Cally Phillips has been writing dramatic fiction for stage and screen for 20 years and has been engaged with mental health advocacy for 10 years. She is an advocate for the importance of creativity as a vital component in a healthy life. She has published a number of novels and short works and has wholeheartedly embraced e-publishing as a means of fostering individual creative endeavour. She is committed to encouraging ‘ordinary people’ to make creativity a part of their cultural birthright. Cally is currently editor of Indie eBook Review and Director of the Edinburgh eBook Festival as well as being a member of the Authors Electric online Collective.
For reasons that will (or may) become apparent in other pieces I write this week, mental health issues are fairly ‘embedded’ into my work. I don’t often talk about the role of mental health in my novels but as I look at them, I notice that they all do contain issues of mental health. I’d suggest that is just because mental well being – or otherwise – is actually a key part of life itself. I think that everything has some relation to our mental state. But teasing out the mental health issues in my three major novels is something I don’t often do. However, let’s give it a go.
Another World is Possible (45th anniversary special edition published TODAY)
It’s very difficult to know whose story this is – who is telling what truth and if indeed there is a truth to be known. This novel came out of an interest in the notion of ‘storied’ lives and the role of narrative psychology in mental health and creativity. I’ve always been interested in how people ‘create’ identities for others. As a writer you do it and of course have complete control, but ‘real’ people do it in their own lives every day with less predictable but often more harmful side effects. I believe that we can use fiction to make sense of our lives and this fiction attempts to explore how fictional people do that in what they consider their own ‘real’ lives. Originally written as an online serial blog in 2007 AWIP has been published in various forms and this special 45th anniversary edition sees a new, fully flexible text which allows the reader to explore the ‘stories’ and ‘truths’ from a number of angles. AWIP is the core of a trilogy (in four parts) which I’m currently working on. The second part The One that Got Away will be released in spring 2013.
Ever since I encountered the ‘disputed’ ending of Great Expectations I have been interested in giving alternative possible readings to my work. Now, I know that the reader can do this themselves but I like to play around with that myself in the writing process. It does tend to make one’s work hard to categorise in genre terms though. Brand Loyalty could be variously described as a near future novel (not science fiction), a political novel, a dystopic novel or a novel about dementia. It is all of these. For me, politics (in a social sense) and mental health are part of everything we do all the time. You can look at Brand Loyalty as a call to arms, a censuring against a potential future we are ‘buying into’ on a global scale, or you can look at it as the wanderings of one woman’s mind (not just mine of course!) as she faces the end of her life. Both of these readings have one thing in common, an attempt to make sense of the world we live in and an insight into the complexities of personal and social identity and what happens when the two collide. Which is, for me, one of the cornerstone ‘issues’ of mental health.
and paperback edition available from HoAmPresst Publishing
This was my first novel (originally a TV series idea) and as such of course holds a special place in my heart. It’s a novel which ostensibly looks at what we can learn from history and the fictions we ‘create’ in our ordinary lives through things such as archaeology. But it’s also riven through with a mental health theme. It’s not ‘spooky’ but some pretty strange things happen – if you believe in them. And if you don’t, you will see Paul’s journey as something completely different. Whatever happens, you will come to the end and either see Paul as ‘mad’ or as having had the most amazing experience. Maybe both. You are free to interpret it as you will. Your perception of Paul will inform how you make meaning in the novel. How Paul connects to the world around him and constructs his personal relationships is key – so it could be called a romance. I think it might even be termed a ‘paranormal’ romance. But it’s more than that. It’s delving around in the mind of a number of characters – again looking at that collision between personal ‘reality’ and identity and that of the world outside.
And there’s more… 9th October is a special anniversary for me – Go to my website for free downloads and video.