1. My guest today is Taylor Brooke, author of Fortitude Smashed. Could you tell me a little bit about your novel?
Fortitude Smashed is a story about fate. It’s based in a reimagined world dusted with science fiction. The Camellia Clock, a device implanted under everyone’s thumbnails, counts down to the moment soulmates will meet. In this book, Aiden Maar, a cunning, smart-mouthed art thief, comes face-to-face with Shannon Wurther, the youngest Detective in Southern California. These two find out they’re soulmates and have a bit of a tough time adjusting. It’s more than a love story, though. The central conflict revolves around mental illness and trauma. It’s very introspective and raw, with two tough, soft-hearted boys leading the story.
2. One of your main characters, Aiden, has disassociated dysthymia, a condition I imagine not many people have heard of. Why did you choose to include this?
To be honest, I didn’t write Fortitude Smashed thinking it would ever be published. Dissociative Dysthymia is something I struggle with and I wanted to explore that through story-telling. When Aiden appeared on page I was looking at a mirror of myself in a lot of ways, more ways than I can count, and allowing him the space to be mentally ill and fall in love was important for me. I had some healing to do. I had some stuff to unpack. Fortitude Smashed gave me the ability to do that in my own time, in my own way, unapologetically.
3. Is the representation of mental health in books important to you? Why?
Yes, absolutely. I think we’ve seen some toxic representation published in the last ten years or so, and it’s mostly due to the lack of Ownvoices authors being given the chance to write their experience. It’s important to get a look inside someone else’s experience, to make room for neurodiverse responses, narratives and conflicts. I think it’s good to explore every aspect of it – the healthy parts, the unhealthy parts, self-sabotage, reclusiveness, healing, reluctance, everything. All of it. People need to see themselves in books and if we give the power to Ownvoices authors then we’ll get stories that sweep the wide, wide expanse of mental health in the most authentic way possible.
4. What are some of your favourite books that deal with mental health?
I haven’t read many that I like, I’m not gonna lie. But I did just do a sensitivity read for Jude Sierra’s next book, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic. Keep up with her, because she’s putting out some great stories. I’m looking forward to reading STARFISH and THE ART OF STARVING.
5. Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m currently editing the sequel to Fortitude Smashed which will deal with trauma, healing after sexual assault and physical abuse, and navigating friendships when both parties are trying to balance their mental health. It’s a heavy book with two tough, smart ladies leading the story.