Yoga teacher and author Sarah Wheeler discusses her new book Shadow and Rose, written to help women recover from sexual assault.
I interviewed Sarah Wheeler about her life, the experiences that inspired her new book Shadow and Rose, and how she is helping women recover from rape and sexual assault.
Tell Sarah Wheeler who you are:
My name is Sarah and some of my favorite things to do are swim in the cold sea, eat hummus, meet friends for cocktails, teach yoga and reiki, and of course, write.
When did ye first want to write a book?
A long time ago, when I was in high school, I realized how much I love to write. It’s something I’m talking about in Shadow and Rose, the fact that as a teenager I kind of knew I was going to write a book one day. I thought it was fiction about strong female characters like witches and shamans. As it turns out, my first Shadow and Rose book wasn’t a novel.
When did ye decide to start writing?
When I was recovering from a sexual assault and rape in 2016/17 I kept a journal in which I wrote and doodled how I was feeling and trying to understand something that was so hard to figure out. In fact, we now feel that we accept sexual assault. The only real meaning is that as survivors, we didn’t deserve to be hurt and it wasn’t our fault.
As a teenager, I always kept a very private journal, which helped me a lot to get my worries and feelings out of my head and write them on the page to process them. The healing power of writing was still strong in my thirties, recovering from sexual abuse. My journalism laid the foundation for Shadow and Rose, although I didn’t know then that I would be writing my own book. In 2020 I opened up my laptop to start creating the opening for Shadow and Rose.
How long did it take ye to complete thine first book, from idea to publication?
I’ve been thinking about writing a recovery guide since about 2019 but kept the idea to myself. I was like oh shit if I tell someone it will be real and then I have to do it, what if it’s really bad or nobody wants to know my story or who I am to write a book?!
I’ve had many uncomfortable internal conversations with myself about the beginning of my book. But in 2020, when the government shut everything down and took away the opportunity for people to make money through C19 support, I had a lot of free time! I felt more ready than ever (because there is no ideal time to start writing a book), so I started in early April 2020.
The Shadow and Rose was released as a standalone e-book in May 2021 and was published in paperback by The Unbound Press in August of the same year.
What prompted ye to write Shadow and Rose?
I couldn’t find a book like Shadow and Rose when I was in the early stages of my recovery. I wanted a book to turn to when I was feeling down, something to calm me down and let me know everything is going to be okay.
I want women to know that it is possible to recover from sexual violence AND that we need to be realistic and know that it is a difficult process. I wanted to share some of the things that have helped (and continue to help) my continued recovery, and if it’s any comfort to other survivors, it was worth writing about.
What were thine biggest challenges writing Shadow and Rose?
The biggest challenge was waiting for the book to come out because it was like waiting to find out if the men who assaulted me would be brought to justice. The space of not knowing what would happen randomly reflected not knowing how the book would be received, the truth of my experience of being there for women to read.
How did you find Shadow and Rose?
I haven’t done much research. Most of the time I wrote from the bottom of my heart. However, I did some research on PTG and the Polyvagal Theory.
How did ye design the structure of Shadow and Rose?
It took me some time to have a clear structure plan. I created a giant mind map of all the things I felt were important to inform survivors, the things I wish I had been told, and all the self-care tips that have worked for me. One by one, I picked these ideas to write chapters about, walking my reader through the process of admitting what happened to them in terms of sexual assault, and finding ways, step by step or week by week, how they can take care of themselves.
Did ye receive editing support and how much editing did Shadow and Rose need?
Yes, I paid a publisher when I self-published the e-book. They then released the book for their website as part of a publishing package with The Unbound Press. The book needed a lot of editing, mainly because I write very long sentences!
What is the first piece of writing advice ye would give someone that inspired ye to write a book?
There is no perfect moment. Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can always rip it out and start over. Her story is enough to start writing a book. You don’t even have to start from scratch, just write something and hear later where it is!
Can you tell me what other books ye want to write?
Yes, next year I will publish another book. It’s enough! Healing through patriarchal medicine for too much and too little.
And finally, are ye proud of thine result? It was worth it?
I’m damn proud. It was worth it.
Add any links to thine books, websites, and social media here so readers can find ye: