Q: What inspired you to write The Sensitive One, and how long did it take you to write it?
A: I started writing about my breast cancer journey and thought of turning it into a memoir. As I continued to write more, many of my painful childhood memories came flooding back, and I didn't know why. It was as if the breast cancer triggered something in me.
So, while it started as a breast cancer memoir, the finished piece is much more than that. It's a story about how our childhood legacy lives within us and how healing from traumatic childhood experiences can genuinely take a lifetime.
I wanted to understand myself better and try to heal from those childhood experiences. It took me about eight years to write it.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: I wanted to recognize that little girl inside of me - the one that was labeled as too sensitive growing up.
I became branded early on as being too sensitive by my family and considered painfully shy by my kindergarten teacher. I always felt different than everyone else. My sisters would tease me about being too sensitive.
Many times, as a child, when I asked questions, I was told, "Oh Susan, why are you so sensitive? Or "don't be so sensitive." I just wanted to talk about what was going on in our household.
One example I write about in the book is–when our father woke all of us up in the middle of the night to look for items that went missing, like scissors, tweezers, and combs. I wondered why nobody else thought this was weird.
And when I brought it up, I was told I was too sensitive. Nobody wanted to talk about it. That led me to believe that I was the flawed one.
Q: What impact did writing the memoir have on you?
A: Because I had to delve into details, I had to relive every scene that I wrote. It was grueling at times, where I had to step away. I started having nightmares and signs of PTSD, so I went back into therapy.
Q: Did you need to do additional research to write the book or was most of it drawn from your memories?
A: Most of the research I did was related to ACEs (adverse childhood experiences). I had never heard that term before, and I wanted to learn more.
I read many articles and multiple books on dysfunctional families, mental illness, domestic violence, childhood trauma, and what it means to be a sensitive person.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am enrolled in the creative writing program at UCLA and right now am learning how to write a good personal essay. I think that's where my strength is – sharing personal stories that offer hope and encouragement to others. I'm also working on another memoir, not titled yet.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have an author website, susanfrancesmorris.com, that contains information and events coming up. You can also order the book from there.
I think my book would resonate with anyone that deals with childhood trauma, mental illness, alcoholism, domestic violence, and sensitivity. I want others to know that no matter what happens to you in your life that we all can rise from muddy waters, like a lotus flower, to bloom out of the darkness and radiate into the world.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb