Norfolk author's novel examines mental health
Retired clinical psychologist, Angela Hobday, from West Norfolk, has taken up the pen to bring a new awareness to mental health issues through her novels including the latest, Red Cabbage Blue, published by Instant Apostle on September 19. Sandie Shirley reports.
Angela was a clinical psychologist for 30 years before doing an MA in Creative Writing. She draws on her experience as a psychologist to portray fictional plots, characters and a medley of difficult emotions and situations that bring drama and understanding.
She is also passionate about encouraging other writers who are Christians. She holds monthly meetings at her home near Downham Market and is the current chair of the nationwide Association of Christian Writers (ACW).
She writes novels as Annie Try. Her debut, Losing Face (Roundfire Books) was published in 2011 while Trying to Fly and Out of Silence were published in 2017 (both by Instant Apostle) as part of the series about fictional psychologist, Mike Lewis.
“Each of the Dr Mike Lewis stories involves a mystery or dilemma to be solved,” said Angela. “Red Cabbage Blue is the latest Dr Mike Lewis story and features the extraordinary life and discoveries of 22-year-old Bluedelle who eats, drinks, wears and lives surrounded by the colour blue.”
Angela’s fiction mirrors the difficult realities that can be experienced by mental health sufferers. Her powerful written messages breach a world of darkness and loss that includes topics such as facial disfigurement, adoption, life as an agoraphobic, unresolved grief, relationships and the challenges of a mute asylum seeker.
“As a clinical psychologist, I wanted to do something about how those with mental health problems are viewed by others. They are interesting people with their own lives, thoughts and ambitions and are so much more than their diagnosis. Many have to struggle to overcome adversity to do ordinary daily things and then they hold down a job or achieve great things on top of that.”
She says: “Everybody has to find their own writing style and I like to use the first person so I can get under the skin of the character and believe in them as real people. Often the story just takes off if I have written a good character.”
Losing Face takes the form of Word documents, interspersed with emails and features the accident and recovery of a young girl who sustains facial injuries and loss of an eye in a car crash. The story is set against a backdrop of friendship, relationships and challenged values.
Angela attended a psychology conference about visible differences, which was later followed by a seminar about children and adolescents. It revealed a gap in the market. “There were books written for boys with facial scarring but nothing for girls, so I ditched the book I was writing and had the plot for Losing Face by the time I had driven home,” says Angela.
Writing was a childhood pastime. “While my sisters played the piano or painted pictures, I would write to relax. I later wrote professionally, as a psychologist, producing information sheets and articles and co-authoring four books in the Creative Therapy series.”
She has found writing support through the Association of Christian Writers. It produces regular magazines with news updates as well as writers’ days, competitions, manuscript criticism and prayer support. The nearest group in Cambridge was too far to travel so Angela set up a Norfolk ACW group, Brecks, Fens and Pens, at her home nearly ten years ago.
Those first tentative steps led to ACW committee roles as Groups’ Co-ordinator and four years ago she became Chair as she continues to forge the charity’s aim to encourage, equip and inspire writers who are Christians.
Throughout her latest role, the committee has helped launch a members’ Facebook page and prayer space; heightened pastoral care needs and, with enhanced communication, has better equipped the committee to work together. The writers’ days have also expanded to cover more of the country and the number of local groups has grown.
Says Angela: “Writers can be evangelists through their writing, so it is important they are continually seeking God’s will, honing their skills and have encouragement to prepare their work for publication.
“Writing can be a lonely occupation, sometimes not knowing where our writing is going and if anyone will appreciate it. But when we look at our Norfolk group it is a real joy to see how people have blossomed and gained in confidence by meeting and supporting each other.”
Angela’s books can be purchased through Amazon or ordered through local bookshops.
Angela Hobday will be at No.8 The Old Bookshop, High Street, Downham Market, PE38 9DB on Saturday, October 5 at 10am to 3pm, signing her latest Annie Try novel, Red Cabbage Blue.
Pictured above is Angela Hobday with some of her books.