The lovely and hugely talented, ALEX CAMPBELL.
This week our Guest Blogger needs no introduction, it’s GHB’s own, Alex Campbell. Lucky us! Alex is here to tell us about her fantastic new book, CLOUD 9. Away you go, Alex….
I had a blogging break to try and get the hardest-book-ever-to-write finished, and I’m returning briefly now to say phew, it is here at last, in all its blue and yellow glory (no minion jokes please). May I present: ‘Cloud 9’.
I often wonder if ‘Cloud 9’ was hard to write because it originally came from a simple source of inspiration – from someone saying ‘Life is short. Enjoy it’ to me when I was getting upset over a painful memory. And if many books start from a question you burn to answer, I began getting feverish about this one: Were they right, is it best to bury the things that make you sad and just concentrate on enjoying life? Or by not dealing with the painful stuff, are you living a half-life? Yes, sorry, I know, a long question!
To answer my burning question I set about asking myself another: would I take a harmless pill if it made me completely happy, and everyone else was taking it? Cue ‘Life’s short, enjoy it’ quickly becoming the slogan for the happy pill in ‘Cloud 9’ – the happy pill even children can take because it’s totally harmless (“it just takes the edge off life!”). And then I took my questioning further, wondering why, as a society, we are increasingly feeding a compulsion to be happy. My research sent me through many lands – from medicine to social media, from shopping to advertising slogans – where I came across many of the ‘cures’ for unhappiness. I found that positivity reigns these days, you get it from celebrity vloggers who seem to want to banish negativity with their cute positive-living quotes and perky presentations. You get in from the world of advertising, with campaigns and motivational slogans that promise us the meaning of life (ahem, as long as we buy their product). You can even find it within pharmaceutical companies who promise their miracle pill will banish all ills. Enter the everyday, and you’ll be blasted with the strong scent of positivity, from social media, where everyone is on holiday or partying or looking selfie-fantastic, or become engulfed in brightly-lit shopping centres where everything is glossy and new and polished and perfect.
My burning question snowballed – is it just happiness we all seem to want, or quick-fix happiness? And why? What’s so wrong with a regular dose of melancholy? What’s bad about an occasional moan, in kicking the wall and screaming ‘life’s unfair’, or having a public rant? And if we all become quick-fixed happy, if positivity becomes the new mantra – what happens to those who can’t find it, whose lives will forever be far removed from the glossy version we see on the adverts and in the shopping centres? Will the disaffected be pushed even further to the boundaries of society?
Furthermore, what happens to the books and films and music that draw life in its darkest moments? Will we stop reading and watching stories that make us feel sad – because sadness stops us from being happy? Will we increasingly pop pills to make us appear ‘normal’, to stop us acting angry and mad and sad? To get us through every awkward and uncomfortable moment? Pills to stop us grieving, to get us through exams, to prevent nerves on planes, when public speaking, at interviews? Will every bad feeling be outlawed? And then what? We banish bad mood – but can real happiness, true happiness, even exist without unhappiness?
So yes, my big snowball started squashing me and rolling me up inside and making this book harder to write – until finally I began to dig my way out, and I finished ‘Cloud 9’. And I also found some of the answers I was looking for. I hope you might too!
Some big questions there and maybe you’ll find the answers, too, in Alex’s new book CLOUD 9. Thanks for such an insightful piece, Alex. Hope to see you here again soon.