Saturday, December 3, 2022

Q&A with Christine Webb




Christine Webb is the author of the new young adult novel The Art of Insanity. She is a middle school teacher, and she lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


Q: What inspired you to write The Art of Insanity, and how was the book's title chosen?


A: After I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I read quite a few books about mental illness, both fiction and nonfiction. I found that many of them were really depressing and sad (which makes sense, since mental health issues can be very tragic and frustrating).


I was wishing for a book with more hope. I wanted to see a character struggle with mental illness and still be okay. That’s what inspired me to write The Art of Insanity


As for the title, it really just came to me one day part way through writing the book. I remember going to the basement and telling my husband, “Hey, how about ‘The Art of Insanity’? Because the main character is an artist, but also she’s navigating the ‘art’ of how to deal with her mental health diagnosis?”


He said it was a good idea, so I stuck with it. Sounds like enough people agreed with him that it was a good idea, because it made it all the way to publication! 


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the novel says, in part, “Debut author Webb draws from her own experience living with BPD to deliver a blistering portrayal of one teen’s attempts to seem 'normal enough' while managing a mental disorder—and the stigma and stereotypes that often accompany it—amid increasingly overwhelming life changes.” What do you think of that description?


A: I’m honored by the description, and I think it’s true to what I was trying to do with this book. The main character, Natalie, just wants to be “normal,” but normal is a phantom anyway. No one is truly normal - we’re all weird in our own special ways. We all have our own challenges. This book is about Natalie learning to deal with hers.


I would use the word “overcome” her challenges, but I don’t think that’s quite accurate. You don’t “overcome” bipolar disorder in that it goes away and you’re “over it.” You learn to live with it and even perhaps lean into some of the strengths that come with it.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: That answer is yes to both. I outline a book before I start writing it, so I had the basic plot worked out before I started writing. With that said, sometimes the characters run away and do their own thing on the page, so the outline gets adjusted as I go and definitely adjusted on revisions.


Now that you mention it, I’d be interested to see my original outline to see just how much the story changed. The bones are still there, I’m sure, but a lot of the details have changed (hopefully for the better).  


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story, especially about mental health issues?


A: The answer to that kind of depends on the angle from which a reader is approaching the book.


For a reader who struggles or has struggled with mental health issues, I hope they take away a message of hope. I want them to see that it’s possible to struggle and still be okay.


For a reader who has never struggled with mental health issues, my hope is that they can take away an attitude of empathy and compassion toward people who struggle with mental health problems. I want to humanize and destigmatize mental health issues.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Peachtree Teen bought my next book, tentatively titled Shooting for Stars. I wrote a huge part of that over a summer when I lived in Boston for a few weeks, so it holds a special place in my heart. I’m just now diving into revisions on that one. I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to tell you about that book, so I’d better keep the plot a secret for now. I hope readers will enjoy it, though!


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: One of my favorite parts of The Art of Insanity is Petunia the pug. I think she adds a lot of humor to the story. Since writing the book, I got my own pug named Penny! She’s a sweetie, and she reminds me a lot of Petunia from the book. Here, have a picture! It’s one more example of life imitating art.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment