I did a little interview for the French psychiatry mag Alter Ego. I thought I’d post the English version here.
Would you choose a drawing to illustrate your interview : it will determine an axis of speech...
- Why did you choose this picture?
This is an image for the current book I’m working on which is called Supercrash. Since i was very young I’ve loved drawing buildings and urban landscapes. I spent my childhood in a part of northern England that is full of hills and valleys. I was always aware of the landscape around me growing up and the view of distant streets on opposing hills. It became a fascination, a constant theme in my artwork, and a feature of many of my comic strips.
- Can you explain how the comic was a "return to life" (as the last paragraph of Psychiatric Fables)?
I spent many years working in mental health. I worked as a nursing assistant on a psychiatric ward, after which, i began to train as a psychiatric nurse. After two years of this very tough course, and with only one year to go before I’d achieved my qualification, I found that I could not go on with it. i’d become completely burned out: mentally and emotionally exhausted with the work. I fell into a deep depression of my own and suffered terrible anxiety. I had to leave the work due to this illness.
Afterwards, I began drawing up many the experiences I’d had working in psychiatry
into comic strip stories, which I then posted online for people to read. I got a huge response from these strips. Many thousands of views and hundreds of emails. The stories explained the many illnesses we see in mental health: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression. I wanted to help dispel the stigma that surrounds mental illness. They proved hugely popular with the public, and this positive response helped lift me out of the depressive illness i’d fallen into. I felt i’d not wasted my life after all, and still had much to contribute. I detail this experience in the last chapter of the book.
- Has Internet allowed you to be recognized as an artist, hasn’t it ? Especially with comics on famous people with mental disorders: Brian Wilson, Nick Drake, Winston Churchill and actress Judy Garland ?
Yes. The popularity online of the psychiatric cartoon strips led to interest from publishers, both in the UK and then France and the US. The amazing thing is that I didn't submit anything to these publishers. They contacted me, having seen the work online. This shows, i think, that gone are the days when a creator would have to send material off to publishers and then wait patiently for it to pulled from the slush pile and eventually read. If a writer or artist can build a big enough following, then publishers will come to you. Write what you are passionate about and you will find that others are passionate about it too.
- What were the effects of the release of Fables, and its translation into several languages?
It has allowed me to go on to produce further books and to gain some recognition internationally.
- Do you keep a good memory of your work in psychiatry?
Throughout my time working on the psychiatric wards, I kept a diary of events and I drew from much of this material when I wrote the book. I’ve recently started to keep a diary again, although I doubt much of it will end up in comic strip form.
- What are your plans now?
I’m working on a book called Supercrash: Ayn Rand and the New Right, which is about the 2008 financial crisis and the long rise of neoliberal politics in the Western world. It contains a biography of the libertarian thinker Ayn Rand and an overview of her influence on modern politics, a detailed breakdown of the causes of the financial crisis and its results, and a look at conservatives and liberal psychology and how this translates into political policy. The book will be out later this year in the UK.
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