GB Readalong: Depression is a Bastard

Sorry this post is kind of late! Life was super crazy this week and I hardly had time to breathe, so this is an exhausted, emotional me trying to write a blog post that I think is really important.

I read this wonderful blog post on Relentless Reading about how Scott Lynch grappled with his depression and managed to finish his book. That book was The Republic of Thieves, and there is a lot about it that I understand a lot better now that I have more context for it.

How has your depression manifested in your books?
I like to think that since I’m now a member of that tribe, I’m a little more cognizant about how I portray mental illness. But the depression isn’t reflected in it per se, everything else I frickin’ went through during those years is in that book, though.Republic turned into a different book from what I started. That was the divorce. One of the most helpful things my mom said was that a divorce is like death. It’s like a third person in your life dies. And when I pulled myself back together and started writing again, I realized the story I was telling was not the one I started.I’d been with my wife for 12 years. She was my life and I thought I was going to be with her forever. And that was how I structured the book, I then got divorced and discovered that the happy ending does not come without a lot of work.So the Locke of the later version of Republic is a wiser individual. He’s a guy who has a romantic obsession and learns to deal with it in a fair fashion to the other person involved. The key line that he says to Sabitha in the book is “I understand that the fervor of a desire is irrelevant to its justice.”I acknowledge that you are another person, that you have needs — that you are not just another prize for me to win. I want you as badly as I did before, so tell me how to proceed and I will listen to you.That’s not the book that I set out to write in 2008. It adjusted my views on romance and the inevitability of puppy love lasting forever. I don’t think I’m more cynical, just more realistic and I think I have a more mature view.
When I first read The Republic of Thieves, I was infuriated by how fickle Sabetha was. She'd lead Locke on, then say no, "I choose not to be charmed" and then waltz away, leaving Locke dejected like a kicked puppy.

Now that I'm an older and wiser reader, and especially now that I have the context for Locke and Sabetha's relationship, I really like how Lynch chose to portray it. We're so used to fairy tale romances: you love someone, they may not like you at first but then they come around, everyone lives happily ever after. But sometimes real life doesn't work like that. Sometimes you really have to work at a relationship, and your feelings can be really freaking complicated.

When Locke tells Sabetha that he'll respect her decision either way, even though he wants more than anything for her to love him, you know he's growing up. This isn't the child who fixated on her red hair or who fantasized about her for years in her absence. This is a young man who realizes that Sabetha is a person and that their love isn't inevitable (just because you're the main character of a series doesn't mean you get a fairy tale romance. Interesting lesson, that :) ).

I also really appreciate how transparent Lynch has been about dealing with his depression and how that affects his books. Publicly announcing your depression is really hard, because there is so much stigma associated with mental illness. Lynch is unflinchingly honest about how depression has affected him and made it hard for him to get his books done by the deadlines. After all, when you have days when it's hard to find the will to live, how can you expect to find the will to write a book? This is why it took six years between Red Seas and Republic of Thieves, and it's also why Thorn of Emberlain is being released later than expected.

I had a period of depression during my freshman year of college. I felt intensely alone even when I was surrounded by my friends, I'd wake up crying and not know why I was sad, I couldn't concentrate in class or enjoy any of the things that usually cheered me up. It was really hard for me to deal with, because loneliness is something I have always been anxious about and in my first year away from home it really hit hard. Thankfully I found ways of dealing with it, largely thanks to a friend who also had experienced depression. I think the key for me was knowing that I wasn't alone.

What I experienced is probably not even a fraction of what Lynch is dealing with, and my respect for him grows tremendously when I think of how useless I was when I was dealing with depression. There was no way I would be creating anything as remotely entertaining or complex as The Gentleman Bastards series.

So yes, I'm disappointed that I'll have to wait even longer to see Locke and Jean again, but I would much rather wait for Scott Lynch to create the best story he can than force him to crank out a book by a deadline. I wish him the best of luck in conquering his demons and I'm looking forward to seeing Jean and Locke again.

After all, good things are worth waiting for, aren't they?

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