Why Writers Get Depressed

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On a miserable grey January afternoon, when nothing seemed to be going right, I began to wonder whether feeling depressed and anxious was something writers were particularly prone to. A quick trawl through the internet and I came up with many famous and successful people who suffered, or still suffer from depression, J.K. Rowling, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Mark Twain to name a few.

Perhaps it’s part of having overheated imaginations that allows us to imagine and so fear the worst, or plunging into the depths of human suffering and depravity.

Or maybe it’s to do with the environment in which writers work. A study in Sweden suggested that is because we spend so much time on our own. It also went on to say that a writer’s life is a rollercoaster of emotion, elation when the work is going well, depression when it is not, plus the despair of rejection.

In my own experience I know that I am prone to overthinking every situation which can lead me down some murky paths. I also know that talking to and interacting with other writers can lift my mood and boost my self confidence.

The support of the writing community, whether in a writing group, or online forum seems to me to be a vital part of a writer’s equipment.

Agreed?

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Guest Blog: Jan Edwards: A woman of many genres.

Jan in Hat 001

Today I am lucky enough to have a guest blog from Jan Edwards; a very talented and versatile writer.

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing. I was born in Sussex but now live in Staffs Moorlands with my husband, Peter Coleborn and a small glaring of cats. With my editorial hat on I have a number of anthologies for various imprints. The most notable of those currently available are co-edited with Jenny Barber: The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders; The Alchemy Press Book(s) of Urban Mythic 1 & 2 and Wicked Women.

Some of my forty-plus short stories have been brought together into collections: Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties, is available from Alchemy Press. Fables and Fabrications, which is to be published this spring by Penkhull Press this spring!

Sussex Tales is a main stream novel as was Sex, Lies and Family Ties (now out of print but hopefully due to rise again!), but my latest novel Winter Downs, due out this year, is crime fiction. I also co-wrote on a direct-to-DVD Dr Who project which is currently in production.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started? That old chestnut of having written as long as I can remember doubtless applies to every writer you care to ask and I am no different.

I have a theory that we are all hard wired to communicate through various artistic mediums or some kind at some level. Human society started out recounting tribal history or teaching life skills by way of sagas and songs told when the family or wider tribe gather around an evening fire. The earliest ‘stories’ I can recall telling were recounted for Monday morning ‘News time’ at primary school. In the absence of anything interesting to say I winged it with flagrant mistruths that got wilder and wilder. Oddly nobody ever challenged me on them I got into the habit of storytelling for entertainment. It still took me a long while to make any serious attempts at gaining publication.

What genres do you write? Most of my short fiction is fantasy in the wider sense and covers horror, pulp, supernatural, steam punk and urban fantasy and much of that output is based around folklore, myths and legends, which is my passion. I also write main stream and crime fiction as well as the occasional script.

Why do you write under different genre? I write in different genres for no better reason than saying that fiction, like ice cream, comes in different flavours and I like variety in my life. More often than not there is no deliberate move to cross genres. Stories can come to me in different forms and I write them accordingly, or as has happened more often in recent years, I am asked to write quite specifically for an anthology in one genre or another.

My two latest short stories for came to be written for different reasons and in different genres.

‘The Jamesian Conundrum’ appears in an anthology based on and around that well known nemesis of Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty. It could be viewed as either crime or historical fiction yet can just as equally be slotted into main stream or pulp. This was pitched to the editor in reply to an open submissions window.

‘The Decks Below’ is in a horror anthology, but also crosses several genres and could be seen as pulp fiction; adventure; historical (set in 1930 and based on a real event); steam punk with the impossible inventions at the heroine’s disposal and also as mythological fantasy in that it uses both the ancient folklore myth of the Chesil beach mermaid and the early 20th century Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.

That all may sound quite confusing, and if I were pitching to an editor I would not own up to quite so many threads, but it does illustrate how my stories often cross genres without any specific choice on my part. Stories arrive as they arrive.

The recent rise of mash-ups has blurred the lines even further on the genre front so anything is possible and possibly even desirable if it breaks down the perceptions of those ‘comfort zone’ readers.

Novels tend to be a more deliberate choice. I usually know that this novel will be Fantasy or that one Crime. The ideas come and we write what we are sent by our imagination, but keeping marketing in mind does require the author to have a reasonable idea of who they are writing for by the end of chapter one.

 

Do you get the same readers for different genres? If not, in what ways do you think they are different? Some readers will devour anything that comes their way, and enjoy it all for varying reasons provided it is well written, but I suspect the majority of people read within their perceived comfort zone and seldom move far from it.

You often hear people voicing their dislike of horror for example and go on to tell you that they do read crime. However, much of the horror published today is deliberately pitched as dark crime or thrillers. It is only when a supernatural element is introduced that it become what most would view as horror.

When it comes to crossing genres it is even harder to avoid in the fantasy-horror arena. Many more sub-genres exist now than twenty, or even ten years ago, and each has their own authors and audience. Often, however, you will see people reading right across the spectrum. .

As we know Women’s Fiction and Historical Fiction often blur, though this is less common with Chicklit. Then again Historical merges with War or Westerns, which are mostly regarded as Male fiction.

So in answer to the question do we get the same readers across different genres? Sometimes, yes. Others read exclusively within their niche.

Why are they different? Because that is people.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing, and does it come in useful for your stories?

I write a lot, or read, or else go to conventions and writing conferences. So my life does revolve around fiction a great deal. But I also like to garden, go walking, visit historical sites and study folklore (especially local folklore). I like to make quilts, cross stitch, embroider (badly), ceramic sculpturing and make jewellery. I am a Master practitioner in both Usui and Celtic Reiki and have qualifications in various other therapies including Meditational Healing and Bach Remedies. I seldom have time to be bored.

Do these things come in useful for writing? Of course! Everything is grist to the writing mill.

 

What is at the root of your current book/story Sussex Tales is about rural life and social history.

My latest shorts have been released into the wild in The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty and Terror Tales of the Ocean. Plus I have two more publications due in the next month in Tales From the Lake: vol 2 with Crystal Lake Publishing and Winter Tales with Fox Spirit Books anthologies. All of which revolve around folklore in the main.

I have two collections – both of which also draw heavily on my love of folklore, myth and legend.

Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties, The Alchemy Press, is a collection of supernatural short fiction and available on Amazon.

Fables and Fabrications, Penkhull Press, is mainly horror and dark fantasy but has some steam punk, sf and urban fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Also coming soon is Winter Downs, a crime novel set in the Sussex of World War Two.

I have an urban fantasy novel in the pipeline also, which again draws on folklore, so if there is one root that rises up most often then that is the one.

Is there any genre or style of writing you haven’t tried but would like to?

I think I have written in most genres at some point of other so no not really. I should like to write more crime but who knows what will come next. I will go where the ideas take me.

 

Beating Time

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‘I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’

`Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!’ One of my favourite quotes from “Alice in Wonderland”  sums up what I feel about Time. It is something that can be manipulated, bargained with, plodded through, or managed so that it slips away almost without being noticed. Or it can be broken up into a chunks ; manageable chunks of thirty minutes, which work perfectly when I am writing. For thirty minutes I concentrate on what I am doing. At the end of that time, I stop, even if I’m in mid sentence and go and do something else.

When I started working like that at the beginning of 2016, I thought that it would be hard to pick up where I left off. To my surprise the opposite proved true. Not only is it easy to pick up the thread, but I am actually much keener on getting back to the computer than I would have been after a straight hour or two staring at the screen. And as an added bonus, by breaking up my writing time into these smaller units I am getting much more done. This may not work for everyone but I can certainly recommend you try it.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wicked Women: Jan’s Fab Five

Jenny Barber

Today we’re joined by Wicked Women co-editor Jan Edwards who’s here to tell us about her five (ish) favourite fictional wicked women…

Jan in Hat 001Finding five wicked women that I truly admired was trickier than I first thought. First problem is to define wicked. The OED quotes 1/ vile or morally wrong or 2/ Playfully mischievous. It is a broad canvas but it does cut out most of the obvious choices when it comes to famous women of note. Sappho (c 570 BC) one of the first published female writers. Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) mathematician widely considered to have written the first computer programme. Lillian Bland (1878–1971) Journalist and aviator who in 1910 built her own plane. Murasaki Shikibu said to have written the first novel The Tale of Genji somewhere around 990. Boudicca, (1st Century AD) famed leader of the Britons. Anne Frank, Sojourney Truth, Cleopatra, Mary Wollstonecraft, Emmeline Pankhurst, Marie Stopes…

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The Cost of Keeping Warm

TThere’s nothing like a wood fire, whether in a stove, or an open hearth.

Being Britalian

Welcome to my first blog post of 2016. I had a couple of people message me to say that I hadn’t mentioned what music was shuffling on the iPod in my last few posts; one of whom was my stalker (I say in the nicest possible way) in New York – Those who’ve been following A Life on Shuffle for a while will probably remember him?) So to kick off,  il primo post di quest’anno, the first song playing, appropriately is an Italian one called, Piove by Giusy Ferreri.

Most people ask me what the comparison is between utilities in the UK and Italy and obviously I can only comment on my own experience. Electricity is on a par with England, however mains gas here is a little more expensive. We have no mains gas in our lane so last winter we used a portable gas heater and kept a record…

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