Monday 14 March 2016

Blog Tour ~ The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin Extence

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop

The Mirror World of Melody Black

Blog Tour

Life has its ups and downs.

‘You're going to find some of my actions frustrating. I'm hard to live with, maddening, uneven - I get that. But I can't stand around listing my faults or we'll be here for ever. All I ask right now is that you indulge me. For as long as it lasts, this is going to be one hell of a ride.’
Abby is an aspiring journalist, an indifferent daughter, a cohabiting girlfriend; a ‘normal’ woman in her mid-twenties. But something sets her apart from everyone else. It allows her to achieve complete truth and clarity. Something that no one else could ever understand. But the very thing that sets Abby apart could destroy her.

And then she meets Melody Black.

March 10th 2016

Gavin ~ a huge welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thanks for inviting us to be part of your blog tour 

Tell us about your inspiration for writing The Mirror World of Melody Black...

When I first talked to my editor about my ideas for ‘book two’, I told her that I wanted to write ‘The Bell Jar, but as a comedy’. She was sceptical, understandably, so I quoted her a few lines from the novel. It’s at a point when Sylvia Plath’s narrator is in the grip of a deep depression and hasn’t washed for several weeks. She tells us: ‘It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next. It made me tired just thinking about it. I wanted to do everything once and for all and be through with it.’

For me, these lines encapsulated what I wanted to achieve in my own novel. I wanted to write something that was simultaneously funny and tragic, absurd but also completely true.

The Mirror World of Melody Black is based on my own experience of mental illness (depression and mania), and I always knew that I wanted to deal with this topic. But, for a long time, I struggled to find a way into the story. It can be very difficult to make ‘real life’ work as fiction, and this seemed to me especially true when trying to write about mental illness, and depression in particular. The reality of depression tends to be hour after hour of staring at the wall, of numbness, of not wanting to see anyone or do anything, of not being able to make even the most basic decisions, like which socks to wear. It’s no fun to live it, and it would be as little fun to read it. Yet there was no question in my mind that I wanted to create an authentic sense of how mental illness feels from the inside.

I spent several months trying and failing to write a beginning that I was happy with. And then, one evening just before Christmas, three years ago, I had an experience that shifted my thinking.

I came home from the supermarket to find a very distressed woman on the stairs outside my flat. She immediately asked me to call an ambulance; her friend – my neighbour – was dead. She had just found his body.

My neighbour was in his forties, so his death came as a shock. But he wasn’t someone I knew well. We’d say hello when we passed on the stairs, and that was about it. But that night I couldn’t sleep for thinking about what had happened. I kept replaying the details over and over in my head – the 999 phone call, talking to the paramedics, trying to comfort the woman on the stairs. And a week later, I was still thinking about it – not just the incident, but also the broader situation. There were a lot of ideas there that I knew I wanted to explore in more detail.

The upshot was that I abandoned the story I had been working on and started afresh. In the new opening chapter, a young woman goes round to her neighbour’s flat to borrow a tin of tomatoes and discovers his dead body on the sofa. Soon afterwards, her own life starts to fall apart.

That was all I had to begin with, at least in terms of plot. I knew that I was still writing a book about mental illness, but at a basic level, I had no idea what was going to happen next. And yet, as soon as I’d written the new opening, I felt certain that I was now on the right path – that I was in the process of discovering a story that would work, and that I really did want to tell. Mostly, I felt like I’d taken a crucial first step outside of my own experience, to re-imagine it from a fresh and dramatically compelling perspective.

As to how far I did succeed in my original intention – The Bell Jar, but a comedy – that’s probably best left to the reader to judge.

In The Mirror World of Melody Black, Gavin draws upon his own experiences to depict an unsettling, at times hilarious, but most of all truthful account of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder. He brings to the fore questions like where is the line between sanity and insanity? At what point has someone gone off the rails? And what is the difference between passion and mania?

Gavin Extence

Find Gavin on his Website

Follow on Twitter @GavinExtence

Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Gavin for his insightful guest post today

 and also to Ruby Mitchell at Hodder for the kind invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Blog Tour runs from 10th - 16th March

Do visit the other stops on the tour.


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