I’m delighted to welcome Robert Doran to Jera’s Jamboree today.
As this fiction is inspired by his own struggle with mental illness, Robert Thomas Doran is grateful to god for helping him recover from mental illness.
Today he lives in Pennsylvania with his wife of fifteen years. A Prison of Lies was written as an act of faith and with the hope of helping others afflicted with mental illness.
Please summarise A Prison of Lies in 20 words or less.
It is an Odyssey through emotional trauma, from glimmers of vulnerability to acute crisis, then rage and depression, and finally recovery.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
It is based on my very real experience and it is almost a memoir. In fact I went through pains to bring it from memoir to fiction as a way of protecting privacies. In my youth I fell into a profound mental illness or as I term it, emotional trauma when a romantic involvement ended very badly. The book that eventually came into being, flowed from my desperate attempts to communicate with the object of that unrequited love. The book portrays how easily one can fall into such an abyss on the heels of traumatic events and also how difficult the struggle out of that abyss can be.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book which would you be? and why?
I was Tom Doran, the main character, figuratively of course. I make no bones about that. Robert Thomas Doran is a pen name, by the way. That decision, to use a pen name was in deference to my sister’s request. It also affords me certain pragmatism for my private life.
What inspired you to write?
The book is an unblinking examination of the specific illness that overcame me. Writing it was perhaps a vital component to my recovery. At one point my writing was a way of charting the emotional path I had taken into the illness. In that moment there was a survival aspect to my writing. At that juncture I had been swallowed up by the illness and it was very much like being lost in a wilderness: not a benign wilderness but one that teamed with threats to my existence. If I was going to find a way out of that wilderness I needed to have a map of how I had gotten there. Who were those kids who dropped breadcrumbs in the forest to find their way back? Was that Hansel and Gretel? It was like that.
Later, when it started to become apparent, that I would make it out, I felt a profound need to explain what had happened to me. I was always very much aware that there are a great many mentally ill people in the world. I don’t know why God chose to rescue me, when so many others succumb to their illnesses, but having survived, I felt a profound need to offer back what I could of my own experience with the hope and the prayer that it might help other people. It is my way of thanking God, and my way of repaying God. From that perspective any concerns about how I might appear to others who might read the book are miniscule when weighed against the sense of mission that called me to write it.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
As an independent author, I do not have the luxury of writing on a daily basis, although it is one of my dreams to do exactly that, in some future day. But currently, I make my livelihood in sales, and I have discovered that it is an extremely creative endeavor. In the effort at closing sales, you look for every opportunity, but you must also meet a person on their level and you must be present in the moment and tuned into where they are in their process. You must get out of your own head and into theirs as much as possible. A sale is only going to happen, when a customer decides they want to make a purchase. This is all my way of saying that every day is a creative process for me whether or not I am writing.
Do you have a favorite place you go to for inspiration or a favorite activity?
I have always loved hiking and nothing gives me serenity or makes me feel more connected to God then when I am on a mountain trail. There is a tremendous sense of rapture in the mountains and climbing a mountain slope ranks among the most strenuous activities you can do. When you are focused on getting up a hill after a while there isn’t room for much else. You do fall into meditations on things that you are experiencing now or have experienced in the past, but it’s more the rumination on experiences than the welter of experiences and somehow it is very cleansing.
What is the significance of the cover of A Prison of Lies?
The cover of the book was taken from a moment at the end of the book’s second chapter. That moment, I can tell you is memoir not fiction.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
If this is any indication, I think as you progress through the book you will see shades of The Catcher in the Rye, Indiana Jones, The Silence of the Lambs, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There’s also some sex in it as well. But I wouldn’t say that I was channeling or emulating any given author, I very much wanted to tell the story the way I wanted to tell it. My list of favorite authors would have to include: Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Miller, Richard Dawkins, Nathaniel Philbrick, Joseph Heller, Arthur Miller, David McCullough, and Barbara Tuchman.
What are you reading now? Opinion?
I’m reading The Black Eagle Inn by Chrisotph Fischer. Anna is the matriarch of a German family, the proprietors of a farm in Bavaria which incorporates a Country Inn. Set against the backdrop of World Wars One and Two and the nascent new republic of post war Germany, Fischer weaves a story of familial and political competition and infighting within this small family dynasty. The interplay of his characters is quite plausible and very compelling. His characters are by turns flawed and heroic and collectively they portray an intelligent glimpse into the human condition.
Have you joined any writing groups?
I have joined several, but I interact most with Fostering Success, and The World Literary Café. Melissa Foster and her group are tremendously supportive, and offer a wealth of good advice for independent authors.
Does your book tackle a social barrier? How have you incorporated it into the story?
It is hard for me to think of a social issue that my book does not grapple with. And once again, I do not give any such topic a light touch. Instead of glossing over an issue I prefer to dive in and mud-wrestle with it. If anything, as a reader, you will struggle through many passages precisely because they are as uncomfortable as they are. But there is nothing gratuitous intended in this treatment. I am honestly trying to explore my own psyche in the book’s various passages. I am touching my own nerves and perhaps as the reader I will be touching yours as well. My belief which is born of my experience is that which we can not discuss inwardly or outwardly is that which rules us or imprisons us. With my book, I am throwing all the windows open in my house and letting the wind blow through it. Again, I am not making any apologies for my book. I will understand if it is not your cup of tea. Very clearly I am also not trying to hoodwink an unsuspecting reader into wasting their money on a book they will not like. I am being as up front about my work as I can be.
What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far?
Again, my book may be somewhat unique since it is so much based on my own experience and that experience was not a pleasant one. The most difficult part of writing my book was living it first. Many of the titles for my chapters bespeak the pain of that experience: Flipping Out, Further Along the Razor, and The Bottom of the Sea for example are as descriptive of that pain as is possible.
What tips do you have for other aspiring writers?
My own feeling about writing is that authenticity is key. If you are trying to invent an entertaining story, I suppose, there is no need for authenticity. But my taste in books has always been to learn something about ourselves or our world and I gravitate to that type of writing. Seeing the literary world through the prism of my own preference I have landed on authenticity as being of paramount importance in writing. If you’re not willing to be absolutely genuine to the message or the experience, why waste your time on writing at all. If there is something you genuinely want to say in a book, if there is a place you want to take your readers, my opinion is that you must sacrifice all for that purpose: you must sacrifice all for your art. Above all else write for yourself first, if it is truly art that you are after and not book sales, per se. I am really not concerned with who likes my book and who does not. I hope people like my book, but in the end, I wrote the book I wanted to write. I did not write the book I wanted to sell.
Thank you for your honesty Robert. It sounds as if your fictional journey through the underworld of emotion will be of great help to others undergoing the same journey.
A Prison of Lies is a vivid portrayal of a troubled youth, who confronts a world of sadness and hopelessness and comes to question the existence of God. Beset by challenges on every quarter: unable to fit in with his peers, shamed by his sexuality, ill equipped for emotional intimacy and unable to express himself with girls; he slips from a depression into full blown mental illness. In the depths of his illness, he battles internal demons that threaten to steal his innocence with evil thoughts and hallucinations.
Doran presents a story of anguish, breakdown, and recovery with the hope that this journey through mental illness might raise our consciousness; kindle a common understanding and most importantly, facilitate the recovery of individuals who may be similarly afflicted. As he offers this compelling glimpse into a man’s personal crisis that includes the reasons why he loathed himself and developed a massive inferiority complex, Doran illuminates an intriguing and often frightening path into what exactly motivates suicides and fuels crimes of passion. Highlighted in his story are insightful poems and compelling conversations therapists and hypnotists.
Ebook: available exclusively through KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing and KDP-Select: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G3BJYES
Praise for – A Prison of Lies
What mental illness looks like from the inside
“This book is not an “easy read”. It is however the first time I have ever gotten an inkling about what a person suffering from mental illness is going through. It is difficult to read the cycles of obsessive illogic and compulsion. These make you want to scream, step back and get some perspective. It is painful to witness how the steps toward recovery are so small and so slow. And yet, on the book’s final pages we do see recovery. It is a book of hope, but a very hard earned hope.
I would recommend this book for anyone who has a loved one suffering from mental illness who would like to know what is going on. I would also hope that it could be offered to young people. If I had read this book at 18 I might have known what the signs were and had a better idea of how to offer help. I would have been better prepared for life and been of more use to people who were dear to me.”
Excitingly dark and gripping read
“Robert Doran has painted a gripping, detailed mural of the progression of mental health illness. He depicts a torn canvas of a damaged youth, the downward spiral that ended in a nervous breakdown during his early adulthood, and his courageous yet painstaking road to recovery. The dark world Doran portrays within the mind of the protagonist and about mental health illness will introduce people to ways of thinking that are rarely spoken of out loud. Moreover, the book promises the idea that such problems can be overcome.”
– Chad Coren, PsyD
A story of redemption and inspiration
The rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood is a crystallizing event in a man’s life. It can be full of excitement and discovery, awakenings and awareness, new experiences and journeys. It can also bring rejection, depression, and displacement. In the case of Thomas Doran, his emotional development took a turn sideways when at the end of an emotional involvement he was systematically annihilated. Consequently he made that passage into adulthood, maladjusted, disoriented, and suffering from profound mental and emotional traumas.
Fortunately for us as the readers, Doran chose to portray what a passage such as this can be like in his novel, A PRISON OF LIES. This story of deep morass and redemption is an inspiration for all of us, whether we share in the depths of his depression, or know others who do. It is a read that reaches us way down there where we normally don’t like to go and brings us unblinkingly into that darkness (happily, now past.)
– Anthony DiPello
A powerful novel.
A Prison of Lies is a powerful and eye opening novel. In reading it, I was compelled to imagine myself and my loved ones in Thomas Doran’s shoes. It was painful to experience his struggle to break free of the demons that engulfed him, and to witness that inner war, much of which was fought without any outside system of support. Having read this book, I hope to be more aware of my own words and actions. We are often unaware of how deeply our words and actions are impacting others. Definitely a good read for the soul.
– Cheryl Snoha