skip to Main Content
Writing: How Illness Turned Me Into An Indie Author

Writing: How Illness Turned me into an Indie Author

headshot of Nelly Harper

Historical fantasy novelist Nelly Harper

An inspiring post about how self-publishing her novels has given British indie author Nelly Harper a new lease of life after contracting a chronic and debilitating illness.

Going indie has not only given me my my life back – It has also given me also my future.

One day a photo appeared on my Facebook feed – a picture of someone’s arm in a crutch with the statement ‘Difficulties in life don’t come to destroy you, but to help you realise your hidden potential.’ It stuck in my mind for days. My energetic life had come to a grinding halt almost a year before. A diagnosis of B12 deficiency followed by CFS/ME had left me in tatters.

Image she describes in text

I had been a very active person. Once I got ill, that all changed. My memory was shot, I had trouble following a conversation or even understanding what was going on around me. I could barely walk, and every part of my body hurt even down to my fingers. I was so exhausted I could barely leave my bed, some days I would even have to crawl to get to the bathroom. My doctors were so uninterested that I ended up suicidal and desperate to find a way to be able to live with my condition. It was only by taking matters into my own hands and self-medicating with B12 injections that I started to get any better, but it was clear I would not be returning to work again.

Discovering My Potential as a Writer

So I started to think what my hidden potential could be. It soon hit me, I had always wanted to write a novel, but had never found the time or commitment. Maybe now was the time? I began writing, and I loved it. Finally I had something I could do most days; I had my purpose back.  After about four months, the first draft was finished, and I set about making my first lot of mistakes, sending my manuscript off to agents long before it was ready.

Life moves on,  and eighteen months ago I found myself living alone with my son. I really needed the book to be published to supplement my income from wood carving. Although my doctors now accept that I self medicate, they do not agree with me, despite the fact I follow specialist advice from a medical charity. The fact I cannot get out of bed without injections does not change their view. One doctor has been so condescending with me he even went as far as to tell me I was being unrealistic writing, I would never become an author. I think he just expected me to sit around and do nothing but that is not me, I was determined to succeed.

How Self-publishing – and Joining ALLi – Empowered Me

Cover of The Girl of Two Worlds by Nelly Harper

Nelly Harper's debut novel

Eventually I started to look seriously at self publishing. Joining ALLi really pushed things on. I started to see a career I could actually cope with. Not only that, I also found that I really enjoyed the challenge of learning how to edit and how the publishing world works. I have now set up Goblin House Publishing and released my debut novel, The Albion Chronicles book 1 – The Girl of Two Worlds and have nearly completed the first draft on another manuscript, The Jet Necklace. Once that moves to editing I can start on the second Albion book. Sure, cognitively and physically I still struggle, and it will take me some time to get accustomed to the marketing side of things, but I am in this for life, there is no rush.

I had intended to shut myself away and write, because facing the world when you feel this ill is hard. I now see that isn’t going to happen, I have a new hurdle: self-promotion!  Hiding from the world is obviously not an option. It won’t be easy – nothing is with this condition – but I will manage it somehow. I am likely to end up in a wheelchair soon, that will be far harder than learning to read my own book in public.

I just hope that doctor buys my books one day and realises just how wrong he was.


If you have a story of how self-publishing has empowered you, we'd love to hear it.

Inspiring story of how #selfpub helped @nelly_harper live with chronic illness #ME #CFS Click To Tweet


Author: Nelly Harper

Nelly Harper writes historical fantasy and published her debut novel in 2015. Find out more about her work at www.nellyharper.co.uk.


This Post Has 19 Comments
  1. I am humbled by you, Nelly, and all the other people who struggle to cope with serious illness. Am so pleased you are writing. I went through a very bad three years ten years ago (though nothing life-threatening) and the only way I kept sane was to keep writing my first novel. It’s developed into a trilogy of hefty historical sagas, and I’ve just started a rom-com. I also wrote about my horrible experience, and a publisher snapped it up immediately. All of a sudden the bitterness and anger disappeared, as I’d finally achieved something positive. Now, I do business talks about this book to warn others not to make the same stupid mistakes.
    Yes, writing can be cathartic, and once you’re immersed in your own fictional world other problems seem to diminish. Long live the written word! And very good luck with the book. Intriguing cover!

    1. Thank you Denise. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, but I have only just seen your comment. I am glad you achieved success with your novels. I am still a very long way from that, but I am keeping going slowly.

