Sunday, August 23, 2009

Writing Therapy Blog Tour

Writing Therapy is a unique book that I read recently by my friend Tim Atkinson. To help reach a wider audience as the book deserves I welcomed the opportunity to host a leg of the book blog tour!

Writing Therapy can be purchased through Amazon, you will find a link on the left hand side of the page! Happy reading, and to whet your appetite here is a bit more information about the book;

This novel, published in 2008, explores the therapeutic use of writing in the treatment of mental illness. The protagonist, who starts the book as Frances Nolan but whose name changes midway through the book to Sophie Western, suffers from depression. Truanting from school, she spends her days in the local library reading 'more books than is good for her' and ultimately believing she is a character. Events are thus dictated for her by an external author. Out-of-control, she becomes seriously mentally ill, is hospitalised and ultimately cured thanks to the intervention of a young trainee, who manages to persuade the girl that she is the author of her destiny.

The book is set in the 1980's at a time when routine treatment of the mentally ill took place in large, often Victorian, psychiatric hospitals or asylums. The anti-psychiatry movement of progressive mental-health professionals such as R.D.Laing was often set in direct opposition within such institutions to traditional chemical and surgical procedures such as ECT. This debate - which is by no means over - is personalised in the novel as a struggle between two individuals: Ted, the Charge-Nurse in the Adolescent Unit, and a student psychiatric nurse called Will.

and my review of the book;

It is not often that I can call a book truly unique but this one is. It held my interest from star to finish. The plot told through therapy which could also be usefully extracted as a lesson on how to write a book is extremely cleverly done.
The narrative is also said, haunting as it chronicles a young girls breakdown and slow recovery. Some of the scenes are in ways harrowing but told in such a way that the action is somehow immediate but at the same time distance. Perhaps more remarkable is the author's ability to write convincingly as a teenage girl.

The writing is clear and multi-layered. I honestly felt compelled to reach the end of the story as from the beginning an attachment is formed with the characters that makes you want to find out how the story ends, if there is a cure, if the staff find happy resolutions. I would recommend that people who enjoy a read that will make them think get a copy of this book, as you will not be disappointed.

To help you get to know Tim a little better here is an interview with the man himself;

1. When did you start writing/Have you had anything published before?

When I was twelve I had a model railway – scenery, houses, landscape, the lot. In fact, it was a miniature model world; my pride and joy. I wrote a letter to ‘The Railway Modeller’ magazine asking if they’d like an article about it. They said ‘go ahead’ and so I sat down at the dining room table and began to write. I got paid £12, and I’ve been writing ever since!

2. How long did the book take to write?

Writing Therapy too the best part of five years from first ideas to completed manuscript. It was very stop-start at the beginning, because I knew what I wanted to do but didn’t have the confidence or skill to see it through. I actually signed up for a Creative Writing course with the OU mid-way through the novel. That helped enormously.

3. Is writing a full-time occupation now?

Now (my fifteen-month old son) Charlie has started walking he’s my full-time occupation, and I love it. I get time to write while he sleeps which is nowhere near enough, but in a funny way the pressure of getting words down quickly before he wakes can be quite liberating.

4. How long did it take to find a publisher?

There was another publisher interested in Writing Therapy – in fact, the one I’d always had in mind when writing it – but there were a couple of things about their terms I didn’t like. I never even bothered with any of the ‘big boys’ so-to-speak. I figured they’d all be far too busy throwing money at the likes of Simon Cowell to be interested in an unknown with an article in ‘Railway Modeller’ in his resume.

5. Can you say a little about your development as a writer?

Flushed with the success of my ‘Railway Modeller’ commission I did what all teenagers do and started writing poetry. I actually had a couple of things published in small arts magazines, and went to Hull University just to breathe the same air as Philip Larkin. When he stopped breathing (he died in my third year there – which had nothing to do with me, I hasten to add!) I started doing bits and pieces of freelance journalism, and was a regular contributor to a column called ‘This World of Ours’ on the Yorkshire Post. In fact, when I graduated I was going to be a journalist. But then I’d also quite fancied teaching, and someone said I’d better do a PGCE before Mrs Thatcher closed down all the teacher-training colleges. Twenty-one years later, I was still in the classroom.
6. What are you writing now?

I’ve just written a school text-book on the UK for a publisher called Wayland, part of a series covering countries of the world. I’m doing India next. I’ve also got a young adult novel almost finished. It’s about a boy with a passion for prehistoric mysteries, who leaves home looking for his mother.

7. Any tips for people wanting to be published?

Buy a model railway! Seriously, there’s probably some connection between making model worlds and writing stories. I was once told by a teacher at school that my essay-writing technique resembled throwing as much mud as possible, in the hope that some of it would stick. And he added, ‘it seems to work’. I think that’s my philosophy of writing. Just do it, and – you never know – some of it might ‘stick’!

8. What are your views of the publishing industry in general?

I’m amazed at how ‘industrial’ and old-fashioned publishing can be. Those huge advances for celebrity tat, the ‘deals’ with bookstores, even the old-fashioned ‘print-runs’. Will a few big names go under, like the banks? Will commissioning editors who’ve paid over the odds for some ghost-written drivel fall on their swords? I doubt it, but I’ve a feeling the whole business is about to change: e-books, Print-on-Demand, not to mention Amazon. And yet much of the industry is still stuck in the last century.

9. You’re donating 10% of the book’s royalties to the charity, Young Minds. Why?

The book deals with issues I’d seen first-hand as a teacher. In one of my roles in school I was responsible for pupil welfare and I was seeing a rise each year in the number of pupils suffering mental and emotional trauma. Young Minds exists specifically to support young people suffering from mental health-related problems. It also supports parents and other adults involved in the care of such young people. As a teacher I’d found Young Minds invaluable; as a writer I’m keen to do anything I can to help.

10. What are you currently reading?

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, by Roger Deakin. I read his ‘Waterlog’ and fell in love with it. He has (or had - he died last year) a poet’s eye for vivid detail, which I’ve subsequently discovered is because he often wrote what was to become his prose as poetry first. Oh, and The Mortdecai Trilogy, by Kyril Bonfiglioli.

He also has two fabulous blogs of interest to writers and parents;