Friday, September 04, 2015

Interview with Miles Wright

Geoff Wright, writing as Miles Wright,
lives in a small seaside village on the beautiful far south coast of Australia, with his wife and children (and his fish.) Right from an early age he fell in love with the outdoors; especially the sea. When he was very young he lived on a small farm, and spent many happy hours searching the creek for small fishes, tortoises and other make-believe creatures. He learned to ride a horse at the age of four, and sometimes rode his horse to school. When he was eight years old his family went to live on a river. There were no roads or cars down by the river, making it a very secluded and idyllic place to live. After school he spent many happy hours fishing, and sometimes hiked with friends up the river to exciting and unexplored places. These magical experiences and places have helped form the backdrop for some of the settings in his books.
He began reading books at an early age, and started writing short fantasy and science fiction stories, which his teacher would read to the class. His favourite subject all through school was English, and he won a Commonwealth Scholarship before going on to university to study English Literature and Marine Biology. He also has spent time studying at Moore Theological College. He is also a member of YALITCHAT, an organization for those who write Young Adult books. He is a keen environmentalist, and supports the local zoo for endangered species. He owned a Christian bookstore for several years, and would like to use the sales from his own books to support the Salvation Army, and help those less fortunate in society.
Wright's current books are The Angel Tree and Dragon Fly, and both address the issues of youths with mental illnesses. In this interview, Miles tells us a little more about where he got the inspiration for his novels.
1. Your first book The Angel Tree and your second book Dragon Fly both address youths with mental disorders. Where did you get the inspiration to write about the feelings and lives of people dealing with mental illness?

Wright: Way back in the 80's I had a friend with schizophrenia. It was a rollercoaster ride to say the least. Unfortunately she had tried smoking marijuana in her teens, and it had brought out in her a terrible psychosis. There were days when she knew who I was, and other days when she thought I was someone else. She could not hold down a job, and frequently went missing. Just like Joshua and Michael in my books, she constantly had voices in her head telling her to do bad things to herself and running her down. She, like Joshua, had an unhealthy dose of paranoia, to the point where she refused to take her medication, and often spat it out or hid it. On the positive side of things, she was a very creative person, and often spent hours composing beautiful music and drawings. Some of her drawings were displayed in exhibitions. Unfortunately her voices in her head had a say in what she drew, and a lot of it was sinister and demonic. She made me laugh one time when a group of us went out to dinner. She arrived at the restaurant with her entire face painted in intricate drawings, which amused the other restaurant patrons.

The reason I included mentally ill teenagers in my two books was to show the reader that these people are valuable and important, even in their broken state. There is a high teenage suicide rate in Australia due to teenage mental illness, so I believe the more we can get this topic out in the open, the more people who are suffering can reach out for help without feeling bad about it.
The other reason is that although schizophrenia is a terrible illness, it takes the friends of the patients into another world, and gives them a unique vision of a completely different world, and can be at times fascinating and inspiring. We should never look down on these people or feel superior to them.

2. Both of your books also mention this Angel Tree. Can you tell readers a little bit more about the concept behind this tree, and how it came to be?

Wright: The Angel Tree came into being when my friend with schizophrenia started drawing pictures of trees with demonic faces in them. It was her way of expressing the trauma she was going through. I'm sure we have all seen a twisted old gnarled tree with knots in it that looked like a face.

The Angel Tree also represents the fears which we all harbour in our lives. It is a great paradox in life that the only way for us to grow is to face our fears and challenges and conquer them. Imagine then you are Joshua, bedridden and staring at the thing that scared him the most all day. Thus the opening to my first book. His older sister sees the problem and changes his focus on the tree. Now another one of life's paradoxes comes into play; the things that scare us the most can sometimes be the way for us to go ahead in life. Just think of the first time you had to do an exam or go for your driver's license.
The third paradox in the Angel Tree is that it is Joshua's desire to go to the tree which leads him to freedom from the hard times he faces at home. Not only that, but because he faces his fear of the tree it leads him on an adventure, and finds him the best friend he has ever had.

3. Anything else you would like readers to know about your books?

Wright: My books are a great adventure from start to finish, but are not suitable for teens under about 13 years, as they deal with themes such as teen suicide and mental illness. The proceeds from my books are being donated to charity.


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