Ten questions with Madeleine Black
"For many years after that night, my memories of what happened after he held the blade to my throat and threatened my life were fragmented …. Difficult to piece together. It was too extreme, too violent for me to understand"
Violently gang raped when she was thirteen years old, and raped three more times before the age of eighteen, Madeleine has experienced more trauma in her life than most ever will.
In Unbroken, Madeleine tells her deeply moving and empowering story, as she discovers that life is about how a person chooses to recover from adversity. We are not defined by what knocks us down – we are defined by how we get back up.
When did you decide to write your story for the world to read?
I first shared my story on 22 September 2014 on The Forgiveness Project’s website and I completely underestimated what the impact would be! The founder of the organisation, Marina Cantacuzino calls us “Story Healers” rather than “Story Tellers” and I understood exactly what she meant once I shared my story. So many people got in touch from all over the world and I saw how it offered some hope to anyone else that had been raped. It was after hearing another story teller speak (Marian Partington) that I felt the impact again of her sharing her story of forgiveness. It was then that I thought I could share my story too by writing a book.
Take us through the process of starting the book through to publishing it?
When I speak to other people, I think I have been very lucky in my journey to publishing as it was relatively quick! I started writing my memoir in the summer of 2015 and I finished writing it in about 8 weeks. I worked alongside a friend/editor who lives in LA as I wanted it to be of a reasonable standard before I sent it away to agents and publishers. Once I had made that decision to write my memoir, I started to see all the words flying around my head at night when I was trying to sleep and the next day I would sit down at my Mac and the chapter titles and words would just flow out of my finger tips. I’ve heard people say that they wrote automatically and I never knew what it meant until that moment; I really felt as if I was just the typist.
Self-publishing or traditional? Either way, how was your journey?
I decided to try traditional publishing to start with and sent my MS away to about 25 various agents and publishers in January 2016. Most responded saying it was a powerful story but they didn’t want to sign me. In April 2016 I received an email from an intern at John Blake Books who specialises in non-fiction true stories and was told they were interested. I was despondent from all of my rejections and didn’t think it would go anywhere as it was an intern who responded. Thankfully an editor got in touch and offered me a contract! That was April and the contract was signed in June and my memoir, Unbroken, was published the following spring on 4 April 2017.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Do you have any upcoming books lined up?
I never saw myself as a writer and I often feel like an impostor. I just wanted to tell my story. I do, however, feel my book compliments my role as a public speaker, and gives me the opportunity to spread my story. At the moment I’ve no plans for another book, but you never know.
What are your currently reading?
The Power by Naomi Anderson.
When you're not writing - what are you doing?
Walking my dog, love cooking for friends and family, karate, windsurfing and power lifting.
Ever write in coffee shops? If so, where would we most likely find you?
I like to write at home in the peace and quiet with no one around.
If you could have dinner with three authors OR book characters, who would it be?
Would have loved to have met Maya Angelou, Anne Frank and Victor Frankl.
Top three books of all time.
I know why the caged bird sings, Anne Frank’s Diary and Man’s search for meaning.
Lastly, what is the best way for people to get hold of your books?
Amazon, Waterstones, Website, John Blake Books.