An exciting interview and book you’ll want to read!
Please tell readers a bit about your new book, Crowning Glory:
Crowning glory is a book that is a social experiment combined with a memoir. It started when I bought a long, red wig one late night on eBay. When I put the wig on, I felt transformed into a fiery, sexy and bold woman. When I wore the wig out into the world, people reacted to me very differently. Men and women both stared. One man threw his briefcase down on the ground, kneeled and asked me to take him home with me. I got a lot of attention. And I admit I loved it. I started wondering what it would be like if I had the same long hair, but different colors. How would I feel as a blond or brunette? How would people react to me?
I decided to find out and concocted a 5-week long experiment where I would live the life of a redhead, a blond, a raven-tressed woman and brunette, plus the last week was me with my own hair. I even hired an accomplice/spy to accompany me at all times and record data, like stare stats. The book is about the experiment and the adventures my spy and I have along the way, plus it is the story of my struggles with bipolar disorder and how the experiment helped me heal in ways I couldn’t have predicted.
Your book is certainly a unique one! How did you come up with the idea?
Wearing the initial red wig out and about in Manhattan and getting so much attention gave me the start of the idea. I was amazed at how different I felt — fiery, confident, and fun – which was a huge change from how I had been feeling. I had been fighting a long bout of depression, and this wig wearing was a weird miracle. It helped me feel good and gave me energy. I decided to do the experiment out of curiosity and also give myself a steady structure and focus.
I was wondering about how I would feel and how people would react to me wearing the same wig but with different hair colors. As I pondered the idea of doing some big hair experiment and writing about it, I walked under David Letterman’s “Late Night” marquee and realized that people do “Stupid Human Tricks.” That was all the encouragement I needed!
What would you say was the most important thing you learned from your experiment?
To avoid comparisons with other people. That’s a hard thing to do. It’s cliché, but if you are jealous of someone then try to improve yourself in those areas you covet, but do it for yourself.
I’m proud of myself for doing the experiment. At the time, I was in a deep depression and a great deal of social anxiety. I needed something drastic to pull me out of it. I was isolating and stuck in my apartment and head. The experiment and spending so much time with my spy/assistant was a big challenge for me. It might sound like a simple thing to do, but it took guts on my part. I had to go against all the internal messages of “No way! I can’t! I won’t …” I found out I was stronger than I thought. I needed the support, structure and friendship I found in the experiment. That helped me heal.
So, sometimes throwing yourself into something new and scary, even playing dress up for a month straight, can lead to unforgettable adventures and experiences that show you who you really are.
What did you learn about other people?
Other people are affected by your appearance. You are judged by your appearance. I think once someone gets to know you that judgement lessens as they see the bigger/deeper picture of who you are.
What did you learn about yourself?
I’m affected by my own appearance! I judge other people by their appearance, at first, too. I think we all do, on some level. I try to drop that judgement as soon as I have it and have an open mind.
During the experiment, I judged people less and opened up to others much more when I started to feel better and more confident about myself. I think any negativity or criticism I felt towards others stemmed from the fact I wasn’t happy with, and didn’t have confidence within, myself. I was afraid of being judged “unworthy’ or deemed “unwanted.”
I see from your website that you’re not only an author; you’re an interior designer, an artist and a musician. Tell us a little about each of these aspects of your life:
Well, the writing manifested in “Crowning Glory.” I also have a play called “Portraits of Vivienne” which is right on the verge of being finished. I just have to dive back in and figure out the ending! I also have a children’s book in the works, called “Blub Blub the Baby Blue Whale.” Bulb’s quest is to let the world know about the noise pollution in the ocean, which severely hurts whales and other aquatic mammals.
My music adventures began when I first arrived in NYC, back in 2002. I wrote, played and recorded five albums of music. I mainly sang, but also accompanied myself on keys, which I played out with my guitar player. I had many fun and challenging experiences.
During my interior design career, I sold antique tribal rugs and also created a lighting design company. Sourcing the rugs and then selling them was so much fun for me. I really appreciate, admire and love handmade beauty that has a history. My love of it and enthusiasm carried over into my customers. They were thrilled with there finds and grateful to learn about the history and stories their new pieces of fiber art contained.
I also started a lighting company, called, Andarina Designs. I was inspired by the antique, colorful glass swizzle sticks that I would see in vintage stores. One day, I saw sunlight shining through a bunch of them and though, “I want to make a lamp out of that.” So, I started to experiment and came up with two different lines of lighting. That was a lot of fun for me. The first lamps were made with original vintage swizzle sticks. Then I discovered that a huge glass rod color palette was already available. Combining colors and making my own palettes was heavenly!
Where the heck do you find the time to do all these things?
I’ve actually taken a break from living in Manhattan and doing all these things. I’m in Vermont now. I volunteer on a therapeutic farm/ranch. For example, today I’ve been planting onions in the garden, and tomorrow I will be taking care of llamas. I still paint and teach people my multi-media technique here at the ranch.
You’re clearly driven. Where does your ambition and drive come from?
I want to make meaningful art and and have a meaningful connection with people. I think that desire to connect fuels my drive and ambition. Sometimes, I don’t feel connected and that is a painful place to be.
Living in NYC must have been exciting, since it put you right in the center of the arts, fashion and entertainment industry.
Well, my life is very different now since I live in Vermont and work on a farm. I was having a hard time with depression last year, and I decided I needed to move and get help. So, I came to Vermont, and lived and worked on a Therapeutic Farm called Spring Lake Ranch. I don’t live there anymore, but I do volunteer during the week.
How much has your life changed since moving from your hometown in Illinois?
Wow. I’ve had so many lifetimes since then. I’ve lived in Central America, Europe, Canada, New York and now Vermont.
In Illinois, I lived in a very secluded community and didn’t have much news from or dealings with the outside world. Obviously, this has completely changed. I do feel like my explorations have led me to a small, working community here in Vermont where I feel more comfortable. So maybe I’m still a country girl afterall.
Do you have any new books in the works?
I want to finish my play, “Portraits of Vivienne.” It deserves to be finished. I’d also love to find someone to help me with “Blub Blub the Baby Blue Whale.” I really feel strongly about educating kids about the noise pollution in the ocean and what it does to whales and dolphins.
What advice would you give other writers who may be sitting on the fence about publishing their book?
Well, I would first work with an experienced, professional editor before you publish. At first, I didn’t want to do it. I thought my book didn’t need it. My book was well-served by doing this. It gives me reassurance that grammatical issues aren’t going to get in the way.
I really wanted an agent to pick up my book. I was disappointed when that didn’t happen, but I think going ahead and self-publishing is the way to go. I think you should get it out there, in whatever way that works best for you. You’ve worked this long and hard – you and your book deserve to be heard!
ABOUT STACY HARSHMAN:
Stacy Harshman recently relocated from NYC to Vermont where she currently works on a therapeutic farm. after a Midwestern childhood in a family of designers, antique dealers, and equestrians, Stacy traveled extensively before finding a home in New York City, which she still maintains.
Always driven toward creative expression, Stacy writes fiction, memoir and essays, and has written and recorded five albums of original music.
Her passion for color and pattern led to the launch of Andarina Designs, a custom lighting design company. Stacy is inspired by women all over the world, working in community partnerships to produce beautiful and sustainable work. Currently, her favored form of expression is mixed media painting-collages. She devotes her time to animals and to the healing arts. Stacy invites readers to connect with her on her website and on Facebook.
*Author Interview prepared by Susan Barton, eBook Review Gal.