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‘Love, Loss, and Schizophrenia’: Q&A with Karen Winters Schwartz

— And it was then, ten years later, after being so affected by the struggles that my family faced and how it was so much harder because of those early fears, biases, and misconceptions I held about these illnesses—that I wanted to try to get other people to understand. I wanted to help those who were going through what we had gone through. And I chose to do that through literature.

So I sat down and wrote the novel: 'Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?' my first published novel which, deals with bipolar disorder, and is, at its core, what we went through as a family. Because now I was able to write that story with heart, with a voice and an understanding that just is not possible unless you’ve lived through the effects of a loved one’s illness. It was after Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?’ was published and I became even more involved in advocacy and [the National Alliance on Mental Illness], that I went back, dusted off that manuscript that was literally collecting dust in the back of my closet and started a thorough rewrite, re-title, and new appreciation of my very first completed novel — ‘Reis’s Pieces.’”

Briefly summarize what happens in “Love, Loss, and Schizophrenia.”

“The novel weaves together two stories of our protagonist, Reis Welling: his life before schizophrenia and his life five years later as he struggles to recover and reenter society. There are two love interests — two separate love stories. One story examines how mental illness can tear a life and a love apart. The other examines how one can rebuild a life which has been devastated by mental illness and learn to love again."

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

"I hope readers who know very little about mental illness will take away empathy and knowledge. I hope those people who understand what it’s like to live through the effects of mental illness, either as a family member or those dealing directly with these illnesses, will be comforted by the fact that they are not alone, that their feels of anger and despair are normal, and that there is hope; recovery is possible.

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