By Tom Tietjen
In her debut novel, author Gabriella Meghan writes a captivating story of romance and murder, set in a small-town lesbian community.
AS TOLD BY US tells the story of Layla, who, after four years of being bullied in high school, seeks to discover herself and come to terms with her true identity. She quickly becomes the town’s “It Girl”, experiencing love and lust as she weaves her way in and out of relationships with an assortment of young women. But just as she is thriving in her newfound freedom, a string of mysterious suicides among her inner circle of friends threatens to lead Layla toward a twisted journey of undeniable fate.
The story is based on author Gabriella Meghan’s own experiences, living and loving in a world she describes as harsh, chaotic and malicious. It explores a darker side of the lesbian community that many may be surprised to learn about: rampant with sex, addiction and mental illness.
Do you worry As Told By Us may give a negative impression of the lesbian community?
Gabriella Meghan: I like to think that the book is eye-opening to the realities individuals within the community face everyday.
Would you say its true-to-life?
Gabriella Meghan:It is certainly true to life of the community I experienced. The community I experienced was very small and dysfunctional.
Why do you think that was?
Gabriella Meghan: My theory is that LGBTQ people have learned to hide who they are by lying to loved ones for fear of being an outcast. We’ve become better at lying and hiding things, and that makes it easier to be malicious.
Did you base your main character, Layla, on yourself?
Gabriella Meghan: Layla’s experiences and life are strongly based on my own. Layla and I both went through many changes and obstacles in our late teens and early twenties including divorce, coming out, rebelling, struggling with an eating disorder, being in and breaking free from an abusive relationship, death of friends and more.
Are Layla’s lovers based on your real life lovers?
Gabriella Meghan: Yes, very much so. I based the character of Jade off an extremely toxic yet passionate relationship I was in. It was abusive in more ways than one, and I didn’t realize it while I was in it. I only started to realize the abuse and the intensity of it once I began therapy a few years down the road. A lot of my fears, anxieties, and insecurities stem back to her.
Does your ex still control you?
Gabriella Meghan: It was that kind of relationship where no matter how much time goes by, if I see her today, I know she will have an immediate hold on my soul. But I realize I can control those feelings, acknowledge them, and move forward with my life in a positive manner. In a way I am thankful to have had a Jade in my life. I learned a lot of valuable lessons, I became stronger, and I learned that I am capable of accomplishing anything. I have forgiven that person and moved on to a healthy relationship and happy life.
Did you find writing the book to be therapeutic?
Gabriella Meghan: As Told By Us was my therapy before therapy! Before ever seeking out a therapist to talk to, I wrote. The book allowed me to tackle the demons of that period of my life. It allowed me to self-reflect, which I think is so incredibly important in order to grow into a better person.
What are your feelings today about the lesbian community?
Gabriella Meghan: There are times I miss the chaos, and there are times that I am thankful I made it out in one piece. This past year I travelled to a lot of the United States, met tons of new people, and learned the lesbian community is so much bigger than what I experienced in my small town. Its restored my faith in the community.
What do you hope readers take away from As Told By Us?
Gabriella Meghan: I think it is important that we talk about the hardships that many LGBTQ youth go through with drugs, alcohol and addiction. We shouldn’t pretend these problems don’t exist. Addiction is a serious thing, and we should address it and work together as a community to fight it.