Friday, November 7, 2014

Depression, Writing, and Max Hollingsworth.

Depression, Writing, and Max Hollingsworth

I've been told that a lot of great artists suffered from depression. Robert E. Howard. Ernest Hemmingway. Vincent Van Gogh. Robin Williams. I don't purport to be anywhere near their level of genius, but I can say I understand what it's like to suffer from depression. It's like a stalking, shadowy ghost, always there ready to sink it's chilling, insubstantial claws in me. It's always there, even when I'm happy...there is always that lingering thought in the back of my mind of when the next cloud will come and block out the light. This is every single day.

I've also been told that many artists are inspired by their depression. Well, good for them. For me, it's always been an obstacle. I do most of my writing when I'm up, even more so if I'm manic. When the depression comes, I can barely get out of bed, much less create. 

That doesn't mean my depression hasn't had an effect on my writing. This illness has taken me to new lows, emotionally dark places that most people don't even know exist without having experienced great personal loss. Imagine the sadness and misery of losing a loved one. Now, imagine experiencing that same level of melancholy for no reason other than that your brain decided to take a chemical break. That's depression. 

Max's story, Moth, is the first book I've written that takes my readers to those lows. It's the darkest thing I've had published. The book isn't a complete downer, there are humorous parts and light moments, but the overall tone of the book is very dismal. It deals with some of the worst evils to which humanity can sink: child slavery, human trafficking, drug use, and more...all rolled up into one book. Climbing this mountain of darkness is Max Hollingsworth, a rather remarkable social worker who approaches his job less like a civil servant and more like a soldier at war. 

The darkness Max faces is both palpable and abstract. The world of Moth seems to be an amoral place where ruthless evil has a distinct advantage over morality and righteousness. This is not dissimilar to the world created by the aforementioned Robert E. Howard in his famous Solomon Kane stories. Like Kane, Max is guided by an inner light, a will to do what is right despite it being seemingly meaningless in the grand scheme. At one point in the novel, Max justifies his righteousness by stating that there is supposed to be a moral order in the Universe, whether there actually is one or not. There is a way things are supposed to happen so that right triumphs over wrong, light over darkness, good over evil. Max and Kane are heroes, and it's the hero's job to make things happen that way.

If my depression has aided my work in any way, it's that it has given me a glimpse at that world. A place where there is no good or light, only misery and darkness. Max is born from my own desire to confront the darkness in my own life. He is a light shining in the darkness. A way to forge order from chaos. I may not be able to control my own world, or escape the monster that stalks me, but in Max's world, I can. Max can kill the monsters, save the children, set right what was wrong, and make things happen the way they are suppose to. Because he's a hero.