I thought I’d add a new feature to the blog Writers on Wednesday – where guest authors guest post about their writing process or influences or motivation.
My first cab off the rank is the lovely Louise Wise.
Mental Illness: Nurture or Nature? By Louise Wise
Mental illness and chick lit don’t go together, so I took a gamble with Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! but the book wrote itself (only another writer will understand that statement!), and it wasn’t until I’d finished that I realised I’d done it again—written about loneliness. I have a similar premise running through each of my four books. Maybe that’s my ‘thing’? If there is such thing as ‘a thing’!
It certainly wasn’t a conscious factor and I’m not lonely. What I am interested in is the mind, from how a gut feeling tells you not all is well with a friend, to knowing that danger is approaching i.e. you’re about to cross the road but you just know a speeding car is going to hurtle around the corner. Ever had one of those moments? Is that a sixth sense, I-see-dead-people, type of thing?
Personally, I think it’s basic survival instinct but you can dress it up if you want. I can’t explain the gut feelings.
With Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! Valerie, the main protagonist, feels she has to remain lonely to protect herself from a curse, and the curse is her mental illness. Sounds straightforward but bring in a meddling older friend and a playboy that fancies the pants off of Valerie, and you have the nitty-gritties for a romantic comedy.
Researching the book made me so interested in the power of the mind that I signed up for an on-line course on cognitive therapy! It made me realise that the brain can have so much wrong with it, and only needs a slight trigger, be it emotional or an injury, for it to unravel.
The mind can make a rational person believe everyone is looking/laughing at him (paranoia). Make you over-think about germs (type of OCD). Schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders… the list is endless and it all begins with a chemical imbalance in the mind. You are not always born with mental health problems and they sometimes ‘run in families’ so could it be that they develop because of nurture, rather than nature?
Valerie Anthrope in Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! was brought up by her neurotic mother, who unfortunately had her bipolar undetected, and died a confused and unhappy woman. It was a disorder that transferred to her daughter.
Because Valerie doesn’t understand the enormity of her problem she tries to ignore it, and it takes an interfering friend to see it for what it is, but Valerie doesn’t want to believe even when it’s pointed out and prefers to continue to ignore it, and of course, the problem escalates.
Her depression is the result of her loneliness and not vice versa but because this book is a comedy romance, albeit a black comedy romance, it’s her caustic tongue and the sub-characters tiptoeing around her that lighten the tone. Although I feel I must add here that not once do I invite the reader to laugh at the illness.
Because of the theme, I wanted Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! to be different so it has the secondary character’s voice, Lex, throughout the novel in alternating scenes between him a Valerie. Valerie’s voice is told in the first person, and Lex’s in the third.
I needed the reader to be with Valerie on her journey through the book and could only do that properly by allowing the reader to become her, with Lex, I also wanted the reader to get inside his mind, but felt able to hold something of him back, hence his character being in the third person.
Oh no, I’ve Fallen in Love! is on a sale for 99c/77p all spring.
As soon as I entered, the music, balloons and smiley waitresses wearing festive hats, and the entire Christmassy atmosphere made me realise I’d made a mistake. I should have faked a migraine.
Paul spotted me first and stood up. ‘Yoo-hoo! Over here, Miss Anthrope.’ Paul, his wife Milly and Tim sat around a table where above floated coloured balloons, their strings attached to a weight in the centre of an equally bright tablecloth. I made my way over and immediately spotted a stranger – and a scam. Ellen guided me over and insisted I sit next to the stranger while she sat the other side of me. The man had a ready smile, and beautiful eyes. They were the brightest blue, and totally wasted on a male. I was immediately interested despite the set-up.
‘This is Jon. Jon, Valerie,’ Ellen introduced us.
I nodded, removed my coat, which a passing waitress took. I sat down and smiled at Milly. ‘Nice to see you again,’ I said.
‘Ooh, can I have your red straw?’ Milly said to Ellen. ‘I’ll swap you my black one.’
There was little doubt this was Paul’s wife. Ellen swapped straws, and winked across at me. ‘Jon’s an accountant,’ she said.
‘And you’re a financial broker,’ Jon said, tapping me on the nose with his finger on the word “you’re”.
My interest vanished in a puff of oh-my-God-he’s-a-jerk smoke and I sent multitudinous angry thoughts to Ellen, but straight-faced she looked back at me and said, ‘Well, we’ll leave you two love birds alone while we eat on the next table. Come along, you others. Let’s leave the youngsters to it.’
Then they all got up and left me with Jon the accountant. Gobsmacked wasn’t a word I often used.
Fucked, was better.
The night was going to be extremely long.
You can find the book here: