Here is an excerpt from the feature:
Can you bring us up to scratch about the series and explain the book titles?
“CONDITIONS” is the story of Charles, a gardener with a (deliberately un-specified) mental illness. At the funeral of his mother family conflicts erupt and his friends take over the role of comforting him, as his surrogate family. Although Charles is the only one with a diagnosed condition, we see how each of the surrounding character also has a ‘little tick’ or ‘condition’.
In “CONDITIONED” these friends reunite at a wedding, one year on. This serves as a snapshot to show how the individual conditions have improved or deteriorated. Some of them are self-made where characters have ‘conditioned’ themselves, for better or for worse.
Is CONDITIONED not just another chick lit soap opera?
There is probably some mileage in this question. There are a lot of female characters, a wedding, texting and drama… Writing an ensemble cast also often pushes a novel towards soap-ish territory.
However, both ‘chick lit’ and ‘soap opera’ aren’t necessarily bad labels. If they are written with sensitivity and include character depth they can present important issues to a wider audience and educate through entertainment. I believe for example that the increasing number of gay characters in literature and TV has done a huge service to the gay movement and subsequent liberalism and enlightenment about the issue.
Some characters in my Conditions Series are dealing with very difficult issues, such as domestic abuse, alcoholism and mental health. I’ve tried to do them justice and wrote the novel in a way that readers can hopefully take something more from the book than just enjoying the drama of it all.
Do you have personal experience with mental illness?
Twenty years ago I worked as care worker in a special needs home and acquired some basic knowledge of mental illnesses there. I have battled with depression and anxiety in my life and found the best understanding frequently comes from people who had their own, more severe mental conditions or problems. Contrary to public believe, these people have much more to give to society than often is thought.
I feel that mental illness is coming more into the public spotlight and many people realize that they know more sufferers of these conditions than they thought.
What about the other issues in CONDITIONED – why did you pick those?
I’ve seen more abusive relationships in my wider circle of friends than I would care for. Some of my friends are care workers in the field and their insights into the issue are often harrowing and shocking.
The problem is far wider spread than we think. My personal experience was frustration with victims of such relationships for not breaking free and for denying that there is a problem. That was a big motivation in writing the book. I felt that off-setting psychological phenomena with Charles’s condition challenges the reader to think about their empathy and tolerance as a whole and about their general understanding of the human condition. How you think about one type of condition in comparison to another says a lot about yourself.
How do you think about these Conditions?
I try to keep learning about different Conditions and try to find ways how to handle them. Education and information are the key to a better understanding, better treatment and smoother integration of the sufferers into society. We’re all full of prejudices and mis-conceptions and still have a lot to go, me included.
CONDITIONED, like CONDITIONS, leaves some lose ends. Why is that needed after two books?
I believe it would be unrealistic to end the book on a ‘happily-ever-after’ note for every character, so there are bound to remain some lose ends. Many issues are ongoing, such as Charles’s (physical) hormonal imbalance; the temptation of alcohol doesn’t go away when you stop drinking and the addiction to an abusive husband neither. This is why I turned the book into a series, so I can work on a solution that is realistic.