Recently I had the opportunity to interview Peggy Kennedy Author of Approaching Neverland, A Memoir of Epic Tragedy & Happily Ever After. Here’s her story:
What inspired you to write Approaching Neverland?
The truth is I missed my family and wanted to bring them back to life. For that reason, I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d written until my descriptions of them were so close to the real thing that my family members seemed to walk off the page.
Have you always been a writer?
No. For the last 20 years I’ve been producing high profile events like the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade. Before that, I sold real estate. But as I began closing in on my 50th birthday five years ago, I realized that if I didn’t write our family’s story, it would be gone forever. So I worked with a writing coach for nearly three years and signed up for as many writing seminars as I could afford.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book? The most rewarding?
The most difficult part was reliving all the sadness of the tragedies we’d been through – my father’s Alzheimer’s, my brother’s death from AIDS, and my sister’s murder. However difficult, these were all a part of our family story, so needed to be included in the book. My reward came when I knew that I had captured a family member’s spirit through description and dialogue and could hear their laughter.
Your mother’s mental illness played a large role in your life. Her disease – bipolar disorder – is known to be at least in part genetic. Were you ever worried that you might inherit the disorder?
Absolutely! Mom was institutionalized for the first time at 19. As I approached my late teens I often checked in the mirror to make sure my eyes weren’t shaky and would intentionally slow down my speech to make certain that I still could control it. I became fearful again after having my first child as Mom always went off the deep end after giving birth. Luckily, I was fine.
At a point in your life when you seemed to have it all, you left the comfort of the suburbs and your husband (your childhood sweetheart no less!) to move to the city and pursue a career for which you had very little experience. Why did you leave?
I realized that I had allowed my husband’s dreams to become mine and my own dreams had all but disappeared. I had always wanted to live a creative life in the city. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose, I felt I had to take a chance and go for it. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did.
To what do you attribute your ability to face your mother’s mental illness and all your family’s tragedy without bitterness?
Our family was blessed with a dark Irish sense of humor, which helped get us through some pretty tough times. And I never got away with feeling sorry for myself. None of us did. Anything that didn’t help make things better was considered a waste of time.
What do you hope other people will gain from reading Approaching Neverland?
I hope my book inspires them to live life to the fullest and love those who share their life’s journey.
To learn more about Peggy Kennedy and get a copy of Approaching Neverland, go to: www.approachingneverland.com