  2. Thanks, Nelly 🙂 I’ll persevere with being as positive about all this as I can. I use music to get me through the day – amazing how helpful I find it – as well as art appreciation and looking for beauty wherever I can.

  3. Inge – I feel the subject of another blog coming on – ‘Why doctors insist they are right and I am wrong, despite the fact that what I do is making me feel a little better and they have absolutely nothing at all to offer.” In fact I have just noted it as a ‘must write.’
    I do hope you find the energy and time to start writing again though I fully understand how hard it is, I spend days being unable to focus on it at all. Have a look at your B12 levels, through somewhere like http://www.b12d.org if you haven’t already. It may just give you the extra boost you need to feel a little more alive. 🙂

  4. I’m amazed to read this, because I’ve been struggling with CFS & Fibromyalgia, and other too numerous to mention chronic health issues for decades, and it’s a tribute to you, Nelly, that you have the courage to put the precious energy you sometimes have into promoting your book. Well done! Writing three novels, one children’s book, and publishing someone else’s book, has kept me pushing through as well, but I’ve struck a brick wall in terms of marketing my writing – just can’t get out and about any longer to do it and feel overwhelmed by ‘social media’. I really think the personal touch is best for promotions, e.g. author talks, but this is something I can no longer do, sadly – I used to enjoy such things very much. I’ve also given up writing – just can’t find the time any longer because dealing with the necessities of life takes up all my time and energy now. So, again, it’s simply wonderful you can find the inspiration to keep writing and ‘get your head together’ enough to do it 🙂 Regarding doctors – well, you’re on the right track in terms of taking things into your own hands, which I’ve had to do as well. Some wonderful university researchers here in Australia, back in the 1980s, said at a seminar on our condition/s, that it was essential we learn to be our own scientists, and I took great heart from that. We certainly can’t rely on doctors to manage our condition/s!

  5. It is lovely to hear that my story has inspired people and wonderful to be told it has been a motivator. CFS/ME has had such a bad press for so many years that many people are too worried to talk about it. B12 issues are highly controversial and will often receive a very blut negative reaction from the medical profession. There are so many people suffering that once you start looking into it all, it opens up a whole world most people do not know exists. I will write more about my health journey in my blog over time but I don’t want to dwell on it too much, it takes over enough of my life as it is. I will consider trying to do some more motivating pieces though.
    Thank you all for your encouraging responses.

  6. Hi Nelly! After reading this post, I purchased “The Girl of Two Worlds” on Amazon. I wanted to see what kind of characters a strong and determined person like you would write about. I’m only a few pages in and am already intrigued and excited to read more.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles. You are an inspiration. How might I follow you? Twitter? Facebook?

    1. Dale, as Debbie says I am on twitter at @nelly_harper and on facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNellyHarper
      Thank you for buying the book, I do hope you continue to like it. I have a bit of information about the characters on my website. One of them is named after the Cobolamin (B12) that saved me and keeps me going and the character Naraic is based on my son because he lost so much of his childhood looking after me. The book is also dedicated to him.

  7. Wow. You’re the second other person I’ve met here with CFS. I know firsthand how truly debilitating it is, and I’ve even been spared the physical pain that so often accompanies it. But, yes: perhaps the one upside is that it gives you plenty of time.

    So far I’ve managed to complete two non-fiction works, but that first novel yet eludes me…

  8. I also started my writing after dealing with chronic illness and having to leave a job more than once. I am appalled at the attitude of the people who are supposed to be helping you. Please continue to advocate for yourself and to encourage others by telling your story. You are appreciated!

  9. Nelly, I am so glad on a personal level that you shared your story. You could substitute names and it would be identical to my life. Same medical issues, same doctor problems. I have self-published a nonfiction. Up next, a historical saga. You’re an inspiration and a motivator. We are not alone in our struggles or our writing career.

  10. Congratulations, Nelly, on your truly inspiring journey. I would send a copy of your book to that doctor ~ signed with an inspiring inscription to never give up on his patients. Write on!

  11. Your story is truly impressive, Nelly – thank you so much for sharing it. Being an author is hard enough when 100% healthy, so to be firing ahead while so ill is amazing. I started reading “Girl of Two Worlds” last night and am really enjoying it so far, 100 pages in – I’d never have guessed it had been written by someone so unwell. By the way, had it occurred to you that you are also a Girl of Two Worlds, one in the world of your illness and the other soaring above it when you’re writing? All power to you!

    1. Thank you Debbie. I am not sure how impressive it really is and I can assure you many days are spent crawling to the laptop rather than soaring but if I can actually make my living this way it will all be worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search