Mary-Lou Stephens at her day job. Picture: Megan Slade Source: The Daily Telegraph
Story by Phil Brown
When author Mary-Lou Stephens first set out to write a memoir about her life of sex, drugs and bad behaviour, she couldn’t tell the whole truth.
She had read A Million Little Pieces by James Frey and Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding and decided her book should be a creative hybrid, inspired by those confessional bestsellers. But that just didn’t work.
“I showed it to an agent and she said I was on the wrong track and I should be more honest,” Stephens recalls. “I freaked out about that though and decided to write it as a novel but that didn’t work out either. I was told ‘your protagonist is a blank and the story is repetitive’.” Ouch.
Undaunted, or maybe just a little daunted, Stephens decided to tell it like it was, no matter how low down and dirty that might have been.
The result is that the truth in Stephens’ memoir Sex, Drugs And Meditation is more compelling than fiction.
Her book is a sort of bad girl antidote to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and Stephens’ inner secrets are secrets no longer.
It may surprise many, including listeners of the Sunshine Coast radio station where she is a producer and sometimes works as an announcer, to find out that the 52-year-old has had such a chequered past.
It’s all in the book, from her early days in a dysfunctional family in Tasmania, to her time as a rock chick in Melbourne to her years of desperation as a heroin user, alcoholic and general desperado.
The good news is she finally got clean and sober with the help of 12-step programs. Then, in 2003, she addressed the inner turmoil left by her misadventures by undertaking a meditation retreat.
She’s working on the sequel she describes as “the truth about happily ever after and all that goes with it”.
“This one is going to be particularly hard on my husband Ken and he knows it,” Stephens warns.
“But he said ‘just write what you need to write’.”
And that’s exactly what she is doing.
Sex, Drugs And Meditation, by Mary-Lou Stephens, $32.99, MacMillan