Claire: In your acknowledgments, you said, “This book began decades before I wrote the first word.” What inspired you to write Healing Emotional Eating for Trauma Survivors?
Diane: Early in my career, I co-developed the first child sexual abuse treatment program in Rhode Island. I worked extensively with child and adolescent victims, non-offending parents, and sexual abuse offenders. That work evolved into treating all forms of childhood trauma. During those years, I worked with an astute dietitian who referred clients to me because she knew that early trauma blocked them from using the tools she offered. So, I addressed the connection between childhood trauma, body insecurity, and emotional eating long ago. And while there are some terrific books on emotional eating, I didn’t know of any that offered a program specifically addressing the direct link with early trauma. I had wanted to write a book for many years, but my clinical practice took precedence until I began my writing journey in earnest about ten years ago.
Narrating an Audio Book
Claire: Tantor Media acquired the audio rights to your book and elected to have you narrate your audiobook instead of a professional narrator. Can you give our readers some insight into the advantages of recording your self-help audiobook?
Diane: I was invited to send Tantor Media a short audition audio and was thrilled when they chose me to narrate my book. The connection with the author is especially important in a self-help book. We heal in connection with those whom we trust. I wrote my book like I talk with my clients—with warmth, compassion, directness, and a touch of humor. A professional narrator wouldn’t have the same passion and concern I have for helping my clients and readers through the complex healing process. I’m thrilled that readers will experience a deeper connection with me through the audiobook, and I hope it offers additional comfort and support experience.
Lisa’s Publishing Insight
Claire: You worked with Lisa Tener towards the beginning of your writing process. What is something you learned from working with her?
Diane: Lisa was amazing! In the beginning, I took several in-person and online courses with her on writing and book proposal development, and I purchased her Inspiration to Author in 8 Weeks program. I learned so much about the nuts and bolts of proposal writing from Lisa and it made all the difference. I also learned about the importance of developing my platform. Writing the proposal would have been a much more difficult process without her help. I also realized that what worked best for me was writing a draft of the book before completing the proposal. When I was done, Lisa reviewed my proposal and offered insightful feedback that significantly improved the content.
Science and Spirituality
Claire: You describe yourself as a holistic psychotherapist and incorporate many holistic elements into the book, such as breathing, physical, and spiritual exercises. How do you, as an author, blend the scientific, clinical background of the book with the interactive holistic healing aspects?
Diane: I don’t believe science and holistic healing are mutually exclusive. I value my clinical training, the scientific truths I’ve learned, and the spiritual insights I’ve gained from my own personal seeking. Integrating science with spirituality is how I live my life and approach psychotherapy. My book is an extension of this integration. Authenticity is essential to me, so I can’t avoid bringing spiritual practices into my work with clients who are open to that. I balance this in the book in the same way I balance it with clients and trust that it resonates with the right people.
Building an Author Platform
Claire: Your website has a blog dedicated to issues surrounding emotional eating and healing from trauma. What are some other ways you have built your author platform?
Diane: About ten years ago, a dietitian friend was working for a weight loss website and asked if I would write a monthly blog article for them. I knew I wanted to one day write a book, so this was a great way to develop my platform. My articles focused on the mind/body/spirit aspects of body insecurity, self-care, and emotional eating. I then created my first website, offered a free download to develop my subscriber list, and posted that link to the articles I wrote for the weight loss website. Because that website had a vast reach, my targeted subscriber list grew quickly. I also created a Facebook business page. I’m now working on developing my Instagram and LinkedIn presence. It can be time-consuming, so I do what I can without overwhelming myself.
Perseverance in Publishing
Claire: There is a metaphor you used for persevering in your healing journey even when you falter, in the same way babies allow themselves to stumble and fall, time and time again, as they learn to walk. Were there any moments during your writing journey when you struggled and overcame obstacles to write or publish your book?
Diane: On yes! New Harbinger rejected my first proposal, and I was deeply disappointed. They were my first choice; I liked that I didn’t need an agent and hadn’t sent my proposal elsewhere. After that first rejection, I regrouped, started searching for an agent, and hit a lot of dead ends. But I’m a determined person when there’s something I want to accomplish. So I just kept going but had no luck finding an agent. It was a long, discouraging process.
I had stayed in touch with my original acquisitions editor at New Harbinger, Georgia Kolias, who believed in me and my writing. She knew I was having a tough time finding an agent. Then, one day, she reached out and suggested we try again. So, we approached the content from a slightly different angle, and it was accepted. Georgia was my champion. Her support and belief in me were invaluable.
Life Coach Experience
Claire: You are also a certified life coach through The Coaches Training Institute. How does your life coach experience impact how you approach your clients and your writing?
Diane: I attended The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and became certified by them over 20 years ago. Their training aligned with my beliefs and approach as a holistic psychotherapist. In particular, it addressed some spiritual aspects of healing that I already discovered on my own but never learned in psychotherapy training and continuing education. I value my traditional education in becoming a clinical social worker, which grounded me in human development and psychological processes. As I developed my own spiritual practices, however, I saw the importance of sharing this expanded healing method with clients who were open to it. Becoming a life coach by CTI helped me expand and develop the tools I created for clients and which I offer in my writing.
Knowing Your Audience
Claire: You acknowledge that while emotional eating can affect anyone, in your experience, women are the primary demographic who seek your help with emotional eating. How does this knowledge about your primary audience impact your writing?
Diane: Yes, as I mentioned in my book, most clients I see for emotional eating are women, but I see some men, too. Unfortunately, men are generally less open to seeking psychotherapy for mental health concerns. And, of course, nonbinary people struggle with emotional eating as well. While I want to be inclusive, I wrote my book with my primary audience in mind, as it was easier for my writing to flow from my clinical experience. Nevertheless, I trust my book was written in a way that anyone who wants to heal from childhood trauma and emotional eating will find it helpful.
Scientific Research for Self-Help
Claire: There are several references in Healing Emotional Eating for Trauma Survivors; do you have any advice on scientific research for self-help books?
Diane: Use what has informed your work and impacted you. Many of the references I use are from sources I learned about before writing my book, and that affected me personally and professionally. For example, I refer to the book My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., which I read years ago and found to be profoundly helpful. I have referred this book to many of my clients. HOWEVER, when I wanted to explore specific research areas, I used the NIH/PubMed, which was very helpful.
Diane’s Traditional Publishing Journey
Claire: You chose to publish your book traditionally through New Harbinger Publications. Can you tell me more about that experience? How long did it take to publish Healing Emotional Eating for Trauma Survivors after you finished writing?
Diane: As I mentioned above, my first proposal was rejected by New Harbinger. Georgia Kolias, my acquisitions editor, was excellent. We stayed in touch, and after I kept floundering, trying to find an agent, she offered to try again. Once that second proposal was accepted and I signed the contract in the fall of 2021, I had about one year to write the final manuscript. After that, it was about ten more months for several rounds of edits, getting endorsements, proofreading, etc., so with the publication date of September 2023, the whole process was about two years. Everyone at New Harbinger was terrific to work with. They were incredibly supportive, responsive, and kind. I am very grateful for being given the experience of publishing with them.
About the Author
Diane Petrella, MSW, is a clinical social worker and holistic licensed psychotherapist specializing in childhood trauma and emotional eating. She has a private psychotherapy practice in Providence, RI.