1). After you finished writing A BLUE SO DARK, did Aura’s story end for you or do you know what happens to her after A BLUE SO DARK?
As a reader, when I come to the end of a novel—even a novel that wraps up all the loose ends, nice and neat, big red bow and all…a novel in which the main characters ride off into the sunset, happily ever after—I tend to find myself thinking, AND THEN THEY WOKE UP THE NEXT DAY…
What I mean is, I always think of a novel’s ending as just a pause—a moment to take a deep breath—before the next conflict begins…but that’s just the way LIFE is! We get over one mountain, and barely even get a chance to celebrate before we find ourselves staring straight into the next obstacle we’re going to have to overcome.
I can’t say I have it all mapped out, exactly what would happen to Aura and her mother after the book closes. But they’re obviously not going to have smooth sailing from the novel’s ending on. There will definitely be another mountain for those two, which doesn’t exist on the page…while the book was in development, I found myself constantly imagining new possibilities…
2. Do you believe that creativity can lead you to mental illness? Do you think creativity is a way to get OUT of mental illness?
The brain’s a fascinating thing, isn’t it? Even in our modern age, we know so little—and new mysteries crop up all the time: The recent explosion of autism and Alzheimer’s, for example.
Creativity, I think, is every bit as mysterious as mental illness. And I do think the two probably are linked—that’s not to say that I think one leads to another, or one can CURE the other. But I think that spark of inspiration—that end product that an artist can envision? That’s a little like a hallucination, isn’t it? Neither one really exists, except in one person’s mind! Both are figments that only one person can “see.”
I don’t think it’s absurd to think that what the brain does—what neurons fire, etc.—as a creative idea is born is unlike what happens in the brain when a “vision” or hallucination comes to life. I think when we understand creativity completely, we’ll understand mental illness. And vice versa.
3. Out of many artists who have suffered mental illness, who are your favorites?
I tend to really be fascinated by the artists who remain mysteries: those we really don’t seem to understand, and maybe never will…van Gogh (who was talked about often in the book), for instance: I don’t even think I can count the articles I’ve read, “definitively” explaining the reason he cut off his ear. I’ve read everything from that he did it for a woman, that he did it over a fight with Gauguin, even that he did it because he suffered from chronic debilitating inner ear infections.
I’m not sure we really understand van Gogh—even though we do have a lot of his writing (in the form of letters to his brother). I think so much of a person is lost the moment they pass away, and once the people who personally KNEW them are gone? The jigsaw just doesn’t ever get put back together…especially for a complicated person like van Gogh.
I think the same of Emily Dickinson—not that she’s an example of a mentally ill artist, but I’ve always been intrigued…because she’s someone we will never understand. We’ll speculate. We’ll all have our own theories of who she was. But there will never be a definitive answer, because so little remains of her life (other than her poetry). There’s something about that—about the never-knowing-for-sure—that just keeps sending me back to her work.
But that might be why I tackled a subject like the possible connection between creativity and mental illness. There is no real answer right now, just speculation…In the case of mental illness, though, there’s every chance that we WILL know, that we WILL unlock the mystery—maybe even in our lifetimes! The idea of that is utterly thrilling…
Thanks for a fantastic interview, Holly! Great to have you back and congrats on your success. Visit Holly Schindler at her blog here.