Q&A with David Roland, author of How I Rescued My Brain, shortlisted for the 2015 ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year
How did the idea to write your book originate?
I had been using writing as part of my recovery as a way of resolving the emotional trauma I had experienced from working as a clinical psychologist, and as a way of activating the left prefrontal cortex, which I discovered was necessary for regaining emotional control and improving concentration and decision-making. Then it occurred to me, after I had turned the corner in my recovery, that I could help others by writing about what I did. I’d found the written stories of others and technical books, such as Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself, incredibly helpful and inspiring. Perhaps, I thought, I can also pass on my story to others so they obtain similar benefit.
What’s your favourite thing about being a published author?
I love the people I meet as a result of being published, both readers and fellow authors. Readers speak to me at book signings and after my talks, and many email me. Because I attend writers’ festivals I meet authors in social situations that would not have been achievable for me before.
What are some of the things you love about Australian bookstores?
I love bookstores, anywhere! I feel at home in a bookstore. When I’m travelling around the country, visiting new places, I feel settled once I’ve located some green space, good coffee, and a bookstore – all places I like to linger.
What’s the most recent Australian book that you read and loved?
I’ve just read Kate Howarth’s memoir Settling Day because I will be on a panel with her at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. It’s a compelling account of an Aboriginal person living and thriving, but being pulled down by the shadows of her past.
If you could meet any Australian author, dead or alive, who would you like to meet?
I’d like to meet Tim Winton and spend time in the ocean with him and then afterwards go for coffee at a seaside café. I think we share a similar sensibility about the ocean. I’ve read all his books. I’d love to hear about his creative process, and, I think, he’d enjoy hearing about my understanding of creativity from a psychological and neuroscience perspective.
What Australian book had the biggest impact on you as a child?
Undoubtedly Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding. The alluring idea of a pudding that could be transformed into any flavour and that is endless swept up my imagination. But also, the animal characters, their way of speaking and the bush setting resonated with me. I spent my early childhood in the bush.
After readers have finished reading your book, which Australian book would you recommend they read next?
I’d recommend Kate Richard’s book Madness: A Memoir. She describes her harrowing descent into madness, and this gave me a visceral insight into psychotic delusion. Some parts of her recovery echoed with mine. In particular, discovering the qualities of treating practitioners that were damaging, and the qualities of those that were helpful, validated my own experience.