Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mental Illness and the Leading Lady

Is there a romance book audience for a leading lady with mental illness?

Recently, I read a romance novel where the heroine had obsessive compulsive disorder. It was a paranormal and the illness caused her all sorts of problems in her supernatural community. Unfortunately, sometimes the character didn't seem to have the illness and other times it ruled her life. It was supposed to read as tragic, but sometimes came off as a bad episode of the hilarious show Monk.

We can also see entertainment's fascination with characters who live and thrive with mental illness. There are shows on tv like Perception and  Black Box. These characters are doing extraordinary things while attempting manage their illnesses.

I have a book idea for a leading lady with major depression. I kicked the idea around for years, but never wrote the story because:
1. Her story is extremely sad/tragic at the beginning.
2. I didn't know if I had the range to express her emotions. 
3. Would it sell?

Maybe if the story was marketed as a novel/realistic fiction it might grab a few readers. The problem is the story doesn't stay that dark. The heroine struggles to take back her life and finds romance.

Will readers like it?

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, each year more women than men are likely to be diagnosed with depression. Many people know someone with depression or some other mental illness, but would a story where mental illness is a large piece of the story line be something readers would want to dive into?

In essence, the character would be deeply flawed. Given the face of contemporary romance today, would the reader believe the love story? Would the hero seem codependent? These aren't things I think we would ask in real life, but we are speaking of fiction.

I've been on the fence for five years with this story. I've never seen it done to my satisfaction outside of a literary or mainstream fiction (not genre romance) novel. What do you think? What would you need to have happen in the novel to believe in it? I look forward to your responses.



Fiona McGier said...

I say if it's a story you want to write, then go ahead and write it. IF it's a good book, hopefully it will find its audience. If you worry too much ahead of time about it, you'll never write it. Just do it!

I like reading about flawed characters, as long as they still grow within the story arc.

jean hart stewart said...

I agree with Fiona. Do a first draft or outline and see how it goes. This would be a damned hard book to write...

Stormie Kent said...

Thanks for the comments Fiona and Jean. I think I will do a first draft, just to see what the kinks are with it and if I even want to write it or simply think it would be a good idea.

Tina Donahue said...

You should go for it, Stormie. Realism in a romance, IMO, enhances the love story.