Mental health and the inspiration for my damaged characters

I’m often asked where my inspiration draws from for writing damaged characters like Alex Montgomery in Saving Alexander and Nick Mathers in Worth Keeping. I think the answer is we all draw on our darker experiences when creating these angst driven souls. We reach down deep inside and drag up the darkness from our core. The wonderful thing about writing fiction is that you can create your own happy endings. Real life doesn’t work that way. The Keith Milano Memorial Fund bears testament to that fact. However, in every tragedy, there is a light. It’s not that we make any less of our loved one’s passing but rather that we choose to remember the good times we shared and in this case, try make sure anyone feeling the same is caught in time, on outspread angel wings and born on the back of a strong supporting strength that may save lives. This is what this organisation sets out to do. Keith Milano Memorial Fund   and Shh Mom’s Reading EffortsKeith-Milano-Fundraiser-larger-banner-e1398956790418

Saving Alexander




My book ‘Saving Alexander’ is dedicated to my sister Carol, younger than me by three years. She was always a delicate soul, feeling too deeply and bearing pain that she held too close and was unable to let go. A series of traumatic events played on her psyche and she decided to take refuge in alcohol. In doing so, she fell into deep depression and her mental health suffered to such an extent it became a deep well out of which she would never emerge. There are some fairly personal revelations in this blog post, and you’ll get to know a bit of me that perhaps no one really knew before. I feel it’s worth it for this event.

My character Alex Montgomery, he of the different colour eyes in the picture above, shares her same birthday, the 27th September, a Libra. Star signs may be hocus-pocus or not depending on your point of view but these qualities were some of what drew me in to create Alex –

Peace loving, idealistic, hospitable, diplomatic, indecisive until forced. Seeking others to provide the peace they crave.

Carol herself decided that she would kill herself through alcohol as she did not want her death certificate to read that she had committed suicide. She didn’t want her children to live with that stigma. She made this conscious decision in a very matter of fact way and told me about it. From then on it was simply a matter of time. She’d made her choice, and nothing would change her mind. One day she went into hospital and never came out. Two days after her 42nd birthday she passed away.

I prefer to remember the good times we had – the giggly little sister who played with Barbie dolls and loved glitter. The beautiful woman who produced beautiful children. The teasing sister who was the youngest in the family and had her two big older sisters to look out for her. The look on her face when she watched Oliver with me, and sang along to ‘Food Glorious Food’ at the top of her voice. The sister who sat with me while we constantly re-played records in order to try write down the lyrics for our scrap book. Tom Jones was a favourite and we loved all the Bond themes. She was an avid reader of romance and happy ever after to her was the Holy Grail.

Saving Alexander dedication to Carol
Saving Alexander dedication to Carol

My book dedication is to her, her warmth, her smile, her good times and of course, her bad times. She is forever remembered, missed and I shall always think fondly of the little sister who always threw one good potato in with the bad potato in the bin ‘so it had company’. I think that sums her up so well.

They look so happy together. Hey, who said even potatoes couldn’t have a bit of romance as long as they’re together? I think this might have been the subliminal desire she wanted to create 🙂

Happy Potaoes









These are all the authors that are taking part in the event to showcase that mental health matters. We donated sales proceeds of our books to the Keith Milano Memorial Fund. I’m proud to say that two of my books are on this collage – Worth Keeping and of course, Saving Alexander.

My publisher was very on board with the idea and have been a great source of support to this cause. Boroughs Publishing Group . My book ‘Worth Keeping’ was also involved in raising funds for a UK charity called the NSPCC – the National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children with part sale proceeds being donated to them too. It’s a small thing to give back to such wonderful organisations. Nick and Owen, and Alex and Sage would be so proud of the fact that their books are helping others who need help.

Denise collage

Mental health and the inspiration for my damaged characters

8 thoughts on “Mental health and the inspiration for my damaged characters

  1. Thanks for Sharing. Mental health is a very sensitive, emotional and personal thing for us. My cousin is bipolar and she went from the sweetest person ever to a dishelved nightmare. I can’t allow her to come in the house when it’s just me and the kids because she sometimes get violent and irrational. It’s devastating to be honest. Thank you.

    P.S. I am sorry i started the war over at goodreads yesterday regarding your surname. I just wanted to be able to use your books for the challenge “author name “N”.

    1. Thanks for commenting Ezinwanyi. I’m glad my post meant something to you. It’s a difficult thing to face, mental illness. Wow, there was a war on Goodreads over my surname? I didn’t know lol. No problem. You know what they say – any publicity is good publicity 🙂 I couldn’t find the thread where the question/challenge was being posed myself.

      1. It’s weird because my cousin’s sister and her fiancee finally broke up after the fiancee’s parents have been disruptive in their relationship. They said that mental disease is genetic and the parents don’t want that introduced into their family. The parents make comments that 2 uncles committed suicide after bouts of mental illness and that they don’t want grandkids who may be “crazy”. It’s been hurtful…but the sad thing (and hardest to accept) is that there is some truth to the genetic comment. It’s still stung to constantly hear about their fear of the “taint”.

        I hope you can continue to help your sister’s kids.

  2. What an interesting post. My dad died from his alcoholism, though I think his was less a choice of wanting to die than being unable to live without the alcohol.

    I can’t imagine this happening to one of my siblings though. Awful. Depression and other mental illnesses are so difficult, I’m glad they’re not as taboo as they used to be and hope more people can get the help they need.

  3. Sue, yet another insightful and courageous post from you. As a person who has lived with depression since childhood, and found ways to acknowledge and ‘work’ with it, the post was particularly poignant. I hope your dearest sister has now found her peace.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top
%d bloggers like this: