Earlier this week I reviewed Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl. As you can see by my review, I absolutely loved this book so I was extremely excited when Jessie agreed to answer a few of my questions.
You dedicate the book to your mom and I have read that she was quite supportive of the book but what was her first reaction when she found out you were writing it? Did she need any convincing?
She needed no convincing. The conversation went like this:
Me: Mom, I’m thinking about writing about hoarding. What do you think of that idea?
Helen: I think that’s a wonderful idea.
Me: To be clear, I’d be writing about you. Since you’re the only hoarder I know.
Helen: I still think it’s a wonderful idea. Writing about it could help other hoarders and their families.
I also showed her parts of the book along the way and told her that if there was anything she particularly objected to, I’d take it out. She didn’t have me take out anything--nor did any of my other family members, which I very much appreciate. I’ve heard many horror stories about family battles post-publication, and I am so happy that I’ve experienced none of that.
When I began nearing the end of the book, I realized that I wanted to know so much more and I knew everything I wanted to know couldn't possibly be covered in the remaining pages. Do you think you will ever give any kind of follow-up in the future?
Hmm… I’m not sure. The events of the book--not to give away the plot too much--just happened to form a pretty self-sustaining dramatic arc and I’m not sure I’ll be in a situation like that again. But maybe. You never know. I guess that’s not much of an answer!
I continuously read that when you began sharing your story with people you were pleasantly surprised by their reactions and the fact that people didn't judge. It is so incredible that everyone was so supportive, did anyone close to you surprise you and say they were actually aware of you mom's hoarding?
Good question! No, no one did. Most of my friends said, “I always knew you and your mother had an unusual relationship, but not the extent of it,” or “I knew that she had some kind of mental illness, but not what,” but no one, other than my husband, knew about the hoarding.
You wrote about finding the Children of Hoarders message boards and give them a huge thanks in your Acknowledgments, how did the Children of Hoarders community react to your writing this book?
Very, very positively. The group has been incredibly supportive. I’ve gotten a lot of individual emails too, from children of hoarders, just saying thanks for writing about this and getting the issue of how hoarding affects family members into the spotlight. I truly love getting those emails. They make the hard work of writing the book—and I’m talking about the emotional aspects more than the twelve-hour writing days—completely worth it.
I keep thinking about all the things that could have happened since you finished the book but there is one thing above all others that I have to ask...were the bugs really gone?
Yes! I promise.
Thanks again Jessie!
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