Including Mental Health: A Guest Post by Jennifer Soosar, Author of Parent Teacher Association

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Every blogger knows that it isn’t possible to read every book you’d like to and just occasionally one gets away that you really regret not having read. This is the case for me today with Parent Teacher Association by Jennifer Soosar. I so liked the sound of Parent Teacher Association that I asked Jennifer if she’d tell me a bit more about the mental health theme in the book.

Published by Black Opal Books, Parent Teacher Association is available for purchase here.

Parent Teacher Association

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A small town with a bad reputation. A troubled new teacher. An aggressive mother with a bizarre agenda. Welcome to Splinter Wood, Pennsylvania.
 

Fresh out of a mental hospital, Lizanne Demeter is thrilled to get a second chance at her career when she’s hired to teach third grade in the backwater town of Splinter Wood, Pennsylvania. But hopes for a peaceful new life are ruined when Naomi Seabrook, a demanding “helicopter parent,” pushes Lizanne to the brink.

While struggling to maintain control of her classroom, Lizanne begins to unravel the secret behind Naomi’s hell-bent agenda. As deadly clues emerge, Lizanne suspects Naomi is guilty of more than just overindulging her child. With her life teetering on chaos, Lizanne risks everything to expose the shocking truth.

But first, she must race against her own spiraling sanity to prove herself a more dedicated teacher than anyone dared imagine–the kind of teacher who makes ALL the difference.

Mental Health

A Guest Post by Jennifer Soosar

Lizanne Demeter is the main character in my novel, Parent Teacher Association. She’s the most enthusiastic, dedicated teacher you’ll ever meet. She adores children and places a high value on education. She’s single, lonely, and looking. She also just got out of a mental hospital.

I didn’t plan on burdening my protagonist with mental illness when I started writing Parent Teacher Association. All I knew was that I wanted to write a psychological suspense set in an elementary school with the main conflict being between a parent and a teacher. Psychological suspense stories emphasize the psychology and unstable emotional states of its characters so I knew I’d be writing about people with inner problems.

In the story, Lizanne clashes with Naomi Seabrook, a pathological “helicopter mom.” In order for the conflict to work, Lizanne had to have a similar, yet different, level of intensity to match Naomi’s. While I used Lizanne’s mental illness as a foil to the “fanatical mom” character, it also opened up new places I could go in the plot. Places I hadn’t planned on.

It was interesting to write a character with mental health issues, especially a character who’s a school teacher. The stereotypical image of an elementary school teacher is of a woman who is ‘good-ship-lollipop’ perky and perfect. But teachers are not perfect human beings. We see examples of that everyday in the news. We also remember our own elementary teachers from our school days, both the good and bad ones.

I didn’t judge Lizanne for having these challenges. In fact, I gave her more freedom and allowed her to make major choices in the story.

Since I was writing something psychological, I felt at liberty to fully explore the complexities and pathology of her mental state. I think the extent of her situation is what makes her a compelling, multi-dimensional character. Lizanne is unpredictable which keeps things interesting, and adds suspense. I think readers who enjoy this genre will enjoy Lizanne. She’s challenging and puzzling, yet is a character you can root for and empathize with.

Mental illness is a prevalent topic in our society today and I think it was important to explore that in fiction. I didn’t want to shy away from having a main character with these issues. At the core, Lizanne’s main struggle is to maintain her health as she battles loneliness and the stress of her job. It’s something anybody can relate to. As the story unfolds, we start to see how Lizanne’s faults are taken advantage of and aggravated by others, and how Lizanne chooses to rectify the matter. Fiction has enough room for a medley of characters with all manner of problems.

About Jennifer Soosar

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Jennifer Soosar was born and raised in Toronto and has a degree in anthropology. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Flash Bang Mysteries, and Out of the Gutter Online. Her debut psychological suspense novel, Parent Teacher Association, was published by Black Opal Books this summer. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime.

You can find out more on Jennifer’s website, and follow her on Twitter @jensoosar.  There’s a Facebook page you might like to visit too.

5 thoughts on “Including Mental Health: A Guest Post by Jennifer Soosar, Author of Parent Teacher Association

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