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Fiction— Not Fake

The Story Behind My Five-Star Debut, "DREAMER"

By D.S. FisichellaPublished about a year ago 7 min read

Photos by Katherine Adcock Photography

My face was flushed and I was smiling from ear to ear on the other side of a video call.

This was only my second podcast interview, but I was extremely excited about it for one simple reason: The podcaster, Patrick Lewis, had already read an advanced copy of my debut novel, "DREAMER."

"I want to read one of the highlights," Patrick was saying.

"Of course!" I said.

That's when he began the quote.

"There was a presence there that day, a dark ominous thing. It watched and waited, accusingly reminding me of all the reasons everyone would be better off without me..."

Ah, yes. I remembered.

Long before I became a wife, a mom, and a published author, I was just me.

At the age of nineteen, I was diagnosed with depression, and on one day, in particular, I'd woken up in my dorm room with the feeling of someone standing over me.

A dark ominous thing.

"...and there it was, filling me with dread and fear that I would never wake up from this nightmare."

I'd made my way to the kitchen counter where there sat a bottle of pills. I dumped the pile into my hand.

It would be so easy—

"The hopelessness felt like too much, and when I felt it was heavy enough to break me, I just gave up."

I'd woken up the next morning with faint memories from the night before, my heart racing in my ears, my labored breathing the only thing rooting me to reality.

"That is the pure definition of what so many depressives go through!" Patrick was saying now, bringing me back to the present. I wasn't in dorm room 528 anymore. I was home. I was okay.

I took a deep breath, swallowed, and did my best to smile for the camera as we continued the interview.

I was never going back there again.

Patrick couldn't have known as he read those words that very similar sentiments had once been written in my own diary.

He couldn't have known that when I was told to 'write what [I] know,' I'd accidentally poured my heart and my soul into a story that was meant to be fiction.

And it was.

Sort of.

Fact or Fiction?

There were things I took from my own life while I wrote DREAMER, things like the name of my hometown.

I figured that there were enough stories based out of big cities, so, why not a peninsula within a peninsula in the Sunshine State? Why not the city of Pinellas Park, Florida?

Photo by Katherine Adcock Photography

The premise of DREAMER came to life when I asked myself the question: "What would it have been like if my husband and I had met in high school?"We were from two different worlds and several years apart, so our paths didn't cross until we were in our twenties.

When he was a teenager, he was an atheist and a drug dealer. When I was a teenager, I was a Jesus freak and I loved to write music.

It was with these main things in mind that the story of Elleni and Julian was born.

There were other things, characters inspired by people in my life, places I'd personally visited, and so on. I loved hearing from my readers, some of them friends that were kept guessing as to which parts of my novel were based on reality, and which parts weren't.

At the end of the day, the story of Elleni Salgado and Julian Rossi, was just that... a story.

Except for the parts that weren't.

The parts that spoke of grief, of shame.

The Author

A long time ago there were events that transpired that caused me to feel unseen. My voice felt unimportant.

When I became a teenager, I started to find my way around a page. I discovered the voice I didn't know I had. I was able to think more clearly with pen to paper than I ever could otherwise.

Words on paper gave me all the freedom in the world to correct my mistakes. That kind of power in the hands of one who often felt out of control was addicting.

In the fourth grade, I wrote my first poem.

In the ninth grade, I published my first work.

In the twelfth grade, I won an award and was included in a Saint Petersburg College publication, the META Interdisciplinary Journal.

With each byline, with each award, each recognition, I felt more and more validated. More and more seen.

And then, as quickly as I felt I was living the dream... the nightmares began.

Sick in the Head

"You have to tell your parents."

It was the most terrifying task I'd ever been given, but this, a direct order from the Dean of Academics, weighed heavier than any homework assignment or research paper I'd ever been given in college.

My old roommate had seen the red marks around my neck from where I'd tried to strangle myself. She knew about the cuts on my arms, and so, she'd called for help.

A help I didn't want but sorely needed.

The six years that followed were years of pain, of heartache. I was afraid of losing my battle against the Hell of my Mind. It wasn't all bad, some of the best things in my life happened during that period of time, but always, something wanted to keep me down.

I married the love of my life and started a wonderful new job, but within the month, I'd been involved in a car crash that would go on to change my life in more ways than I could count.

The news arrived that I was pregnant. At seven weeks, I miscarried.

I was suicidal again.

And so it went.

Out of the six years I spent in my depressive and often suicidal state, four years were spent working on this Young Adult novel.

For me, it was a matter of survival.

Coping Through the Pen

When my main character was mourning the loss of her friend, I was on the other side, turning my face so my tears wouldn't get on my keyboard. When she was using Julian's beatboxing to help her during a panic attack, I was using self-soothing gestures to keep from spiraling. But perhaps the hardest scene for me to write, was the happy ending, especially when my own future seemed so uncertain.

While Elleni would receive abounding grace, and sweet forgiveness, I, Sonya Daniela Fisichella, would spend an entire night in my husband's arms, crying, and feeling like a hypocrite for giving my main character the peace that I could never give myself.

My Happy Ending Is Just Beginning

My Peace came, eventually, and when it did, I realized it was all worth it.

I did eventually give birth to my son, Solomon, and three years later, to my daughter Selah.

I'd finished my novel and was researching publishing options when I'd finally had my breakthrough during a time of intense prayer, followed by months of joy.

It wasn't a perfect time, but it was the first time in years that my mind wasn't trying to self-destruct.

My six years of depression and suicidal thoughts had come to an end.

By the Grace of God, I was able to regulate my strong emotions, able to see things clearly, rationally, and able to enjoy my family, my friends, and my ministry without the fear that someday I would lose the battle against my own mind.

God helped me to realize that there was a purpose for all of the pain I'd endured.

It could be, that if I'd never struggled with my mental health, I never would have written a character that would.

It could be, that what teen readers need, isn't another cookie-cutter Christian novel.

Maybe teens and young adults need to know that sometimes life hurts. Sometimes, things don't make sense. Sometimes, we could have all the best intentions in the world to make something good out of ourselves, but somewhere along the way, we may lose our footing. And in those times it’s okay to ask for help.

Maybe my readers don't need another influencer to make them feel worse about their less-than-perfect lives.

Maybe they need real people to look up to, and the hope that if they called out to the heavens, Someone might respond.

And maybe, just maybe— that hope would begin with a story.

Even a work of fiction...

As long as it's not fake.


To learn more about D.S. Fisichella please visit her website: or click on this link to find her book on Amazon!

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with your friends and family!


About the Creator

D.S. Fisichella

D.S. is an Award-Winning Poet and Author of the Bestselling Young Adult Christian Novel, DREAMER.

Follow her on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook or visit her website:

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