My name is Page and I blog at One Book At A Time. I've been blogging about books for over 3 years which is so hard to believe. I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Chemical Addictions. But, I've always been fascinated with bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive, and many other disorders on Axis II of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
"Sixteen-year-old Rinn Jacobs has secrets: One, she’s bipolar. Two, she killed her grandmother.1. In your latest release The Unquiet, the main character Rinn suffers from bipolar. How did you go about writing her psychological condition? Does any of it comes from personal experience (ie someone you know, etc)?
After a suicide attempt, and now her parents' separation, Rinn and her mom move from California to the rural Ohio town where her mother grew up. Back on her medications and hoping to stay well, Rinn settles into her new home, undaunted by the fact that the previous owner hanged herself in Rinn's bedroom. At school, her classmates believe the school pool is haunted by Annaliese, a girl who drowned there. But when a reckless séance goes awry, and terrible things start happening to her new friends—yet not to her—Rinn is determined to find out why she can’t be "touched" by Annaliese...or if Annaliese even exists.
With the help of Nate Brenner, the hunky “farmer boy” she’s rapidly falling for, Rinn devises a dangerous plan to uncover the truth. Soon reality and fantasy meld into one, till Rinn finds it nearly impossible to tell the difference. When a malevolent force threatens the lives of everyone she cares about--not to mention her own--she can't help wondering: who should she really be afraid of?
Annaliese? Or herself?" (from Goodreads)
Because I work as a psychiatric nurse, I care for patients with bipolar disorder on a daily basis, so the majority of my ideas came from this. I did have to do some additional research because my patients are adults, and I wasn't sure if symptoms and treatment would be the same for adolescents. Though I am not bipolar myself, I have had issues with depression in the past, so I do have an understandings of the "ups" and "downs" (on a much less severe basis, of course).
2. Rinn battles with knowing the difference between delusions and reality in the end of the story. Was it hard to factor in a paranormal element as well as the psychological?
It was actually harder to figure in the psychological aspect. I knew, while I was writing the story, exactly how I wanted Annaliese to affect Rinn and the others. Adding the psychological element proved to be the greater challenge because Rinn needed to be in control (albeit tenuously) --meaning I couldn't let her go completely "off the deep end" -- in order for the ending to play out as it did.
3. Your two previous books hint that they might have psychological elements as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about them? Or is it better left to the reader?
My first novel, BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN, deals a lot with alcoholism and co-dependency, and the effects of an addicted parent on a child. One of the main themes is "choice"--you may not "choose" to have a parent who is an addict, and you certainly have no choice as to how you are treated by them, but the way you react to your situation is indeed a "choice." This is something that my main character, Martha, has to learn in order to either improve her life, or possibly follow her mother's path to self-destruction.
In SAY THE WORD, Shawna's psychological issues stem from being abandoned by her mother, and the fact that her father is a controlling, verbally abusive jerk. She, too, has to make some hard decisions--some that that will affect her future, but, more importantly, decisions that will affect the lives of the people she loves.
4. Do you think it's harder to write a character with a psychological disorder (especially accurately)?
Yes. It's difficult because you need to know where to draw the line. I don't want anyone to imagine I am "sensationalizing" mental illness. What I really wanted to do was to stress, again, the important of "choice", i.e. whether or not someone with bipolar disorder chooses to stay on their medications. I wanted Rinn to have a significant mental illness, but I could not make her as ill as the patients I see on a daily basis. These are patients who often never lead normal lives, never hold down jobs, spend the majority of time in hospitals, group homes, nursing homes, etc., and often lose any family support they might have had. I didn't want to see any of this in Rinn's future. I wanted her to be someone with the ability to recognize her illness and not be consumed by it.
5. I thought you did an excellent job of portraying the high and lows of bipolar disorder in The Unquiet. I could see similarities between what I have studied and also a friend I knew. Was any of this mimicked after actual events?
Much of Rinn's behavior was modeled on the bipolar patients I've met: the sexual acting out, which is very common when someone is in a manic phase (especially the scene where she comes on to Nate, which shows a type of behavior she otherwise wouldn't have dreamed of exhibiting). The scene where she tells the police her father owns the stables and that he will sue the police department--very typical of what is known as "grandiose delusions" (Manic adults will often claim to own corporations, to belong to the FBI or CIA, or insist they are millionaires or superstars). The insomnia, the fleeting hallucinations, the paranoia (her fear of food poisoning, or that others at the Homecoming dance are talking negatively about her) are all things I've witnessed firsthand at my job with bipolar patients, even when some of them are taking their medications.
6. I'm a huge paranormal fan and a huge psych fan! Where did you get the idea to combine the two?
I actually started THE UNQUIET back in 2005, several years before I became a psych nurse. It was to be written for adults, and strictly a paranormal. After publishing my first two YA novels, I decided to turn this one into a YA as well. New at my job, I was fascinated by patients who insisted they could see and talk to "ghosts" and "spirits"--and yet these hallucinations disappeared once they were stabilized on medications. Though I know it's not true, I couldn't help wondering at times--what if it's true? What if they are speaking to spirits, and the medications block the connection? Thus, the idea was born--and Rinn came to life.
"Jeannine Garsee has been telling stories since before she could write. "I was addicted to the Sunday funnies," she says, "and my dad worked in a book-binding factory. He'd bring home a slew of paper every week, and I'd draw scenes on every page. Later, when I learned to write, I'd add the captions--and then the captions just grew longer and longer till I didn't have any room left for the pictures." Jeannine, known as "Jen" to her friends, works as a psych nurse in a busy inner-city hospital. Born and raised in Ohio, she lives with her family in a southwest suburb of Cleveland." (from her website)
Thanks very much to both Page and Jeannine for this Psychtember interview!