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Hayley Anderton: Mental Health Musings 2024

Hayley Anderton (she/her) does such a lot for indie authors. From online events such as Indie April (in which I was lucky enough to participate last year) to various Indie Author Spectaculars, Winter Wonderlands and even awards, I have the greatest admiration for her, and wonder how she does it. I found Sapphic Fiction February a mammoth task on its own, so how Hayley juggles all these events AND finds the time to write her own books is a mystery to me! And write them brilliantly. I loved Homebound, which focuses on the mental health struggles of a teenager at school, and so I knew I had to interview Hayley about it.

Firstly, what does mental health mean to you?

I tend to think that mental health is, like most things, a spectrum that affects us differently throughout our lives. There are very good times and there are very hard times that feel impossible to face. I don't think a single person comes away unscathed by poor mental health at some time in their life. But for those who live with mental health problems daily, it's so much more than a bump in the road. I've long suffered with anxiety and it's affected my life in many ways, but I know that I'm not alone in it, even though so many keep their struggles to themselves.

Why did you choose to write about mental health in your book?

Homebound was inspired by my struggles at university and living in shared accommodation over around six years of my life. I was unlucky in halls and had some terrible flatmates, to the point where I struggled to leave my room even for basic things like grabbing breakfast or leaving for university. It then manifested into intense anxiety for the next five years of my life, even when things got better. I kept my struggles to myself and wrote a book, which was very therapeutic at the time, but is very hard to read back now. I feel that I've mostly conquered many of my fears, something that I worked on in lockdown, and I will always be grateful that Homebound helped me through that. I also tend to include mental health issues in all of my other books, despite them being dystopian zombie books!

Is there anyone, or any book, that inspired you to write about mental health?

I've read a few that really touched my heart over the years, but if I was going to write about mental health specifically again, I'd like to try poetry, and I'm endlessly inspired by Bryony Rosehurst's poetry. It touches on mental health among other things and made me feel so seen!

Tell me about your research process. What did you do to make sure your mental health representations were accurate?

I don't tend to write outside of my experience too much when it comes to mental health - I know there are people who can better explain how it feels to experience something I never have. But for Homebound, I had to do a lot of research into PTSD for my main character, Lori. I met a lovely editor that I worked with who had a family member with PTSD and agoraphobia, so interviewing her really helped me capture how difficult it can be living with life altering mental health conditions.

Do you have any more intentions to write about mental health in the future?

I'd definitely like to, and there are other topics that branch off from mental health that I'd like to talk about too. Our mental health is so often linked to interaction - or lack of it - with other people, and I definitely have experiences that affected me that I'd like to write about as some kind of catharsis. However, writing Homebound definitely took a toll so I'd have to be in the right frame of mind, I think!

Lastly, why did you pick that specific condition (or conditions) to represent in your book? 

I wouldn't say I have specifically suffered from agoraphobia, but I came to understand it very well through my anxiety. While it was caused by my circumstances, leaving my house at university became very difficult for around a year of my life, and I took that fear along with me for a long time. I saw life from a new perspective when I felt so trapped in those walls, and the story came to me so naturally that I felt like I just had to write it. I wanted to write an honest story about how hard it can be living with mental health problems, and I didn't like the idea of everything being wrapped up neat with a bow by the end. I hope I've achieved that and written an honest reflection on the struggles people go through on a day to day basis!

If you are worried about your mental health, or that of someone around you, here are some helplines you may find useful.

If you’d like to read more books about mental health, I have a list of Sapphic-themed books with mental health rep, which you can find here. Please also check out my books, The Summer We’ve Had and Love You However, both of which have strong mental health themes, discussing Dissociative Identity Disorder and gender-dysphoria-fuelled self-harm, respectively.


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