Deciding to live: Joely Black interview

One of my favourite Twitter-mates is The Charm Quark (aka Isabel Joely Black). Like me, she’s working on becoming a full-time fantasy author, so of course I felt an immediate affinity with her. You’ve seen Joely here before as a guest poster and you’ll also see her again as she’s just come on board to provide a monthly guest post keeping us informed about the progress in her own Someday Journey. Before we start that, however, let’s get to know Joely a little more…

Who: Isabel Joely Black (aka TheCharmQuark on Twitter) from In These Heels? and Amnar: The Awakening.
Joely is a writer and creator of worlds, and she uses her work to bring happiness and positive change into the world.

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
Back in 2003, I had been severely anorexic and depressive for about 15 years. I was 24, and despite all of this, I’d steam-rollered through life and had a degree and was working on my PhD.

Then my partner began cheating on me. I wasn’t happy with the path my life was taking – I didn’t really want to be an academic after all – and pretty much everything around me began to crumble. I was suicidal for a while, feeling trapped with no money, and unable to escape from the house I’d bought with this man.

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
My life was going in completely the wrong direction, and I was settling for an empty existence without love and without a passion for what I did in the world. I think I could see, even then, that I was worth more, but I had no idea how to get there.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
It all unfolded over the space of about three months, when I finally went back to my doctor and confessed that I was overdosing on my anti-depressants. At this point, I was being ‘maintained’ rather than treated for anorexia. The general belief of my doctors was that I was incurable.

At that point, a bunch of things happened all at once.

He took me off the medication I was on, and tried me out on something else. It didn’t work. I’m extremely sensitive to medications and within a few days had a host of side effects.

Finally, something snapped in my brain. I went to my next appointment and refused to take any more medication. “I’m going to eat,” I said. And I did. I made a confirmed decision not to be anorexic anymore.

I also broke up with my partner, and engaged legal help to get me a settlement on the house. A year later I moved cities, and started my life again.

I’m indebted to the doctor who treated me then, who called me a walking miracle. A month after announcing I would eat, I had shed all my anorexic habits, and lived without any medication.

I’m also indebted to the friend who sat with me one day and listened as I described Amnar, the world I’d created. She pushed me to start writing it out, and for two years, while I wrote the first seven books, read every chapter, commented on the work. She provided endless emotional support for which I’m eternally grateful. She was the first person who really believed my world had a place in this one.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
I was both deeply terrified and incredibly empowered. It was like something clicked in my brain and I switched off the ‘anorexic control’ that I’d had for all those years.

A year later, when I had a bit of money and the opportunity, I moved to a new city. I was very poor until the buyout from the house took place but I never doubted that I’d done the right thing. That was really the start of it, getting my life on track and for the first time thinking, “Hey, maybe I can make something of this published author business.”

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
I’m still trying to get a deal, and still dealing with limiting tendencies around that. I’m very scared by what I’m doing, and for a long time I’ve been waiting for it, as though it’s out there somewhere waiting to happen and I never quite reach it. At the moment I run a business as a contractor, but I hate the work, so even though I’m very capable I work as little as I can so I can devote more time to Amnar.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
Last summer I put my foot down with myself, recognising that I was pretending to go after publication when really I was running away. I’ve been engaged in a massive process of healing – more than I did back in 2003 – and opening up to the world and myself. I started small with a few queries, and then took over podcasting the book myself, rebuilt my website, got involved in groups that would help give me the courage to put myself out there.

I’ve trained myself to the point where if anybody asks if I need help, I always mention my books, and can pitch the story in 140 characters if necessary! I’ve got some good leads out of doing this just in the last few weeks. For me the big lesson has been that I don’t need to do this all by myself.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
Don’t start thinking you have to do it all by yourself. I’ve been trapped by this one for a long time, and the sheer weight of not just writing the books, developing the world, putting out the podcast and website, but also submitting to publishers, writing a decent query and pitch, all of that is impossible for one person. Open up to others and let them help!

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
A hand to hold. I have some wonderful people just a phone call away, but at the moment there isn’t anybody here who can share the joys and the sorrows of what I’m going through. I’d probably also ask for a miraculous supply of income, so I could devote myself to Amnar full-time without worrying about how I live. The trouble for me has always been that I need the risk factor to make me really pull out all the stops to get what I want!

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17 thoughts on “Deciding to live: Joely Black interview

  1. Isabel sounds like one strong woman. It’s tough to turn things around when life just looks so bad. I know that I’ve been there.

    Sometimes just making the choice to do the right thing. In Isabel’s case that was just eating. Making an effort to fight the disease and do what was best for her.

    I hope her books become best sellers. I look forward to hearing about her progress.

    Karl Staib – Work Happy Now´s last blog post..Work in the Now

  2. Glen Allsopp says:

    Great interview Alex. Joely, you’ve definitely been through your ups and downs but it sounds like you’re coming out of the other end much stronger.

    Feel free to email me if you ever need support in any areas (someone to hold your hand) 🙂


    Glen Allsopp´s last blog post..Ask the Readers: Why Are We Here?

  3. Zoe says:

    Joely, you are incredible demonstration of will, and the power of conscious choices. I already admired your path as a writer, but now I can’t help being wowed on a broader and deeper level… thank you for such honesty!

    Zoe´s last blog post..Push Ahead With What You Have: A Video

  4. Todd says:

    My friend died of anorexia 3 months ago. She was healthy as a horse, had an amazing life, up until about a year and a half ago when she started feeling bad about her body and weight….she died at 88 pounds and I miss her every single day. I pray that this never happens to you or your loved ones. Celebrate life as much as possible!

  5. My head literally tingled when I read this. It is so moving to read about someone overcoming such huge obstacles, and I’m sure Joely has what it takes to achieve anything her heart desires!

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Twitter Basics: What Should I Tweet About?

  6. Joanna Young says:

    Joely, I love following you and getting to know you on Twitter too.

    Thanks for being so open and honest here. The words you’ve written here – the ones you spoke “I’m going to eat” seem incredibly powerful to me. It’s the determination to live, to eat, to be.

    Joanna Young´s last blog post..5 Prescriptions for Tenacity

  7. steph says:

    Joely, did you mean the first of seven books, or the first seven books? Because WOW if it’s the first seven books! That kind of commitment shows a very dedicated author. Publishers and agents like that, trust me.

    I’ve checked out your site before and I’m quite intrigued by your story.

    Please, if you need any help, let me know. I’m a copyeditor whose favourite genre is fantasy (!

    steph´s last blog post..This Blog Now Has its Own Domain!

  8. Hi Alex and Joely – Thank you for this fabulous interview. I love Joely’s advice, “Open up to others and let them help.’ That fits me to a “t”. Too often I get stubborn, take on too much and forget others would be willing to help if I would just ask them.

    Barbara Swafford´s last blog post..Is Blogging A Hobby, A Time Suck, Or…

  9. What a great interview Alex. Joely, you are so inspirational. Deciding to heal yourself of anorexia and then sticking with it – that’s just amazing. I take my hat off to you. And I agree about writers needing to reach out to find their place in the publishing world and just for emotional support. Writing fiction is intoxicating because you’re off in this other world, but it can also be lonely, so connecting with others is very important.

    Looking forward to hearing more about Joely, and have just started following her on Twitter.

    Thanks Alex.


  10. Alex Fayle says:

    I’m absolutely amazed at her strength and ability to change so thoroughly and so quickly. I too look forward to seeing what’s next and how Joely’s Someday Journey progresses.

    Yes, the phrase “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger comes to mind, no?” 😉

    What people can do/change when they make powerful choices just thrills me and inspires me to be more powerful with my own choices.

    I’m so sorry to hear that – it’s such a terrible thing to watch someone go through that. I’m happy at least that Joely was able to make the decision to live.

    Someone who can turn on her willpower like that and write a 17-book series… wow, that’s dedication – success is sure to come!

    Choice is very important and being clear about what we choose. We all have the power of choice but so often don’t use it.

    It’s the first seven of seventeen! Yes it’s a long series… I couldn’t imagine holding all that information in my head. One book at a time is more than I can deal with. 😉

    I’m the same way – not wanting to impose… even when people offer!

    Writing is very lonely (but yay to blogs, Twitter and forums like for support and community).

    BTW, if you aren’t already following me on Twitter, you can do so at

  11. Cath Lawson says:

    What an awesome interview Alex and Joely. It sounds like you love writing Joely and you’re motivated to get published which is great.

    The way you refused to continue medication and made yourself eat, after you’d been anorexic for so long is an inspiration. I only hope that other folk who are in the same boat you were, will come across this interview.

  12. Kelly says:


    Great, great interview. This is why I enjoy reading In These Heels, too—your raw honesty is such an inspiration. I found myself hanging on a few key phrases in here that I’m going to internalize to push myself forward. Thanks for opening up like this!


    I swear every interview is getting deeper. You’re becoming the Barbara Walters of the blogosphere—capable of reaching into places folks were never planning on sharing with the www!



    Kelly´s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Reality Is Not on a TV Show

  13. Paul D says:

    Good luck with your books…Thank you for the interview – it is always helpful to hear other people’s stories.

  14. […] You can find Joely at In These Heels, Amnar, on Twitter and the subject of a Someday Interview. […]

  15. Alex Fayle says:

    Yes, I too hope someone reads this interview and doesn’t suffer the same end that Todd’s friend did.

    You just totally made my day. That’s one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received – thank you!

    @Paul D
    Other people’s stories definitely help, don’t they. Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post which will be all about that.

  16. […] Some people believe it’s worth being miserable every single day of their lives, in return for a much better life in the future. I used to believe that. Then one day, I asked myself – what if there is no future? If you hate your work and your life sucks, but you’re hoping to enjoy an early retirement, you need to check out this story: Why You Should Do It Now – The Story Of Boatman Pete. Making time to look after your physical health isn’t all that difficult, once you’ve decided you want to. But what about your mental health? Alex Fayle is one of my favourite online interviewers. He just seems to know the exact questions to ask, to create an amazing story. And his interview with Joely Black on how she beat the anorexia which plagued her since childhood, is no expection: Deciding To Live: Joely Black Interview. […]

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