Posted by: hypomanic | November 17, 2008

An interview with Victor J Kennedy

By Filmmaker Jonathan Goodman Levitt
 

What INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE Hypomanic?


For many years I felt a bitter taste after the whole experience, which on one hand was an amazing story to live through but on the other hand left me with a huge sense of loss on many different levels. That empty state of being was like an itch that needed to be scratched and for a long time I dreamed about writing the book but I couldn’t find the strength to put it into action. The tipping point came from a building omnipotent need to rid myself of the anguish and the sense of life throwing me a bad penny. The book represents the fruits of a cathartic act of self examination and of course public confession. So I would say the root of the inspiration lies in the desire to be understood for fear of staying silent and perhaps being misunderstood.


WHAT IS THE CENTRAL MESSAGE THAT YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY FROM HYPOMANIC?


I think in terms of who this story provides a service for, I would say that the evidence presented in the book undoubtedly reveals that this kind of adversity can be overcome by individuals suffering a mental breakdown and their families as well. I would hope that the book prevents young readers from making the same mistakes I did and live their lives safer in moderation. Go placidly amidst the noise and haste.


FOR WHAT REASONS DO YOU THINK PEOPLE CONNECT WITH YOUR BOOK ON SUCH A PERSONAL LEVEL?


I think its the honesty. The descriptions in this book are not flowered over, they are brutal to the point of being uncomfortable to read but that is their strength. I couldn’t think of diluting the passion driving this story onwards because the reader needs to experience the drama of a collapsing mind as if it were happening to them. The setting makes it even more authentic and powerful for people who also went to university in the 1990s. It brings back uncomfortable mixed memories for them. I think the family support aspect with regards to the mother/son relationship also strikes a chord with readers because it is the bond between them that manifests as the courage and belief to firstly recover, then stage a successful university comeback.


FOR WHAT REASONS DO YOU WRITE IN THE FIRST PLACE?


I think it is important to share knowledge and experience, not to mention opinion. I enjoy reading so much and I think books affect you on a much deeper level than any other media because your imagination fills in the gaps. Books encourage you to think for yourself. I’d like to think my writing somehow changes things, even if it’s only for one person. For me, that’s enough to make it worth it.


WHERE AND WHEN DO YOU DO YOUR BEST WRITING?


A lot of the ideas come while I am in transit so I write a lot of things down in a note book. I guess I do most of my writing in front of the computer in the house but I would love to have a study separate to where my daughter’s toys are. I love the Lake District and could imagine myself in another life overlooking Lake Windermere, those lakeland views are inspiring. In reality, we live really close to St Albans Cathedral so walks in the grounds can get the creative juices flowing.


TELL ME ABOUT THE BOOK THAT INFLUENCED YOUR OWN LIFE THE MOST?


I didn’t really take any interest in books until I’d experienced such an intense life changing event as a nervous breakdown. After the upheaval, during my recovery period, I had this huge thirst to find out why it had happened to me. I presumed I would find most of the answers in books so in February 1996 I paid a visit to my university campus library. After an hour or so of browsing I found the book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement by Herbert Freudenberger. After flicking through a few pages this seemed like a breakthrough to me. It allowed me to self-diagnose and therefore take control of my own belief about what happened to me and how I could find the strength to move forward with confidence. I would know my limits from now on. After reading this book I was armed with the ability to protect against the many causes of Burnout. I could identify the varying symptoms of Burnout and now I knew the various actions to take in each particular outcome to be able to treat myself appropriately. The book allowed me to self-manage my illness without making me realize I had an illness. This was of course, 8 months before I had been officially diagnosed Bipolar.


WHAT ARE YOU READING LATELY, AND WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS AS AN AUTHOR?


I worry about myself at major life events, in terms the susceptibility of my state of mind when dealing with them, especially death. I worry about the death of my parents, particularly my father as he had a heart attack in 1997. So to ease my worry I’ve decided to research about grief and grieving to prepare myself for the inevitable. I am currently reading On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler. It identifies the five stages of dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance and that these stages applied not only to the process of accepting death, but also to accepting other difficult and catastrophic life experiences. Obviously I am not in the state of grief at the moment but it is written in a deeply empathetic and accessible way. If you were to ask me about authors who have influenced me I would have to say firstly Kay Redfield Jamison because her book, An Unquiet Mind, not only woke me up but also enlightened my whole family to the idea of hope and that we were not alone.


AND TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE OTHER PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE?


First of all I guess it would be my parents for everything they have done for me during the bad times as well as the good. They supported me through all my troubles during what must have been a very traumatic time for them both.


I love football and during the 1990 World Cup in Italy when I was 18 years old, a new English footballing hero was born in 23 year old Paul Gasgcoine. He was the best player during that World Cup and his unique talent catapulted him into superstardom which brought him a new set of very public problems and stresses, the likes of which we can only imagine. Rather than I dwell on his difficult life outside the touchline, I can only say that on the pitch he brought me no end of enjoyment and wonderment at his marvelous skill and quick brain in the throws of an already speeding game. I would call him a genius.


