Having recently finished Highly Illogical Behaviour in one intense sitting, I was astounded by its raw emotion and powerful message. I knew I had to reach out to the author and express how deeply this story had touched me–and so many others–who relate to what the book says at its core. He was kind enough to answer back.
Where did the whole idea come from? Your own personal life?
JCW: I’ve personally struggled with anxiety for many years, so I wanted to explore my own relationship to mental illness and the way that those without mental illness treat and talk about it. I’ve never been agoraphobic, but it’s always been an interesting form of or cousin to anxiety that I’ve wanted to examine through writing.
How did you go about writing such a sensationally unique book? What was the process like, considering how closely you relate personally to Solomon?
JCW: This book definitely felt very personal and, at times, vulnerable to write. I tried to focus on the aspects of the story that I wanted to explore most, though, and that pulled me through the harder parts—I focused on showing the harsh reality of mental illness–and panic attacks–and making it a little technical in that way helped me process writing from such a place of experience and pain.
What has the response been so far? Is it mostly positive?
Are there critics who you disagree with?
JCW: The reviews I’ve read have all been quite humbling and kind. Why on earth would I read any bad reviews? Haha. I try to stay away from negative reviews because they don’t ultimately help me as a writer… they get into my head and make me paranoid. I trust my editor wholeheartedly, so that also helps me take criticism with a very thick skin… because if she likes it, I feel like a superhero.
Why did you decide it was time to write Solomon’s story, in today’s time and age?
Is there any underlying message you want readers to take from this book?
JCW: I’d come to a time in my life where my anxiety was really starting to affect my daily life and my relationships… so since I frequently use writing as a tool to understand myself and others better, I decided it was the right time to explore my anxiety through a story like Solomon’s. And, as someone with mental illness who has many friends who also have mental illness, I felt it was an appropriate time to add my little bit of the conversation about mental illness in the country, especially in teens. We need to talk about it more, like we talk about any disease, and we still have so much stigma to fight against. What I hope readers can take away from Sol and Lisa’s story is that a.) mental illness doesn’t look the same on everyone–it’s personal and everyone has a story and b) it can and often does control the lives of many of our friends and neighbors and we all need to understand it better… and take active steps to destigmatize mental illness.
Do you have any upcoming projects your fans can look forward to?
What’s something you want every one of your readers to know about you and your writing?
JCW: I’m currently working on a top secret book that I can’t talk about at all… but I hope my readers will continue to be surprised and entertained by my stories and I promise to work really hard to make that so. Something I want every one of my readers to know? Hmm… I’d like them to know how seriously I take my job–how storytelling, to me, is sacred and personal and oftentimes cathartic. It’s my greatest honor to get to share stories with all of you. Thank you so much for reading.
John Corey Whaley is certainly one of the most authentic writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to, and his work certainly reflects that. I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavours and will continue to talk about the importance of work that truly matters, that talks openly about mental health, sexuality and topics that some writers purposefully avoid in fear of being “controversial”. Mr. Whaley deserves all the credit – and more – that he gets for writing such a brave book.