The Existence of Amy

Interview with Lana Grace Riva, author of The Existence of Amy

I enjoyed reading the book and I wanted to know more about the author, Lana Grace Riva, so I invited her (via email!) for an interview.

As you might know, I was invited to read The Existence of Amy this year (you can catch my review here and buy the book here!).

I hope you enjoy finding out more about Lana just as much as I did in this interview!

I loved ‘The Existence of Amy’ – can you give the readers a little summary?

Great to hear you loved it, thank you. It’s a story depicting the reality of mental illness. It’s written in the voice of Amy who suffers from OCD and depression. Through her voice, the reader gains an insight into the daily thoughts and feelings experienced by a person suffering. 

What motivated you to write the book?

I wanted to try and facilitate some understanding around these illnesses. They are incredibly hard to understand if you have no direct experience of them. Mental illness is not easy to summarize in a few sentences, so I created this story to help people really understand.

Who is Amy?

Amy is the girl you might pass on the street, or work alongside, and judge her as being normal. You would think she had a good life as she ticks the main boxes of good friends, good job and good home. However, beneath those surface things her life is far from good. It is severely debilitated due to her mental illnesses.

What is your experience with mental health in the UK?

There are quite a lot of options for mental health support in the UK, so I think it’s quite good in general. Your GP is always the place to start and they can talk through a treatment plan with you. Where it is let down, is in the waiting time for therapy – it’s usually a few months before you can see a therapist on the NHS. This is quite a substantial amount of time if you are in desperate need. If you can afford to pay, there are many options for private therapists. This can get expensive quickly, but at least you can get a private appointment in a relatively short space of time.

How would you describe yourself?

I am an introvert. I am generally happy in my own company which is probably why I enjoy reading and writing so much!

Favourite book you’ve read this year?

I’ve read quite a few good ones this year – Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens were great, but if I had to pick a favourite fiction it would be Beartown by Fredrik Backman.
For nonfiction, my favourite would be Open by Andre Agassi – it was a really interesting insight into the life of a professional sportsperson from a mental health point of view.

What helped you survive the Lockdown?

Reading – I find it such a great form of escapism. 

Is there another book in the making?

Yes. I am working on something new – it’s still based around mental health as this topic really interests me. This time though, it is more about how specific relationships and experiences can affect your mental health.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Great question! It would be the power to cure all mental illness. 

This blog is about feminism, existentialism and mental health – do you have much experience in any of these fields? Or anything you would like to share?

My main experience is in mental health. I have suffered myself and experienced it affecting others. I am fascinated by how the brain works and am always looking for ways to improve mental health. Mindfulness, for example, is one thing I have found to be really useful. Unfortunately, like any mental health practice, it’s not a quick fix, but definitely worth putting in the effort to see improvements over time.

Finally, is there a question you wish I had asked?

Perhaps a question about the book cover. It’s not a pretty attractive cover but it was created that way intentionally. It reflects the emptiness of how a life can feel when you suffer with mental illness. The sloping lines reflect the fragility and unbalanced nature of Amy’s existence. Mental illness has forced her to merely exist, rather than truly live.

Thank you for reading through this interview and thank you to Lana for being so candid and available!

You’ve read the interview, you’ve read the review, now read the book!

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