Coincidentally, Sarah Chorn at SF Signal just posted her 2014 look back for her excellent Special Needs in Strange Worlds column about disability in SF/F. She lists her top ten posts for the year, and coming in at number two is my post about Writing with Depression, in which I talk about both my own depression and that of Isaac Vainio in Unbound:
“In the beginning of Unbound, [Isaac is] on the verge of losing his job at the library. He’s not sleeping or eating enough. All of his time and energy go into trying to undo certain mistakes from the last book. He’s irritable and angry at himself, his loved ones, his friends…pretty much everyone and everything.”
Given the events of the first two books, it made sense to me that Isaac would be struggling hard at this point. He’s won some impressive victories, but each one has come with a cost.
To be honest, writing Isaac as depressed scared the hell out of me. Characters are supposed to be likable, right? Well, on those days when I’m losing the battle against the Depression Brain Weasels of Doom, I don’t like myself that much:
“Isaac’s depression is truer to my struggle. I worry that he’ll be too unlikeable…because that’s how I felt at the time. I worry people will say he’s too weak, that this character should just man up and get over it, because that’s how I felt. That’s what I expected to hear if I talked about it. I worry about readers who don’t understand that depression isn’t something you just snap out of.”
I can reassure readers that Isaac does end up in a better place, and that there’s still plenty of smart-ass humor, not to mention Smudge the fire-spider doing his thing with flair and style. And I’ll say that I’m proud of the book. I’m proud of Isaac’s personal journey, as well as that of Lena and Nidhi. (Nidhi gets one of my favorite scenes early in this one.) I’m also proud of where Unbound ends up, which is a place I’ve been working for three books to reach. But I’m still scared of how readers will react.
I’ll end with one last quote from my column:
“Unbound is a book about battling monsters. Some of them are human. Others less so. Isaac has spent two books fighting monsters out there in the world, but sometimes the toughest monster is the one inside your own head.”