‘Sheila’s Men’ is fiction based on the real experiences of author
PARKERSBURG — A resident of Gallipolis has written a book based on her experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Sheila’s Men” is a fictionalized account of Jenna Ashlyn’s personal experiences of over 10 years.
“I have gone from being a victim to becoming a survivor and a trained advocate volunteer for Survivors Advocacy Outreach Program in Ohio,” she said.
“Sheila’s Men” is Ashlyn’s second book. The first was “Within the Gray” published in October 2020.
‘“Within the Gray”‘ was written through emails to myself because I didn’t have access to Microsoft Word and it was how I coped with the loss of my husband who died of a heart attack when I was only 30-years old,” Ashlyn said.
The book is about doing the things she wished she had done, such as mental health treatment and finding a supportive friend, Ashlyn said.
“It is a beautiful story with a lot of psychological dreams that are written in a literary and metaphorical way,” she said. “Those dreams are scattered throughout the book.”
“Sheila’s Men,” however, is about what really happened after the death of her husband, portraying nearly a decade of traumatic events “while showing more of my thought process throughout that journey,” Ashlyn said.
“Within the Gray” took many years to write and publish, but “Sheila’s Men” was written in six months, the combination of a previous manuscript and a memoir she had begun writing.
“At first I began writing ‘Sheila’s Men’ as a way to cope with the trauma that I had experienced in previous relationships, but when I got about halfway through it wasn’t about me anymore. I realized that my story needed to be told, because so many people could relate to it,” Ashlyn said. “I knew that a lot of women felt alone in their journey. People who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault shouldn’t have to feel alone. Part of the reason that I wrote this book within six months was because I was driven to make a difference and to help others.”
Ashlyn said she has always been a writer, but her fiancee and musician Shawn Sexton, formerly of Vienna, was the encouragement to tell the story “and to not give up,” Ashlyn said.
“It was his support that helped pull me through and make this book possible. I waited far too long to begin submitting it to publishers and it wasn’t until he pushed me to try, that I submitted it,” Ashlyn said. “I was a little nervous and afraid of the reactions I would get, but once I began putting it out there, it was picked up within a week.”
Telling the story will help others, Ashlyn said.
“I absolutely believe that it can be a tool toward others healing,” she said. “It can be quite triggering and I in no way hide that fact, but in being triggered it allows you to process your own emotions and the reasons behind them.”
Ashlyn got involved with the Survivors Advocacy Outreach Program after helping another woman escape an abuser.
“It was a beautiful experience and it helped me heal even more,” she said.
“Sheila’s Men” was published by VanRye Publishing. It will be offered at other places for sale, but for now it can be purchased from Amazon and Google Play Books and will be available through most retailers including local stores, Barnes and Noble and WalMart, she said.
Paperback is $14.99 on Amazon.
The 310-page book also is available on Kindle, Google play books, Apple books and others. The Kindle version is $2.99.
Ashlyn studied creative writing at the University of Rio Grande and Marshall University where she worked for the literary magazine “Et Cetera.” Her work has been published in “Night Roses,” “The Atwood Review” and “Poet’s Choice.”
In 2015, she won an overall writing award in the StarJewel Nationals and Talent Showcase arts contest. She was nominated in 2019 for a Maier Award, recognizing the best writing by Marshall University students.