Steve Jobs is another person I would refer to as genius. When Jobs was only twenty one he built a personal computer and called it the Apple. He was considered a brilliant young man in Silicon Valley because he saw the future demands of the computer industry. Today he’s a canny CEO who knows how to sell a product. No company has done more to democratize the computer and make it user-friendly than Apple Computers. Without the products Jobs has brought to the world I would not have my career in advertising or have written and marketed Hypomanic.


I understand you worked in advertising for many years. TO WHAT EXTENT DOES THIS EXPERIENCE INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?


I haven’t actually stopped working in advertising yet but if I were to stop I would definitely become a teacher in a sixth form school or college to pass on my experience to young, talented art and design students. I’ve worked with copywriters all my professional life as an art director so I guess some of that exposure might have rubbed off onto to my writing style. Most of my writing in advertising is in the construction of headlines. However, I would think most of my ability in writing has come from the enjoyment of reading books regularly since my research days back at university.


I KNOW THIS IS ALREADY A MEMOIR OF A PAST TIME, BUT READERS OFTEN WANT TO KNOW SOMETHING PERSONAL ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR READERS TO KNOW ABOUT HOW YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS LATELY?


I get woken up by my one year old daughter at around 6.30am. My wife brings her from her bedroom into our bed, where she sticks her fingers in my eyes and plays the drums on my face. I try my best to snooze til the alarm goes and then I shower, get dressed and watch some BBC Breakfast News while I eat a bowl of Fruit and Fibre. Then around 8.15am I leave the house and take a ten minute walk to the station at St Albans. Most days I catch the 8.30am to Kings Cross in London which takes nearly half an hour so I read a book to kill the journey. After a brisk walk through St Pancras I jump on the tube at the Piccadilly line, again reading a book for the twenty minutes it takes to get me to Knightsbridge. My day is often concepting ideas with a pen and paper or I can be art directing on an Apple Computer. There are meetings and conference calls, plus lunch in the company canteen or sometimes I have a walk across the road to browse Harrods. My working day ends at 6pm most of the time and I do the reverse journey home to meet my wife and daughter around 7pm. After a cuddle, I take my daughter up for a bath and put her to bed before preparing dinner with my wife. After dinner it’s onto the couch to watch some TV and catch up with each other. We go to bed around 11pm, not exactly rock and roll is it?


BEFORE WE END, I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD SHARE SOME STORIES FROM YOUR PAST AS WELL OR WHATEVER RANDOM THINGS YOU THINK YOUR READERS MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW?


Firstly, I used to work in a Sign Makers in Hawkshead, Cumbria. I would catch the bus from Kendal early in the morning and spend my days applying vinyl lettering to plastic signs amongst the tourists visiting Beatrix Potter country. Secondly, when I was little I won two drawing competitions in my local newspaper. One was to make a new cover for Roald Dahl’s book Danny, the Champion of the World, in which I was rewarded with £5 in a new Lloyds Bank Account. The other was a colouring competition over an outline of Darth Vader. I won a toy Star Wars Troop Transporter which played sound effects from the movie when you pressed certain buttons. And thirdly, in 1984 my middle school were chosen to appear on the children’s BBC TV show Cheggars Plays Pop. I volunteered and was picked by my teachers to play the last game on an inflatable obstacle course filled with foam and plastic balls. I was only on TV for about 15 seconds after they had edited the show for broadcast but I grinned my way through the disappointment as my sister, the only family member present, looked on and laughed.


LASTLY, Its a little bit strange and embarrassing but I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been collecting and hoarding every till receipt given to me since around 1991. I keep them all in a giant box in the attic. The reason I do this is because I believe till receipts are a piece of tangible memory. They tell you where you were, what the date was and what you purchased in detail. When I look at some of my older receipts they spring other memories from the time of purchase and bring back how I was feeling at that particular time. I think till receipts are like keeping a diary but without all the hassle. Also, in the future should I lose my memory or contract a debilitating brain disease I can use the receipts as an aid to remember my life. A very silly thought, I know.


So what happens to your writing career NOW?


I guess it all depends on my lifestyle and of course time. The main bulk of Hypomanic was written in the summer of 2006 when I decided to go freelance and worked from home. That allowed me the time to behave like a commissioned writer and therefore gather a rhythm and momentum that cannot be achieved when you are employed full-time. I’ve still got a lot of ideas for more stories and I’m sure the passion will always be there, it’s just fitting it all in amongst the family and the work commitments.


IF YOU DID HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO WRITE ANOTHER BOOK, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

I have finished planning and prepared research to start work on my second book Stigma. It takes off where Hypomanic finished and covers the disastrous relapse and subsequent diagnosis of Bipolar. It tells the story of the devastating effect a diagnosis had on the family, juxtaposed against the local community’s mixed attitude towards the news. The story aims to present all the set backs that occur through employment, social circles and observing the role that a media consumed society plays in reducing the self esteem of sufferers, by stigmatizing mental illness. It will be a book that highlights the darker aspects of life with an incurable disorder but will also show how an individual identifies how to cope with that negativity and learns how to manage his illness for the rest of his life. All this takes place over an eight year period after Victor graduates in 1996.

There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: