Today we have a special guest, author Brian Kirk. Brian writes delightfully dark, unsettling stories. He's had several published in various magazines and anthologies, and his debut novel, We Are Monsters, was released in July. It is a frightening look at the world of mental illness and guaranteed to keep you up at night.
The Monsters Inside Me
My debut novel, We Are Monsters, takes a close look at the world of mental illness. This is not only a subject I find fascinating, it’s an issue I personally face, having dealt with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) all of my life.
Most people associate OCD with repetitively obsessive behavior. People wash their hands ten times before leaving the house, have to flick the light switch fifty times when entering a room, or must make sure the fibers on a rug are all facing north. Otherwise… Well, nothing. It’s a compulsion without any clear impetus. Logically one knows they won’t die if the water doesn’t sound a certain way against the drain.
While many people have that form of OCD, I don’t. Mine manifests in body ticks, inescapable thought loops, chronic anxiety, and periods of depression. No fun, I’ll tell you. But in no way debilitating, thank God.
I’m not trying to sound like the suffering artist here, or that there was anything supernatural at play, but my OCD spiked to previously unprecedented levels when I began writing We Are Monsters; again, a story about mental illness.
I began having severe panic attacks, which I’d never experienced before. My thought loops became increasingly negative and emotionally destructive. I spiraled into a deep depression that wouldn’t lift.
For the first time in my life I found it difficult to write. The words clunked off my fingers, they didn’t fit together well. My brain felt like it was caught in a fog. The ideas that emerged seemed meager. More than once, I was tempted to quit.
Fortunately, I didn’t. In fact, I feel that writing the book is part of what helped pull me out of that state. I rationally knew that what I was experiencing wasn’t real. The negative thoughts were lies told by the disorder. The writing only appeared poor through the window of my warped perception, the ideas paltry to my depressed mind.
And I didn’t want that lying, marauding prankster to get the best of me. So, I said, “Screw it. Who cares if I write a bad book? I won’t be the first person to do so.” And I kept going. Slugging words through sludge.
I wish I could say that one day the clouds parted during a particularly profound scene and my depression lifted. No, writing, along with other life changes, including medical assistance, lead to my recovery. Which I’m happy to report continues to this day.
But writing through the darkest parts of that period proved therapeutic in a number of ways. One, it proved that I could do it. That I would not quit writing no matter what. Two, once my perception normalized I was able to see that the story was far better than I feared at the time. You cannot trust the warped perception of depression, it lies. That was a valuable lesson that I can apply the next time I find myself in a depressed state. And, three, it resulted in a story that rings truer than it may have otherwise.
While authors are able to write from viewpoints outside their own, there’s a deeper quality that comes when one experiences something firsthand. Part of me feels that this trial was the price I had to pay to write the book I desired to write.
Good thing my next book is about an author who becomes a bestseller, falls even more deeply in love with his wife, and makes a ton of new friends.
To be honest, this wasn’t a subject I wanted to talk much about. I’m sometimes afraid that by thinking about it, it could happen again. Ultimately, however, I feel that it’s important to talk about it. I know several other writers who face the same struggles, and have been helped by knowing they’re not alone.
There’s a stigma attached to mental illness that we need to abolish. 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness each year. It’s time we stop making the subject taboo, and start looking for proper solutions.
My debut novel, We Are Monsters, is part of that burgeoning conversation. I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s a brief description along with links to the online retailers where it’s sold.
The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.
He is the hospital's newest, and most notorious patient – a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity's dark side.
Luckily he's in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a medicine that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.
Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don't have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.
And for anyone interested in striking up a virtual friendship, please connect with me through one of the following channels. Don’t worry. I only kill my characters.