If you’ve read my first novel, 22 Scars, you’ll know it doesn’t deal with light topics. Depression, self-harm, drugs and abuse all factor into the story, and in a decidedly unglamorous way. In fact, much of the praise (and some of the criticism) for 22 Scars has stemmed from the realistic depiction of these things – the fact that I don’t shy away from showing my characters’ blood and tears (literally) has attracted a lot of people to the novel (and put a few off).
As I begin work on my second novel, The Broken, I’m given to wonder what sort of themes are going to play into its narrative. Whilst the title isn’t quite as descriptive as 22 Scars, it refers to, in a nutshell, the fact that so many people feel broken inside, whether they hide it well or not, and that sometimes there is no fixing what’s shattered.
I also wonder what sort of theme people might start to draw from my writing overall, and not just within one novel. Stylistically, The Broken follows many of the same patterns as 22 Scars – distant, third-party passages counterpointed with emotional, first-person narrative – but the subject spans somewhat different thematic material, factoring music much more heavily into the plot, and dealing with specific, diagnosable mental illnesses. To this end, one of my goals is to represent these mental disturbances in as realistic a way as possible, and not just from a “textbook symptom” perspective.
And if and when I write a third novel, I suspect it will contain some of the same themes. You see, I don’t think of myself as a young adult author, or a literary author, or even necessarily someone who writes about mental illness. Mental health is important to me in many ways, especially because of my own struggles, but I don’t know if I necessarily want every book to be about that.
Rather, I would hope that, if anything, my work becomes known for its realism. For not shying away from the brutal truth of life, and for depicting characters that are believable to the point that you think they could really exist. I don’t ever want to write a Cinderella, or a James Bond; my fascination is with the things real people do everyday, and how, in the face of immense obstacles, they persevere … or sometimes don’t.
If you’ve read 22 Scars, do you think this is something I was successful at? If not, what’s your opinion on realism in literature? I’d love to know your thoughts!