A hearty welcome, please, for C.J. Sutton, author of Dortmund Hibernate and This Strange Hell. He’s travelled a long way to be here. Over to you, CJ.
Taming the Mind
Social anxiety is an issue very close to me. Despite finding techniques to create a confident exterior, being placed in a crowded room or asked personal questions can still cause the heart to beat faster than it should. Many writers, to varying degrees, live with social anxiety. Our ideas thrive in our minds, transferred onto the screen and page for others to see at their leisure without our physical presence. This craft works best in isolation.
I learned quite quickly that I could tell a story. But my storytelling needed preparation if I was to be placed on that stage. Put a blank page in front of me and I’ll smash out a short story before the day is out. Replace the page with real faces and the result would not be identical.
Being socially anxious can mean even the most mundane task, such as ordering a meal or getting a haircut, can lead to avoidance. I know people who fear speaking on telephones and attending meetings but will happily hold a snake or ride a rollercoaster. What is the cause? It’s hard to say, because the mind is rogue, and everyone finds fear in a different cave.
The characters I create are constantly in situations I would dread. Being the creator of those scenes allows a unique perspective. One can explore the why and the when, constructing responses that appear resolute. But I am never anxious when I’m writing. Never.
In my debut novel Dortmund Hibernate, the protagonist is a psychologist tasked with nine criminally insane patients. He faces drug dealers, gangsters, sex addicts, murderers, rapists and all manner of sick minds. In his approach to his patients, this psychologist uses his education and passion for the job to remain calm and seek best solutions. But when having a drink at a bar, this changed. Suddenly, he cares what everyone else thinks of him and the room is suffocating.
In my new novel This Strange Hell, a main character lives in a town governed by a violent gang and hidden from police patrol. When this gang enters a public place wielding guns and requesting donations, she is a pillar amongst the locals and does what she can to keep her friends at ease. Ten pages later, when meeting a love interest for a meal on her birthday, this same character is trembling and acting out of the norm. She owns guns and works off the land. Informal. When life becomes formal, she starts to crumble.
Social anxiety is different for everybody. Whether it’s crowds, queues, attention or expectation, the feeling of being trapped in that situation can be the equivalent of pain. People may call someone out for being shy or introverted, and they may think that person is rude or uninterested. But within, their hearts are fluttering and terror dawns.
I know social anxiety.
Thank you, CJ. And yes, social anxiety is different for everybody. When I mention having social anxiety, people assume I don’t like doing public speaking or talking to strangers. Neither is true.
THIS STRANGE HELL by C. J. Sutton
A suited man runs from a burning tower in Melbourne as bodies rain down upon him.
Before the city’s millions can compose, he boards a train into the countryside. Hiding his identity and changing his appearance, the man finds his way to Sulley Ridge, a lawless town in the heart of the harsh Victorian outback.
The following day, a burned man wakes up in a hospital bed. Surging with rage, he speaks a name. Within an hour, the suited man’s face is across every screen in the country. It’s the greatest manhunt Australia has ever seen.
But as he tries to camouflage in Sulley Ridge, he soon realises the town has its own problems. Under the iron fist of a violent leader, the locals are trapped within slow and torturous decay…
As we learn more about the night of the burning tower, the connection between the suited man and the burned man threatens to leave a trail of destruction across the state.
Here is the story of a man on the run from his past, as the line between sanity and evil is danced upon.
Here is the tale of This Strange Hell.
Find C.J. Sutton
He previously appeared on this blog when he brought Walter Perch along to Letters from Elsewhere.
Another fascinating letter from elsewhere was written by Dr Eloise Kluft, who was brought by Stephanie Bretherton, author of Bone Lines. This book is now published and available from all the places listed on her website.
Do you know what Uplift means? I hope to blog about this in a few days. It has connections with my new book, Cultivating a Fuji, out in May.