OCD Action member Helen Barbour has drawn on her experience of the condition to write her debut novel, The A to Z of Normal, which has just been published. She said ‘There is still a huge amount of stigma around mental health and so I felt that this should be at the heart of my first major fictional work, but I wanted to handle the subject in a very accessible way.’
Helen likened her approach to that of Mark Haddon, whose books include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Spot of Bother, in which the central character suffers a mental breakdown. ‘I write in a similar vein – tackling serious topics, but with a light touch,’ she said. ‘The A to Z of Normal is about a woman struggling to overcome her obsessive-compulsive behaviour, so that she can marry the man she loves, while also dealing with some difficult family relationships.’
Helen began her working life as a journalist on the Express & Star evening newspaper in Wolverhampton, and has written for the lifestyle magazine, Complete Wellbeing, and for the mental health charities Mind and OCD Action. She blogs as The Reluctant Perfectionist about living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism and anxiety.
Here’s a taster:
‘Clare Thorpe’s need for order and symmetry governs everything she owns – from tins and toiletries, to cushions and clothes. Yet she has always managed to hide the compulsions dominating her world. Until now. When long-distance boyfriend Tom proposes, her secret life begins to unravel. How can she share a future with the man she loves, if she can’t even share her space? And when the only way forward brings a threat greater than any compulsive behaviour, do they have a future together at all? A poignant and humorous story of love, family, secrets…and military precision.’
You can read Helen’s blog here and follow her on Twitter @HelenTheWriter.