George Gesinger: the man, the author and the interview.
L. Vera: George Gesinger, an amazing writer, I am happy to have you on my blog.
George Gesinger: I’m more than happy to be here with you, Luis. I’d like the public to know more about me, as a writer and as a person. I believe I have something important to say to society.
L. Vera: Okay. I’m glad to be that platform. So let’s start off with publicity. One thing I like about you is that you are not afraid to publicize your work. Any secrets you want to share with us not so brave authors?
George Gesinger: The thing about publication is that it’s not like being on stage, in person, performing in the spotlight, like I was doing when I was a child prodigy in school. It’s only a matter of trying to think of things to say about my stories. I think I’m called upon to give more than just a link to motivate people to want to read me. People want to know why they should give their attention to any story. If you tell most people you’ve got a psychiatric diagnosis, they really don’t want to read your work. If I don’t get the word out, being a freelancer, how is anyone even supposed to know the stories even exist? I’d like to encourage all writers to take an active part in promoting their own work. There’s everything to gain from publication. I took some courses in business and marketing. I have some idea about how to make the plug about each succeeding story.
L. Vera: Your story “Asylum” is locked away in Burning Bridges. Is there any reason you decided to put such a story in this anthology?
George Gesinger: Yes. I spent my youth in state hospitals and psych wards, or asylums, after I’d graduated from high school and got sick while I was in university. I tried to go to music school, to become a high school band director, but the rigors of university life were too much for me. I had a major nervous breakdown when I was only twenty years old. Since then, I’ve suffered from a chronic chemical imbalance in my brain, which is an incurable disease. The doctors can control it to a certain extent, so some of us can live fairly normal lives with it, but once you come down with a problem with your brain chemistry, you have it for a lifetime. I want to be a part of the process of educating the public about this issue, so that there might be a little more open mindedness in the community at large for guys like me. The media have given a lot of bad press to mental illness, but many of us are just lonely, confused people who have to take pills and see doctors all our lives.
L. Vera: The title alone brings grimy images of a man locked away. Is that what we should expect?
George Gesinger: I think the general public is just plain frightened by the concept of someone being locked away in an asylum, because they don’t really know what it means. In all my work, I’m trying to dispel the stigma. I believe I’m “called upon” to do that, in a spiritual sense, since I have been given such a creative thrust, especially over the past year, to be writing down my experiences and publishing them. I’m not just doing it to shock the public. I think there’s already way too much of that in the media. What you’ll find in all my work is some perspectives on what it’s like to be behind locked doors. An asylum is not a prison, and as long as you treat others with respect, they are likely to do the same to you. I like to have a little fun with the concept, too. I always try to take my medications, because I don’t want the men in the white coats to be coming after me with a butterfly net.
I saw a story about soldiers being in combat on the TV one time, and the commentator made the remark that a soldier’s life is largely one of extreme boredom, punctuated with short periods of deep horror. I guess I’d say the same thing about being in asylums. Most of the time, we’re just bored, and want to go home. Sometimes, I think I’d like to have a normal life, with a normal history, but that’s not where I’ve come from.
L. Vera: What compelled you to write such a piece?
George Gesinger: I’ve had a lot of experience in state hospitals and psych wards over a lifetime of better than sixty years. That’s forty years in and out of institutions. One of the things I find compelling about that is that I’ve survived the experience. Someone once said, “Write what you know,” and I know institutions and the people in them. I always say that I don’t eat my vegetables, because some of my best friends are vegetables.
L. Vera: Most importantly which came first, the title or the story?
George Gesinger: I lived the experiences long before I could ever write about them. In 2010, I had a couple of calamities in my life. For one thing, I got confused about the formula for taking my medications the way they were prescribed. I’m not certain, but I think I overdosed myself for about two weeks or longer. I nearly lost my life. The other thing was that I lost my ability to communicate for several months, while I went thru the detox from my psych meds to save my life. Please understand. To take a chronic mental patient off his medications completely for any prolonged period is a very dangerous thing to do to a patient. I might have gone off the deep end, and never come back to myself again in my lifetime. I had to have strict medical supervision. My speech and ability to write the way I’m doing now, have come to me thru that confusing, tormenting time. I feel compelled to tell my stories.
L. Vera: What should we expect from you in the future?
George Gesinger: I hope to learn a lot more about writing fiction. I have a friend here at assisted living who’s trying to coach me a little bit about how to do that. So far, what I’ve been doing is writing about my personal experiences, in a nonfiction setting. Since I’ve been diagnosed with a memory disorder, I pursue my memories, and do my best to write them all down. What I’d really like to be able to do is draw upon my personal experience to write more about the overall experience of having a chemical imbalance, but make it more like fiction. I ask each of you to visit my blog. I’ve been very active there, too. I have a blog post about One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest, dispelling some of the fallacies about the movie. There are things in that movie, like Girl, Interrupted, that are on target, and other things that are just plain Hollywood.
L. Vera: Awesome interview, I got an early copy of “Asylum” which will be in Burning Bridges on Amazon on May 1st and it’s great. Please visit George Geisinger on his blog , or on Goodreads and buy his books on Amazon , or you may get locked away with us crazy writers and none of us would want that. Right?