Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spotlight Author - Rosanne Dingli - Guest Post

ROSANNE DINGLI is the Western Australian author of According to Luke, Death in Malta, six collections of short stories, and a poetry book . Her publishers, BeWrite Books, will soon release her third novel Camera Obscura, another romantic thriller with literary, artistic and music references.


Authors and Happiness
by Rosanne Dingli

I recently wrote a blog on authors and depression that received an unusual number of responses, and my site received a record number of hits. This topic resounds with artists of all kinds, because they seem to think of themselves as prey to depression, or fits of moodiness, or ‘feeling blue’.
Whether artists are more subject to feeling depressed than other people is not clear: but they certainly have the means with which to make it concrete. They have the means to make it public. They have tools of expression. None of us are strangers to pictures such as The Scream, by Edvard Munch, or Sorrow by Vincent van Gogh, both of which intensely visualize what we all can feel sometimes.  People are more likely to identify with a heartfelt piece of writing, perhaps, than with visualisations of this kind. Or rather, writers are more likely to express themselves about feelings of depression than people who have no artistic outlet.

In his article about authors and depression, Colin Rowsell writes, “For those of us drawn to writing, or the creative life in general, the odds are high that depression in some form is going to be part of the deal.” ( A quick search online will reveal how much has been written about melancholia and the writer.

But what about authors and happiness? There is much less to be found on this topic. One needs to do more than just a rapid superficial search. One needs to dig to find happiness. I had to persevere. The good news is that I did find it. Eventually.

Authors do experience happiness, but they are less likely to write about it in the same way as they write about despair, melancholia or depression. When authors are happy (whatever they think that is) they work! They are creative, and they do not stop to write about themselves, but delve into what they do best. They write fiction. They compose clever essays on their topics of choice. They seek to fashion out of their euphoria some sort of product that concerns them less than it does the characters they create, or the audience for whom they write.

A happy author is perhaps less introspective than a depressed one. Great novels and fantastic works of non-fiction such as travelogues, biographies and chronicles can be written when authors are free of gloomy moods. The lightness of spirit that accompanies a productive writing spurt is sensed quite tangibly in some writing, and we can see from many biographies that elation and euphoria accompanied periods of great production in authors such as Woolf, Hemingway and Plath.

If one looks carefully, there are a number of blogs and essays about the happy writer, but many of them are directions about how to become happy, as if there is a presumption out there that the default state of many authors is sad. One cannot blame the writers of these blogs, since history has emphasized this in various famous diaries. Wilde, Verlaine, and Tennessee Williams are only three examples. And there are some famous scribblings by writers such as Darwin, Captain Cook and Che Guevara – not strictly speaking creative writers but authors of academic, polemical or exploratory works – which who also show this tendency: to work hard when feeling ebullient, and to be introspective in times of stress, sorrow or sadness.

A bit of self-examination will settle this for each of us. We might look in a mirror and demand of ourselves how we operate: do we really work best when we are on top of the world; and navel-gaze when we are despondent? Or can it be the other way around for some? It must be useful to know. Yes – self-knowledge is important for those to whom words and verbal expression is the way they portray life, the world, and the human condition. Words are very much the way we think: it is a challenge to explain (rather than simply express) sorrow or joy in any other way.

The next time you experience a good writing spurt – a surge of words that demands to be written – and a productive phase that leaves you breathless, ask yourself: ‘What was it exactly that made me write so much and so well?’

Was it happiness?

Two Books by Rosanne Dingli


Shattered by the breakdown of yet another romance, Jana Hayes becomes a recluse in her tiny Venice apartment and buries herself in her work as an expert art conservator … until an ancient religious icon brings Roman Catholic priest Rob Anderson into her life.

The secret they discover hidden in the mysterious artefact turns out to be not only devastating, but deadly. And it has the star-crossed couple running for their lives across Europe and the Middle East, pursued by three ruthless opposing factions, each for its own reason determined to torture and kill to lay hands on the world-shaking evidence uncovered.

While Rob struggles with his priestly vows and Jana with an overbearing billionaire mother who holds the purse strings to an outrageous ransom demand, they discover, with the help of an ageing genius symbologist, more and more damning revelations about one of the New Testament’s most sacred gospel writers – and as the evidence mounts, the stakes rise and the blood flows.

"An international thriller and a love story … a fast-moving narrative that takes us to the boundaries between mystery and knowledge, between science and religion, and between the sometimes savagely physical and emotional meaning." (Dr Dennis Haskell. Professor of English and Cultural Studies. University of Western Australia. Co-Editor of Westerly 1985-2009

Death in Malta

Novelist Gregory Worthington flees to Malta, where he hopes to find sanctuary from his crumbling marriage and inspiration for his next novel. The inspiration arrives upon hearing of the village mystery of a missing child. This becomes the subject of his writing, but his investigations are fraught with difficulty. His romance with a local woman can either restore or ruin his career, but who is the unexpected female visitor? The village parish priest shows veiled antagonism towards him, which is countered by a friendship struck with a mysterious doctor. "Life is not a novel, Mr Worthington, in which everything is resolved by the last twenty pages," says the parish priest. But there are questions that must be answered, and Worthington determines to find the solutions before he leaves Malta.

Poignant and moving, punctuated by comical scenes and passionate interludes, "Death in Malta" is a powerful novel of love and loss, disappointment and dislocation - curiosity and consequences.

Publisher's note: As it says on the BeWrite website we try to give value for money and we have again with this book, if you care to take a look...



Laurie said...

I'm posting this comment in behalf of Ian Mathie who was unable to comment using OpenID.

Rosanne's article is interesting and thought provoking. One thought it provoked in me is that authors tend to lean more towards using depression and tension as subject matter because it gives them more scope for creating the drama they need for their stories. To do this with happiness is far more difficult and requires a quantum step of intellectual effort.

That is not to suggest authors are lazy, although some most definitely are, but then those fade into obscurity quite rapidly. But bending one's mind to think of happiness and use it to craft a dramatic tale that does not become mawkish is not easy. And so many readers love a bit of doom and gloom as it relieves the pressure of thinking their own gloomy thoughts.

Authors imbued with a supreme sense of inner happiness tend not to write gripping thrillers and novels of the calibre of According to Luke or Death in Malta. By this I don't for a moment suggest that Rosanne is depressive to achieve her quality of her writing, rather that she recognises the qualities of depression. I'm sure she also understands intimately the qualities of happiness as these show their face quite clearly in her writing, but not as the main force of the story.

Whatever her fuel, Rosanne writes sizzling good books.

Ian Mathie

Rosanne Dingli said...

Thanks for doing that Laurie!

And thanks Ian - Yes! I do understand the qualities of both depression and happiness. I do know that both are transient and hard to pin down or define. I also know that it's very very hard to stay depressed long enough to be able to write about it properly!

Dale Harcombe said...

Interesting observations Rosanne about writing and happiness. True enough I think