When I read the synopsis for Under Rose-Tainted Skies I knew I had to read this book. Mental health representation is important to me; if I hadn’t felt so embarrassed and like a failure, I would perhaps have sought help for my depression far earlier than I did and it might not have gotten so bad. In addition, one of the biggest effects of my depression was the fact that I became a shut-in, who’s main contact with the outside world was my then-boyfriend (now husband). So Norah’s struggles spoke to me strongly. I’m in the middle of the book now and it is brilliant—it hits close to home quite often, but Norah is really funny too. Look for a review tomorrow! In the mean time, I got to speak to the book’s author Louise Gornall, who I think is a YA author to watch!
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Louise Gornall?
Hi! That’s me. I’m an author from a super tiny corner of the North West. I like books, horror movies, and superheroes. Junk food, make-up, and my pride of cats. Oh, and tea. I love tea, with biscuits – naturally. And I’m disabled. On a more profound level? Jury is still out on who I am. The nature of my mental health makes me a little unpredictable. ‘Quirky’ is my most favourite identifier to date.
How would you introduce people to Under Rose-Tainted Skies?
I would tell people that Rose is the brutally honest story of a girl, who is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, beyond her mental health.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies stars Norah, a young woman dealing with agoraphobia, OCD and other mental health issues. Did you do a lot of research into these issues?
I did, sort of. This story is a reflection of my own battles with mental health. I’ve been struggling with agoraphobia, OCD, anxiety, and depression for over ten years. I’ve read all the books, seen all the therapists, taken all the meds, kept all the diaries. This has been such a huge part of my life for so long, I struggle to remember how things were before it. This is what I know.
What was the hardest thing about writing Norah’s story?
Getting honest. I’m lucky enough to have a family I can openly discuss things with, but beyond them, my days were a secret. My behaviours a secret. My coping methods a secret. I poured so many things into this novel that I never dreamed of sharing with my closest friends, let alone strangers, but anything less than honesty felt icky and unjust.
A book such as Under Rose-Tainted Skies would have helped teen me immensely, if only to see I was not alone. Why do you think it is important for teens to read about characters with mental health issues?
Exactly as you say. Mental health conditions exist, they are so much more than people know, and they are so hard to handle alone. Mental health does not start and stop at the same five or six recycled behaviours/nuisances you see in mainstream media. Don’t buy into stigma. Some conditions are rooted deep, and become all consuming. Reading books about mental health helps you gain insight and explore a new perspective to a situation most people don’t feel comfortable explaining out loud.
You’re a strong mental health advocate. What is the first thing people should know about mental health?
I love that you think of me as a strong advocate for mental health. Legit tears. That is a real privilege. Anyways… I’m forever getting sidetracked… The first thing people should know about mental health is that no two conditions present in the same way. Scientists tell me that going for a jog is going to benefit me…now, if I could only figure out how to get over my fear of everything beyond my front door… you see? That’s no good for me. That doesn’t help someone like me. That just makes me feel useless. There isn’t a catch all cure/wellness guide.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
Yes. Hopefully I’m heading to the YALC event in July. YOU ALL SHOULD COME. I’m so excited. It will take some work — it always does — but it will be so worth it! I’ve never been to a book event before.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I love film. If I weren’t a writer, I would have been an actress. Actress/director was a dream for a very long time. Alas, I got sick and had to reevaluate. Oh, and cats, I’m passionate about cats, and chocolate, and my BFF’s, and hot tubs.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Oh gosh, there are so many I want…
You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner.
Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven.
The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.
I’ll stop at five. Promise…hmmm…
As I Descended by Robin Talley.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
My OCD comes into play here a little bit (*a lot). I shelve in order of size and thickness. I like them all to look similar on the shelf, as square/neat as possible. I tried shelving by colour once, but the shades were so different, if drove me bonkers. I know that sounds weird because the colours are entirely mismatched when they’re stacked by size, right? Right. But I’m not going for colour, so my brain doesn’t register a problem. OCD is complex, yo!
Bio: Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy, and she is currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. A YA aficionado, film nerd, identical twin, and junk food enthusiast, she’s also an avid collector of book boyfriends. Her debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, was published in July 2016.