. As a mother, she feared her daughter Sophie would follow in the footsteps of the grandmother Sophie never knew. Unraveling the mysteries of her mother's and daughter's illnesses, Pruchno fought to preserve her marriage and protect her son. But it was not until she came to terms with her own secrets that she truly understood the destructive and pervasive effects mental illness has on families. Surrounded By Madness is transforming. It will empower families to stop hiding and start talking when mental illness strikes. RACHEL PRUCHNO is Director of Research at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging and Endowed Chair, Professor of Medicine at Rowan University's School of Osteopathic Medicine. She earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University. Dr. Pruchno has been the Principal Investigator on numerous research grants funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Aging, the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Retirement Research Foundation, and the Cleveland Foundation. She has published more than 70 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, authored 10 invited book chapters, and co-edited Challenges of an Aging Society: Ethical Dilemmas, Political Issues. She has served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gerontologist, a leading scientific journal, since 2011. She is married with four children, two of whom are dogs.

The Book Trailer video on may be found here or
Surrounded By Madness  is available at online book sellers and is being most heavily discounted at - go to


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
I published my memoir, Surrounded By Madness, as Rachel Pruchno, the name I use professionally.  I use a different surname, my husband’s, socially but I don’t want to share that because my purpose in writing my memoir was to tell what I believe is an important true story about an important yet often sensitive topic, not to hurt anybody or to bring unwelcome attention or embarrassment. I was born in Detroit, Michigan and now live in New Jersey in the Greater Philadelphia area. 

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Surrounded By Madness is the product of a 3-year journey. I worked with a writing coach or developmental editor who helped me understand narrative arc and a line or copy editor who helped me polish my writing. The comments of my several rounds of early readers helped me learn how to tell my story effectively.   I am not sure if three years should be considered a long time to write a book.  I have heard of some writers who take many years more than that to finish their books, but I also know that best-selling, household name authors seem to be able to turn out books more quickly.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I’m a research psychologist who has spent my career studying the effects that mental illness has on families. I wrote Surrounded By Madness during weekends and evenings, first as therapy to cope with the loss of my 18-year-old daughter to mental illness. As the project developed, I learned how to write memoir and the importance of narrative arc to telling the story.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
The title is Surrounded By Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets. Viewed through the lens of a psychologist, the book chronicles my experiences as the daughter of a mother and mother of a daughter with severe mental illness.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
Surrounded By Madness was published through Dog Ear Publishing of Indianapolis, Indiana. 

What genre would you place your books into?
Surrounded By Madness is a memoir dealing with my family and personal experiences as a daughter of a mother and the mother of a daughter with severe and debilitating mental illness.  As such it deals with issues relevant to family relationships as well as heath care, public policy, our legal system, psychology, and psychiatry.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
More than 11.4 million people in the U.S. experience a mental illness severe enough to cause problems in their daily lives. For every person experiencing a serious mental illness there are family members who suffer as well. 

As a child I watched my mother struggle with manic depression. As a mother, I fought beside my adopted daughter, diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. For years, stigma and shame made me keep my mother's and my daughter's illnesses secret. 

When my 18-year-old daughter stopped her treatments and ran away with a heroin addict, I knew there was nothing I could do to help her. In my grief, I started writing our story.  

Hoping to learn from the experiences of others, I read dozens of memoirs written by people with mental illness and memoirs written by the parents and children of people with mental illness. Each memoir told the same story: turmoil, more turmoil, and then a happy ending. Sometimes the person with mental illness had extensive and expensive contact with the healthcare system, care well beyond the grasp of most people. Other times the recovery was so unbelievable I wondered whether a serious mental illness had really been evident. 
I tried to reconcile the stories these memoirs told with the facts that I, a psychologist, knew about mental illness. Where were the memoirs written by people like me? People whose loved ones were homeless, in jail, or dead? Surely I wasn't alone. 

It was then that I realized I needed to tell my story so that other families struggling with mental illness would understand they are not alone and that hiding mental illness is destructive. 

I hope reading Surrounded By Madness encourages families struggling with mental illness to tell their stories and that it helps people who have not had direct contact with mental illness to understand the challenges mental illness presents to family members. 

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I sit at my kitchen table armed with a cup of good coffee and my computer.

