Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leushcel
Five fictional, compelling true-to-life stories about how people can be manipulated by others.
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual.
First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.
What book truly inspired your life and why?
I have a list of books that truly inspired my life at different times and for different reasons but the one that comes to mind first is Stefan Zweig’s Chess. It’s the epitome of the novella – intense, suspenseful and beautifully written. I find it fascinating and inspiring that you can say so much in so few words yet convey to the reader the feeling as if they’ve read a whole novel. I never get tired of re-reading Zweig’s novella!
Did you do a lot of research for your book?
I spoke to a psychologist and also researched psychology papers specialized in ‘narcissistic personality disorders’ and had numerous conversations with victims of psychological abuse.
What was your favourite read of 2017?
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn was my favourite read last year. It had all the ingredients to be memorable: mysterious, atmospheric and deeply humane.
If you had to take three books on a desert island what would they be?
Oh no, only three?
A desert island would most likely be a difficult place to sustain sanity for an extended period of time. So, my choice would be a mix of genres:
Diane Meur’s ‘Les Vivants et les Ombres’
John Cottingham’s ‘Western Philosophy, an Anthology’
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s ‘Wherever you go, there you are’
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?
I have always enjoyed reading and writing as a child, carrying a notebook or a diary around with me so that I could jot ideas and thoughts down. As a teenager, I contributed to the school’s monthly journal and loved creative writing in my spare time. By the time I reached the end of secondary school, I decided that I was either going to study journalism or philosophy because both would involve writing as well as reading a lot. I opted for the journalism degree which I very much enjoyed which led me into writing features for magazines, then radio reporting and further television production.
I was in my early forties, when my children were both in school and I had more time again to think about what to do with myself next. I always had a passion for philosophy and after some research found out about the MA in Philosophy at the OU. Their distance learning programme was my best option and it was indeed a wonderful journey. It also sparked my keen interest for psychology through research in the philosophy of mind and more specifically the human capacity for empathy.
Personal tragic circumstances (a close relative had been the victim of psychological abuse for almost two decades) and the completion of a couple of creative writing courses with the OU and Oxford University eventually made me pick up a pen and transfer my ideas into the writing of my first anthology of fictional novellas.
Manipulators are everywhere and to some extent we all do use manipulative tools to reach our goals. It is a survival skill but one that if present in a narcissistic and perverted individual who lacks the capacity for empathy is dangerous for all those who get in contact with them. I found that once I’d started writing, I couldn’t stop.
Can you share with us a photo that tells a story?
I love orchids because they are such beautiful plants when they flower, however, look like they have died for good when the petals eventually all fall off. It’s an extraordinary survival artist and always teaches me anew that if I remain patient, diligent and optimistic, I can see the hard and good times as a natural process. As I write this, my orchid has ‘decided’ to wake up again. It amazes me every single time!
What would you like your readers to know before starting your book?
There is a fine line between mild and toxic manipulation. The first can easily be forgiven as long as it does not become a habit as such (parents may decide to give in to their toddler’s tantrums once in a while but know that this would not offer a long term solution because they’d only encourage the child’s wrong impression that tears result in getting a treat) while the second is damaging, willingly deceitful and shows signs of a person well in control of their behaviour’s effect on others in a malicious way.
Knowing when you are the means to someone else’s ends is uncomfortable at the best of times. Losing your self-confidence and sense of self in the midst of it is tragic and is what my novellas are about.
Do you have any questions that you would like to ask your readers?
There is a famous thought experiment called the ‘trolley problem’ which asks the following question:
You are standing by the side of a train track, next to a lever. You can see five people standing on the main track, and a single person tied up on a different set of tracks. If you pull the lever, you will cause the oncoming trolley to switch to that different track. However, if you don’t, the trolley will kill the five people instead.
You are left with two options, kill five or kill one if you decide to divert the trolley.
Which would be the most ethical choice for you?
Thank you to H.A. Leuschel and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to be on the tour.
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