Originally published on Writer’s Monthly
Andy Behrman Is Electroboy!
Interview by Leah Peterson
Andy Behrman is the author of Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, published by Random House. Electroboy is the chronicle of Behrman’s battle with manic depression and electroshock therapy. It is published in six other languages and is currently being made into a major motion picture with Tobey Maguire. Behrman is a mental health advocate and a spokesman for Bristol-Myers Squibb. He maintains a website at www.electroboy.com
Peterson: How did you start writing a book about your mental illness?
Behrman I was still receiving electroshock treatments and was basically confined to my house, so I began writing short articles for newspapers and magazines. I wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine called Electroboy, which was about my experiences with electroshock therapy. From this article grew the book.
Peterson: What have you learned about making your life public?
Behrman Once you make your life public, lots of people from your past come out screaming at you. No, seriously, there’s no longer any place to hide.
Peterson: What would be the best thing that could happen coming from your book being published?
Behrman I would be happy if Electroboy would help erase the stigma of mental illness in the U.S. and if more people would seek out treatment for undiagnosed mental illnesses.
Peterson: How would you describe yourself now?
Behrman I’ve been relatively even-keeled for about five years and back to work writing and speaking across the country. It’s a brand new life for me – - there is no more mania but at the same time, life is a bit less, well, exciting. But it’s exciting in a different way.
Peterson: Your book is being made into a movie. Do you anticipate anything changing in your life when the movie opens to the public?
Behrman Yes, that’s true. Electroboy will be a major motion picture (being co-produced by Tobey Maguire and he’s eyeing the lead role). It’ll go into production this summer. I’m sure that there will be a lot more attention on my story when the film is released, but I’m prepared for that. After all, I was scrutinized to death when the book was published, particularly when Talk magazine excerpted the book, so I’ve had a taste of that.
Peterson: What is your next book about?
Behrman My next book, which is quite a bit more interesting than the first book, picks up where Electroboy ended. It’s about coping with my illness, but living with it in Los Angeles instead of New York – - two entirely different environments to cope with an illness like manic depression.
Peterson: When will it be out?
Behrman I’m hoping it will be published by summer 2005.
Peterson: What do you wish the world knew?
Behrman How to avoid war.
Peterson: What do you wish the world knew about you?
Behrman Oh, God. Can’t we think in smaller terms than the ‘World" when it comes to me? Possibly that even though my mental illness is stabilized, I continue to live with it every day.
Peterson: What are your hobbies?
Behrman Movies, surfing, exercising, traveling and collecting all kinds of things like art, bottle openers and photographs
Peterson: How to you cope day to day?
Behrman I just wake up in the morning and hit the computer. I check the email, write a bit and exercise.
Peterson: If you ran for president, how would you change things?
Behrman I’d get rid of the Republican Party. Only kidding! I’d make mental health patients in our prisons a priority. There are more than 500,000 of them.
Peterson: What’s the last, best movie you saw?
Peterson: Favorite movie of all time?
Behrman Poseidon Adventure. Now, that was awhile ago, huh?
Peterson: What’s the last, best book you read?
Behrman Trials of the Monkey by Matthew Chapman.
Peterson: Your favorite music?
Peterson: What are you a fan of?
Behrman Madonna, Japanese food, John Kerry and Kaballah.
Peterson: What haven’t I asked you that you wish I had?
Behrman What I’d really like to do with my life. The answer is make films. Write them and direct them. I’m working on a screenplay for which I have high hope. Nothing about mental illness. But that’s all I’m saying…