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  • Writer's pictureJ.C. Hannigan

This Writing Journey

Last month, I sat down with author Dianna Gunn of Authors Spoonie Podcast and we chatted about writing, the balancing act (and how I'm not very good at it), and what inspires my writing. The episode is now live on Spotify, or you can click here to read the transcript.

I've been opening up more about that lately; about what inspires my writing. I've been on a story-telling journey for the majority of my existence on this beautiful earth. I've always enjoyed entertaining family and friends by spinning stories for them. I've always known I wanted to keep creating and sharing stories.

Story-telling is in my blood; it's what I've always done and will always continue to do. My work is inspired by life and the world around me, and in truth...myself. My experiences with a chronic pain bone condition, my own and several beloved family members and friends struggles with mental health, and the world around me in general.

I’m a two-time college dropout and self-taught independent author, and I’ve had no formal training in writing, I've just always loved story-telling. Since the moment I learned how to read and write, words became my solace and my escape. For me, writing is essential for my mental health. It's an outlet, a way for me to purge emotions and chaos and create something beautiful out of it.

The origins for my stories are so heavily rooted in every facet of my life. I grew up writing down endless versions of these stories in multiple notebooks that I kept stacked in my closet up until I moved out. Those notebooks came with me, and subsequently were damaged in basement floods and many moves over the years, but they’ve been locked in my brain forever.

These stories I wrote—along with the book worlds created by other authors—kept me company among seemingly endless surgeries and isolation of having a chronic pain bone disorder, one that’s only method of treatment to date is surgeries and pain management. If awards were given out for what has inspired me most, I’d have to offer one up to my autosomal dominant skeletal disorder, Multiple Hereditary Exostoses.

Approximately 1 in 50,000 people worldwide have this rare disease, and approximately 10-20% of them are a result of a spontaneous mutation while the rest are familial (inherited).

My case was considered “spontaneous”, as there was no record of anyone in my family having this condition. For the longest time, I didn’t know another soul with this bone condition. Given that my mother and my great grandfather had both been adopted, there was a small possibility mine was an inherited case. I used to day dream about finding distant family members with it. Later, it was confirmed via genetic testing that I am a spontaneous mutation case.

I'm the start of my family tree's inherited condition. My sons both inherited it, and if they choose to have children of their own...each child would stand a 50% chance of inheriting Multiple Exostoses. I wanted to create some kind of legacy that would give future generations hope. Not just for a cure, but for a happy, fulfilled life.

Life is what you make of it, and I wanted to make magic out of mine.

Growth spurts can be quite painful, especially when you already have a chronic pain bone condition. When I was a kid, I missed a lot of school and ended up having a lot of surgeries. The teen years can be difficult on anyone, but when you have something that sets you apart from "everyone else", it can be depressing and lonely.

I escaped into books a lot to cope with those feelings of loneliness and depression. Reading books and writing allotted me the gift of creative distractions—something my parents and family all knew I would after we received my diagnosis. Support, creative distractions, and a strong outlook on life—those were the tools my family provided me with to take on this world.

Words provided a comfort and a means of connecting. I learned this at a very young age. Another crucial lesson that submerging myself in literature taught me is how to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Escaping in worlds more complicated and challenging than my own was actually a survival tactic I adopted early on as a means of teaching myself that my pain wasn’t the only pain out there.

I tried out choir and art class, but writing was my jam—and trust me, my family made sure they tried me on everything. My Papa started early with music, hoping that one of his many grandchildren would pick up his musical talents. My sisters and I didn’t really inherit his musical genes, but our cousin Joel is a pretty talented musician! Our other cousin Karen is a newly published author and a mental health advocate. She "gave me the keys" to my first ever blog, Miss Misery Smiles, where I began starting to share my experiences with MHE.

The Forgotten Flounders series ties in my family's love of music and literature, plus it shines a light on how Multiple Exostoses has affected our familial life. It is a rock star series, but it's so much more than that to me. I’ve been working my entire career to bring these interconnected worlds together through music, mental health, and Multiple Exostoses, and the next several books will make that all perfectly clear.

If you’ve been along on this journey with me from the beginning, you’ve already spotted the many easter eggs tucked into pages of each story, like Sam Dabrowski in my Rebel series, and Nik Parsons in my Forgotten Flounders series. It's such an awesome thought to me, that MHErs will be able to pick up my books and find representation within their pages.

Sam and Tommy are getting their own book next year called Rebel Bones. If you've read the Rebel Series, you'll remember Tessa's older brother Tommy and his best friend Sam. Rebel Bones tells their friends-to-lovers tale, and chronicles Sam's struggles with Multiple Exostoses.

Nik and his mom are getting their own book in the Forgotten Flounders series called Off Balance, and that story will focus on Raina's struggles as a single mom raising a child with Multiple Exostoses on her own.

Time to get ready for the next chapters!

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