Friday, May 9, 2014

GUEST POST from Mary Rowen, Author of LEAVING THE BEACH: A Novel of Obsession and Music:

Today, I have a very special guest post from the author of "Leaving the Beach" who talks about how her heroine from the book suffers from bulimia, why she made the choice of giving her main character that illness and how it resonates personally with her. I love doing guest posts because we get to explore a deeper side of the book, the characters and the author and this one does just that. 

As Mary Rowen reveals her own struggles and talks about how her battle has affected her throughout the years, I realized her words could be inspiration for many of us and parallel many different afflictions. I hope, as does the author, this post will resonate with you, give you hope and let you know you are not alone, no matter what trials your life might hold.

Welcome Mary Rowen!

Guest Post
by Mary Rowen

Several people have asked why I decided to make Erin Reardon—the protagonist in Leaving the Beach—bulimic. 

My answer’s a bit complicated, as I was also bulimic for many years. But Erin and I are also different in numerous ways. 

My ED (eating disorder) started in high school, as does Erin’s. Several unsettling currents were swirling around me back in those days, and when they combined, they created something like a perfect storm that sucked me right into the ED vortex. 

First, I’m an anxious person. Therapy has helped me understand that anxiety’s as much a part of me as my arms and legs are, but I didn’t start therapy until adulthood. All I knew in high school was that I often felt awkward and nervous, especially in social situations. Secondly, I started freshman year as a new kid. Almost everyone who attended my public high school had also gone to the public middle school in my hometown, so they already knew each other on some level. But all of my education up until then had occurred in a small, insular Catholic school. Interestingly enough, I’d chosen to make the change to public. My parents had wanted to keep me in the Catholic system, but I’d chosen to branch out; I’d chosen to make new friends. I just didn’t realize how hard it would be in the beginning. Thirdly, I really wanted to start dating boys, but my anxiety made me painfully shy around most of them. So when a cute guy I liked—let’s call him Joe—asked me out, I really messed up. I said yes, but then got so freaked out every time he’d try to hold my hand or kiss me that he ended the relationship. 

That breakup—and I know it sounds crazy, because I was only fourteen years old—ripped me apart. I was too immature to understand that it’d simply been a bad match. In my mind, Joe hadn’t broken up with me because we’d had little in common; he’d broken up with me because I was a loser. An ugly loser.

Now right around the time of this ill-fated relationship, I’d finally begun to make new friends, and we spent a lot of time talking about boys. (We were high school freshmen, after all.) I confessed to them my hope for another chance with Joe, and they did their best to help us reunite. But although Joe was kind and polite, he also made it clear that he didn’t want to date me again.

So I buried my sadness deep inside. A year passed, and I dated another boy, with zero passion. Meanwhile, Joe was dating a beautiful, petite girl, and I’d put on a few pounds. I was far from fat; my doctor said I was the perfect weight for my height, and I was active in sports. But I wanted to be skinny. For some reason, I believed skinniness would be my ticket to happiness. 

Then, one day, I read a magazine story about models with eating disorders. Now to be fair, the article described the dangers of anorexia and bulimia and didn’t glamorize them at all. But when I saw the pictures of the girls suffering from the diseases—and then leafed through the magazine and examined the other models featured on its pages, I realized that almost all of them had thin, petite bodies. And everyone knew boys wanted to date models. 

Now I had no interest in becoming anorexic, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to starve myself every once in a while. Unfortunately, it did hurt. I was on the track team, and one afternoon, right before a meet, I got dizzy and needed to sit out a race. Another time, I got home from practice and started seeing black spots in front of my eyes. After that, I quit the starvation business. 

Still, the desire for skinniness persevered. So one summer afternoon when no one else was home, I ate a bunch of junk food and made myself throw up. Then, feeling sick and exhausted, I went to bed and stayed there until morning, telling my parents I’d caught a stomach flu. And when I stepped on the scale the next day, I was down a pound.

Now everyone who understands bulimia knows that bulimics don’t normally lose much weight—instead, they do damage to their esophagus and stomach lining (as well as other organs), screw up their electrolyte balance, and sometimes die of heart failure—but I didn’t think that stuff could happen to me. I was too busy thinking about that pound I’d “lost.” Of course, it was all water weight and I probably regained it the minute I drank a cup of coffee, but something had snapped in my mind, and I started playing all kinds of dangerous body games. I experimented with foods that were easy to puke, bought baggy clothes in an effort to convince myself I was getting thinner, and became a fan of athletic shorts and sweatpants. 

Well, to cut to the chase, I remained bulimic—off and on—until I was well over age thirty. When I was binging and purging heavily, my weight would increase, my face would break out, and I’d feel terrible; when I’d stop and try to get healthy, I’d look and feel better. But I never quit for good until I told my boyfriend—who eventually became my husband—and he convinced me to get help. 

Even then, it was a struggle. I spent lots of time in therapy, and found a general practitioner with extensive knowledge of EDs. I now consider myself to be fully recovered, but it’s not very hard to remember what those bulimic days were like. And when I decided to write a novel about a woman obsessed with rock stars, it made sense to me that she should be bulimic too. 

Certainly, however, I don’t mean for Erin Reardon to represent all bulimics. Her battle with the disease is similar to mine, but for many people, things turn out much worse. EDs have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. It’s my hope that Leaving the Beach may help some people suffering from EDs to recognize that they need help and seek counseling. 

About Mary's Book

Written with heart and keen observation about the day-to-day struggles of a “functioning bulimic,” Leaving the Beach explores the power of fantasy, then shoves it up against harsh reality until something has to give. In this women’s novel set on the sandy beaches of Winthrop, Massachusetts, we meet Erin Reardon, a lonely person who believes her destiny is to save grunge superstar Lenny Weir. Forget the fact that Lenny reportedly killed himself several years earlier; Erin’s not the only fan to believe his death was a hoax, a last-ditch effort by the drug-addled musician to reclaim his privacy. And Erin has felt a special bond with Lenny for years. So when she gets picked up hitchhiking by a mysterious man who resembles Lenny physically, she makes some quick assumptions. After all, he has extensive knowledge of the music industry, there’s a guitar in his trunk, and he has issues with drugs. She’s finally about to fulfill her destiny…

Buy the Book!

About the Author...

Mary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family that allows her time to write almost every day.  Leaving the Beach, although pure fiction, certainly draws on some personal experience. As the tagline states, it’s “a novel of obsession and music,” and rock music has always been a driving force in Rowen’s life. She was also bulimic for over fifteen years, and really wanted to write a story with a bulimic main character. Eating disorders are so complicated—and dangerous—and she hopes Leaving the Beach might encourage people suffering from them to seek help.

Contact the Author...

Coordinated by:
Jennifer Gilbert at Booktrope Publishing


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome Mary! Love this guest post and I'm so happy to share. Thank you for stopping by :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story, Mary.


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