“If the new book helps just one person reach out for help, then it’ll all be worth it” Rachael Smith talks Wired Up Wrong, mental health and Dr Who comics
Rachael Smith’s Wired Up Wrong was one of our highlights of 2017 – a collection of personal tales about her depression and anxiety, that was a funny and poignant read tackling a difficult subject with incredible wit and originality. A year on, Rachael is back with a new deluxe edition of the book on Kickstarter so we caught up with her to find out about how the book has helped people as well as entertained them.
So what can we look forward to in this new deluxe version of Wired Up Wrong? How does it differ from the original? What sort of extra stuff is in there?
Rachael Smith: All 40 pages from the original version are included in this one, but this one includes 100 brand new pages as well as a new cover. The book’s gonna be really beautiful too, I promise!
The original was really well receieved, did the positive reception help encourage you to tell more personal stories and share your experiences with others?
RS: Oh for sure, I did the original 40 page book as a bit of fun really, I thought some people might get a kick out of it. The books sold out stupidly quickly and it got rave reviews. So it was obviously a much more important book than I had realised! Knowing it had this kind of audience I figured rather than simply reprinting the 40 pages, I had the potential to do something really special – which is where this Kickstarter comes in! It’s been hard to be so honest in the new pages, I’m seeing a therapist now, which is good but sometimes hard. There are three new pages I really struggled to draw because they’re very raw. But if the new book helps just one person reach out for help, then it’ll all be worth it.
Do you get positive responses from readers who feel like they can share with you as a result of reading the first book?
RS: Definitely. At Thought Bubble last year when the book debuted, people bought it on the Saturday and then came back on the Sunday to tell me how much they loved it. People told me it had made them feel less alone with their own struggles, it even helped people who don’t suffer from mental health issues better understand those that do.
With personal auto-bio stories like these do you feel a need to make them ‘entertaining’ and ‘enjoyable’ as well as truthful and honest? How do you balance this side of things or do you just rely on your own instincts for what works and what doesn’t?
RS: I guess I just rely on my own instincts! When you read the book you’ll see that there are a mix of lighthearted, potent, and just straight up advice pages. Some are silly, like me over-reacting to saying ‘you too!’ when a waiter tells me to enjoy my meal, and some are serious like my struggles with self harming, and my advice for trying to avoid stuff like that.
Why do you think comics is such a good medium for addressing mental health issues in? Is it the mix of words and pictures or do you think there is a quite receptive audience?
RS: I find comics a really nice way of talking about mental health because I use a lot of visual metaphors. My depression is depicted by two versions of a big black dog called Barky, and my inability to react to anything appropriately is depicted by two game show hosts who live in my head. Obviously in comics there’s usually a lot of talking and speech balloons, but in this book there are also a few wordless pages, showing how Barky dictates what I can and can’t do – lying in front of the door so I can’t go out, for example, or lying on top of me so I can’t get out of bed. I dunno, I personally just find comics quite an intuitive way of communicating ideas!
How has working on Wired Up Wrong helped inspire your other work? Will we be seeing more long form comics work from you soon? Or are you too busy with Dr Who?!
RS: Haha! Well I’m busy getting Wired Up Wrong ready for print right now, so I’m not quite sure what’s next… I’ve recently pitched a new graphic novel to some publishers so I’ll be having discussions about that soon hopefully. I also want to do a new Flimsy Kitten book because people keep asking me for new Flimsy stuff at conventions. I’ve got two more Doctor Who comics to do before December and then I’m not sure what I’m doing on that front. I’m really hoping I get to draw Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor soon though, I’m so excited about that! As for this book inspiring my other work I’m not sure, I guess the book is very much a personal one, rather than trying to tell someone else’s story. I suppose we’ll see!