Written by JJ Barnes
I’m very proud to share my interview with artist Mo Lea. She talks to me about her book, Facing The Yorkshire Ripper; The Art Of Survival, the process that she went through to write it, and the advice she has to inspire others.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a practicing artist
Age 61 born and raised in Liverpool in 1959.
My carrier in teaching Art began in 1991 after my Masters degree in Art Education. I was employed to teach Art and Design to student who would become art teachers.
I taught many art subjects from Photography, Art History, Textiles and Printmaking. My main area of expertise was in fine art, in particular drawing techniques
I live on my own and work in my lovely studio at my home in Bedfordshire.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I wanted to write about 30 years ago after talking part in a true crime documentary.
During this time I learnt more about my attack by Peter Sutcliffe, The Yorkshire Ripper and the misgivings of the Police. I was intrigued in how my involvement would be perceived by the TV viewers.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I started to write about my experiences of being involved in the media and how the press was representing me. They had a way of sensationalizing my story and this made me feel uncomfortable and misrepresented. No one was interested in the fine details and the nuances of a survivor’s tale. I wanted to put the records straight. I was a senior lecturer in Art and Design and was very proud to have achieved this status. I didn’t want sympathy but I did want to show that despite my brutal attack I had established myself as a person of success and happiness.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The book took 30 years to write. I started it in 1993 and it grew from there. It took many forms and had a few different titles. The main thread was the importance of my art as an anchor for sanctuary and honesty. It also was biographical and shows the journey from bitter anger to forgiveness and now to finally, a place where I create beautiful pictures.
What made you want to write this Facing The Yorkshire Ripper?
I wanted to put the records straight. I felt the need to tell a truthful and honest account of being a ‘Ripper Victim’. I wanted to tell a tale of survival and progress. This is what the media were leaving out in their usual gruesome narrative regarding the Yorkshire Ripper story. The sensationalising story telling needed to be re-addressed. My book does that and I reclaim my position and give my account of how I survived. It also addresses the extremely poor management of my case by the West Yorkshire Police; I discuss how that impacted on my personal growth.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Facing The Yorkshire Ripper?
Facing up to the fact that the police deemed me disposable. I discovered how my case was deliberately hidden and overlooked. That was heart breaking. A big challenge was telling my family of my days of despair. I gave my parents the book but told them not to read it as it would upset them, they did everything they could for me and were brilliant at the time. They gave me reassurance and the strength to go back to complete my Fine Art degree. I hated that they could read of my desperate times. I always chose not to tell them when I was in difficulties.
What was your research process for Facing The Yorkshire Ripper?
I researched website that told their version of the ripper time frame
Being involved in so many documentaries revealed some unknown facts to me. The latest being that my name was mentioned in the Byford report. This report was commissioned by the home office to investigate the mishandling of the Ripper enquiry. It offers many recommendations for change. Most alarming that I recently was told that my name was in the report along with a few other women as Possible Further victims.
This was published just 6 months after Peter Sutcliffe was sentenced. The report was hidden from the public and never acted upon.
How did you plan the structure of Facing The Yorkshire Ripper?
I just stuck to the chronology of events. The Pictures that I made say a lot more about my state of mind and this helps with the narrative of my journey from victim to survivor.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
I was told by another author to be honest, otherwise my story wouldn’t hold true so I swallowed my pride and let all lay bare. I think that makes it a more powerful read.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am planning to write a second edition especially as Peter Sutcliffe has since died to include my latest art work. I am active to making changes to best support women who have been violently attacked. This story has much more to explore.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am proud of the book but at the same time feel after so much editing that I may have lost a few gems out by accident. It was at times a bit frightening to write and I needed to psych my self up to get through some difficult chapters. It was a lonely experience too. It is massively important to me to get a truthful account of this well told story but to include an angle of celebration and success. It was worth every effort including writing each morning for 3 hours when I was on holiday. Being published validated my story.