Why I Chose Suicide:On Writing Detached

Why I Chose Suicide:On Writing Detached

Posted on August 17 by Christina Kilbourne in News
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Actually, I didn’t chose suicide as the topic of my latest YA novel. The topic chose me. 

Or rather I was approached by a mother whose teenage son had committed suicide, and she wanted a book she could use in her outreach efforts. She had read two of my YA books — Dear Jo and They Called Me Red — and thought I could do the subject justice.

I balked at the idea of writing a book about teen suicide. What if I gave someone the idea to kill themselves? What if my book led to a teenager taking their own life? It wasn’t a risk I was willing to face.

But then Anna’s voice came to me and I didn’t have a choice. Her story filled my head the way thoughts of suicide filled hers. Anna had a story to tell and, as I learned through my research, she was far from being alone.

I set myself a daunting challenge in writing Detached. I wanted a story that would be sensitive, but not suggestive. I wanted a story that would appeal to teens, yet not scare off parents, teachers, or librarians. I wanted a story that would show the despair suicide brings to family and friends without being preachy.

Readers, teens especially, can feel a “message” coming from twenty pages away.

In essence, I wanted to write a book about suicide that would bring hope, understanding, and perhaps a measure of comfort to anyone who might be reading, suffering from depression, and wanting to end their life. At the same time, I wanted those who had lost a loved one to suicide to realize it wasn’t their fault and, in all likelihood, there was nothing they could have done, especially if mental illness was involved. I didn’t want to alienate readers by the subject matter but I wanted to draw them into a dark place so they could better understand why someone as outwardly enviable as Anna might want to kill herself.

Recently my daughter’s friend attempted suicide. She is an energetic and outgoing teenager who excels at sports. When my shock subsided, I knew without a doubt that teen suicide is an important topic and Detached is an important book. Even though I still have misgivings about raising the subject so publicly, I know it has to happen.

Detached was a hard book to write. In fact, I didn’t want to write it at first. But I’m glad I did. I’ve already had readers reach out to me (who read advance copies) to tell me about their experiences with depression and how Detached made them feel understood finally and how the book gave them hope. Everyone needs hope.

My hope is that those who read Detached come away with more compassion for, and understanding of, those who suffer from a mental illness like depression. My hope is that like the jogger, the garbage man, the homeless man, and Anna’s dog, Detached prevents one desperate teen from attempting suicide.