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I try to because I am interested in how my professional efforts are perceived and received by others.  But, given that books are now widely reviewed on the internet, I am sure there are many of which I do not even become aware.  And I certainly do not fret about that.  I am sure many people appreciate my writing while others will not.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?  
No, I can’t imagine that I would.  Being a research investigator who has submitted hundreds of articles to scientific journals for peer review, I am accustomed to criticism and I understand that honest criticism helps me make my work better.  You can’t please everyone, and I do not believe that someone’s opinion about something as subjective as art or literature can truly be counted as right or wrong.  Not everyone thinks John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men) was a great writer, for example, and yet I believe he generally is considered among the very best of contemporary American writers.  Even Ernest Hemingway has been widely criticized as an over-rated writer. 

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books? Who designed the Cover of your books?
The working title of the book changed as the work evolved.  Surrounded By Madness started off as Racing Toward Fire when I began by writing my story about trying to raise my daughter.  But, over time, I realized that my story was really about living with mental illness in the family during my childhood years as well as an adult and parent.  So the working title became In the Middle of Madness, to reflect the idea that I have long been in the middle of madness in my household and from a generational perspective in experiencing the turmoil caused by the mental illnesses of my mother and my daughter.  Still, that title was too similar to other books in print and eventually I settled on Surrounded By Madness which reflects the same idea. 
My husband worked on cover design concepts and was the one who first identified the artwork used on the cover.  I know I drove him crazy by rejecting almost every idea he suggested, but I think that ultimately, the cover of the book is fantastic and I thank my husband for doing an awesome job with it.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?  
Surrounded By Madness is a memoir, so the characters are real people.  But I did change the names of most of the characters and health care institutions because my intent was to tell an important story that others need to hear, not to hurt anyone.  Often, I just chose a name beginning with the same letter of the real name of the person so I could easily keep track of which character name corresponded to the actual person.  But, sometimes one of the people in my story requested that I use a specific name for their character, and when that happened I would honor that request.

How do you market/promote your books?
Well, my husband earned his Ph.D. in marketing so I pretty much have left that to him to manage.  I know he spent a lot of time on the Internet reading about the publishing industry and book marketing.  
He conceptualized and worked with a production company to create a book trailer video, and has relied heavily upon electronic press releases, cross-linking of social media, website construction with search engine management, and outreach to book bloggers and other book related websites. He has also been promoting the book to religious organizations, community centers, brick and morter bookstores, and libraries through tradtional mailings, eMail campaigns, and phone calls to encourage interest in book signing and speaking events.  We also have assembled lists – some professional, some occupational, and some personal – for use in eMail campaigns.  And then there is a lot of personal and face-to-face networking. 

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
I think any book has to be of interest to a target audience and well-written.  If not, the chances for commercial success are probably pretty small.  Beyond that, however, you really have to work on marketing, developing a logically sound pricing and distribution strategy, and have a promotional plan that is thorough and enduring.  Promotion does not have to be expensive, but it has to be thoughtful and persistent.  People have to become aware of the book if it is going to sell.  A great book that nobody knows about won’t sell.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
There are several themes presented throughout Surrounded By Madness. They include: 
a. Mental illness affects the entire family.
b. Families keep secrets about mental illness. This is counterproductive and unhealthy.
c. When a person with mental illness reaches adulthood, our present laws make it virtually impossible for families to help them, compromising the care and support that the person with mental illness can get.
d. When a child with mental illness is young, parents are encouraged and empowered to help them. When the child turns 18, if she refuses treatment, parents must recognize that they must let the child go or else they’ll be destroyed too.
e. The devastating effects of mental illness are blind to social class, religion, race, and culture.

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
Evan Connell, who wrote Mr. Bridge as well as Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, probably had the biggest influence on my writing of Surrounded By Madness.  I adopted the same strategy of telling the entire story in short chapters of just a few pages presenting a vignette or small set of related vignettes, just as Connell employed in his books.  I think this style provides focus in building the narrative arc of the overall story while providing many convenient points where the reader can put the book down and resume reading it later, thus enhancing the overall reading experience.

What do you think about book trailers?
Book trailers have great utility. Just like movie trailers, book trailers inform readers about the book and help them decide whether they want to read it. One of the best experiences I had in preparing to promote Surrounded By Madness was working with my husband during the development of the book trailer. It can be viewed on YouTube by visiting the book’s website at

No comments:

Post a Comment