I was surprised, and moved, to read an article about depression by one of my favourite authors, Simon Brett, in the most recent edition of Red Herrings, the Crime Writers’ Association newsletter.
Simon Brett has written over 200 novels, including the very successful Mrs Pargeter, Charles Paris, and Fethering series, beautifully crafted strings of cozy crime novels that I wish fervently I could have written myself. It was humbling to hear of his own struggles and crises of faith over his writing. To me, his way with a sentence is second to none and he achieves a lovely humorous bounce in all his works which I love. True, his actor sleuth, Charles Paris, has had some very dark moments, and even his Fethering muses, Carole the buttoned-up ex-civil servant and Jude, the new-age therapist, both seem either in need of treatment or capable of giving it. The clues were all there, I just hadn’t spotted them.
‘The writer’s life is full of predictable triggers of depression,’ says Brett, and I think that’s true. Sitting in a room alone with your thoughts is not likely to raise the spirits, unless you’re a totally irrepressible natural optimist – and then, why would you want to sit alone with your thoughts?
But to know someone as omnipresent and successful as Simon Brett has had troubles is curiously cheering, in a strange way. As well as turning out those 200 books, he has also produced and written innumerable shows for radio. The Peter Wimsey adptation I’ve just been listening to was produced by him, for example. What a multi-tasker, managing all this and a mental health condition as well. I hope his example will inspire me, next time I’m down.
There are highs, when writing, if a sentence goes right or a suspect behaves in an obliging way (sometimes they don’t). But there are lows, too – the inevitable rejections, when many people fail to recognise the brilliance of your ideas, when you get a mean review, when a book is turned down flat… so many ways to feel bad. But, of course, nothing compares to the thrill of hearing someone’s enjoyed your stories. That’s why we do it, I suppose. That, and the fact that, in my case, the kettle and the biscuits live in the room where I write.