Why I Write What I Write
Charles Atkins, MD
I’m a psychiatrist who writes, and a writer who works as a psychiatrist—currently three days a week at Waterbury Hospital. As I get set for the release of my ninth book, VULTURES AT TWILIGHT—the first in a murder mystery series set in Connecticut, I come up against a frequently asked question–‘Why do you write the stuff you do?’
The answer is, I write about what I find fascinating. For me this definitely dips into my work as a psychiatrist. My first novel–THE PORTRAIT (St. Martin’s Press) was a murder mystery that had a hero with manic depression. At the time I wanted a mainstream novel with a protagonist that could take the reader through the experience of what it’s like to have a serious mental illness. From there it was on to looking at kids in trouble. My next novel–RISKFACTOR–explored how children grow up to become sociopaths. The challenge there was to take something clinically complicated and make it accessible. In a sense it’s my own Frankenstein story–how do you make a monster? Sadly, the answer is it’s not difficult, it happens all the time and you don’t need a castle in Transylvania and a lightning storm to make it happen.
When I turned to my first non-fiction book–THE BIPOLAR DISORDER ANSWER BOOK (Sourcebooks),the goal was to write something that could give people with bipolar a.k.a. manic depression, their families and their clinicians an easy to use manual. As someone who has mental illness in the family, it’s a book I would have wanted for myself years back.
My current series, which features two female sleuths living in a retirement community ties back to work I did at the Center for Geropsychiatry at Waterbury Hospital. At the time I was appalled atthe number of scams confronting people in later life. VULTURES AT TWILIGHT is a darkly comic murderstory that delves into various scams and schemes, in this case perpetrated by unscrupulous antique dealers, who get their comeuppance in suitably gruesome ways.
Tying my work as a psychiatrist to my passion for writing is the unifying thread for all my books. Whether it’s writing about heroin addiction in the thriller MOTHER’S MILK (Severn House), or severe trauma and its effects in THE CADAVER’S BALL (St. Martin’s Press). It boils down to two objectives–keep my reader entertained, and maybe show them something they didn’t know about mental illness.
Charles Atkins is a board-certified psychiatrist and author. He writes fiction and non-fiction, including the Barrett Conyors forensic thriller series as well as books on Alzheimer’s and Bipolar Disorder. Dr. Atkins has written hundreds of articles, columns, and shorts stories for professional and popular magazines, newspapers, and journals. He’s been a consultant to the Reader’s Digest Medical Breakthrough series, and his work has appeared in publications ranging from The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) to Writer’s Digest Magazine. He’s been twice featured in the New York Times, as well as many other publications. Books by Dr. Atkins can be ordered locally or purchased on-line at amazon.com and other sellers.