Bestselling author Matt Haig will tell audiences how writing helped him win his battle with depression when he comes to the 2015 Plymouth International Book Festival.
After becoming ill in his early 20s, Matt turned to writing as a form of therapy using it to convey feelings and emotions that he was not always able to articulate verbally.
Now he has published a number of adult and children’s novels, and recently completed a memoir about his life and experiences, titled Reasons to Stay Alive.
That will be the focus of his talk in Plymouth on Saturday 17 October, when Matt will be in conversation with the CEO of Plymouth Mind, Sharon Claridge.
“I had always had a passion for books and reading, but had no real plans for it to be a part of my future until I became depressed. I knew I needed to do something but as with lots of illnesses, the idea of going out to a regular 9-5 would have been quite impossible as I had agoraphobia and separation anxiety. So I needed to do something from home, and began to earn money from writing. Initially, it was for newspapers and it was around five or six years later that I decided to write my first novel.”
That first book was The Last Family in England in 2004, and since then there have also been The Dead Fathers Club, The Possession of Mr Cave, The Radleys and The Humans. He has also written a number of children’s books, Shadow Forest, The Runaway Troll, To Be A Cat and Echo Boy.
But he describes Reasons to Stay Alive as the easiest to write of all his books so far, and it has earned rave reviews from – among others – Stephen Fry, Simon Mayo, Ian Rankin, Jo Brand, Michael Palin and Joanna Lumley.
“It had been so long in my head and was a subject I knew better than anything in the world. By the time I was ready to do it, it was all there. Everyone assumes it would be hard to relive it, but there was a sense of distance and it almost felt like I was writing about someone else.
“But the response has been amazing and at events, it is a subject that people are prepared to talk about and want to talk about. With every event I have done, there have been people willing to share their own experiences – it can be emotional but tends to be positive for everyone involved.”The 2015 Plymouth International Book Festival runs from Thursday 15 October to Wednesday 21 October. Other headline acts include bestselling authors Judy Finnigan and Simon Scarrow, writer and musician John Hegley, Thurston Moore, co-founder of experimental rock band Sonic Youth, actress and comedienne Helen Lederer, asylum broadcaster and campaigner Bidisha, and whisky connoisseur Ian Buxton.
Sharon Claridge said the timing of Matt Haig’s talk was particularly appropriate, coming soon after World Mental Health Day on October 10. She added:
“Creativity and talking are often the keystone, not only to recovery from mental health issues but also to maintaining mental wellbeing for many people. I hope this session, as well as being an opportunity to meet and find out more about Matt and his writing, will also provide the opportunity for the audience to understand more about mental illness and wellbeing and realise that having a mental health issue does not mean giving up on life. There is nothing more powerful than hearing this from the individual themselves.”
Matt will be speaking in The House at Plymouth University on Saturday 17 October from 3pm, and tickets (priced £6, £4 concessions) are available from the box office on 01752 585050 or at https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/your-university/peninsula-arts/reasons-to-stay-alive.