This is a short general fiction novel. It draws on my own experiences of mental illness and the mental health system and the experiences of people I have met. Names of characters and locations are fictional.
When Neil loses everything he values most in life he has a mental breakdown that precipitates a journey through mental illness and the mental health system.
Elizabeth is an outgoing, independent career woman who finds herself confined to her home and isolated by agoraphobia.
Lyndsay is a schoolgirl mother who ends up teetering on the brink of anorexia. And Katharine is a single parent student struggling with depression.
Will any of them manage to regain a better quality of life?
On the creative writing course that I did when I was thirty-two the tutor gave us a theme to write a couple of pages of homework for every week. One week the theme was ‘It was murder, or was it?’ I wrote about a man who had a delusion that he had murdered someone, based on a delusion I had during my breakdown. When the course finished I put my writing away and forgot about it.
Three years later, still unable to work in mainstream employment and bored again I decided to see if I could turn the two pages into a short story. My first draft was seven thousand words long. I put this aside and spent the next six months making notes from books on how to write fiction that I borrowed from the library.
Next I wrote back stories for my main characters. Another theme we had been given by the writing tutor was ‘The Prisoner’ for which I had written a short story about a woman with agoraphobia. I incorporated this and the back stories into the novel, developed it further and restructured it. At the end I had nearly forty thousand words. In total I spent about three years on it. I did not want a sensationalist title so I called it Peace of Mind.
Up until this point all my writing and revisions had been written longhand. I couldn’t afford a computer or typewriter, so I applied to a charity that helped artists and writers for a grant. They gave me seven hundred and fifty pounds for a computer and printer.
Now I had typed copies I bought the Writers and Artists Yearbook and submitted a synopsis and sample chapters, two at a time to about ten publishers and literary agents. I couldn’t submit to any more either because they would only consider full length novels or because my novel wasn’t the type of writing they were interested in.
I received a couple of encouraging replies: ‘well-written’ and ‘worth pursuing’ but none of them wanted to publish it. A mental health publisher I had been told about expressed interest in seeing the full manuscript but their reader’s comments led me to want to revise it before sending it to them. While trying to transfer the manuscript from one floppy disc to another I accidentally deleted some chapters. I hadn’t saved it on the hard drive. Although I had a couple of paper copies lying around I was demoralised and gave up on it.
About ten years later a friend who had read it and liked it suggested I try submitting it to Chipmunka Publishers, a fairly new publisher who specialize in publishing writing by people with mental health problems, their relatives or carers or people with other disabilities. They only accepted manuscripts online so I spent the next year typing it up from paper copy and making some final revisions. Concerned that the title wouldn’t pique peoples’ interest I changed it to Dreams of Death.
On 18th April 2012 Chipmunka Publishers accepted Dreams of Death for publication.