Interview with Zarina Macha

Please welcome Zarina Macha, who has written about schizophrenia and agreed to answer some questions today.

Tell me about the stories in Every Last Psycho.

The first one is called ‘Every Last Thought’ and is about a 16-year-old schizophrenic girl (Tess) who is in love with her best friend (Ed), but he has a girlfriend. An incredibly dark and harrowing story – not for the faint-hearted! It’s written in a very choppy, abrupt way to highlight Tess’ fractured mindset. Involves drug abuse, sexual violence and self-harm, but I wasn’t writing those things for ‘shock value’, I wanted to be true to the story.

‘Psycho Girl’, the second story, is about an 18-year-old girl (Evelyn) who is, of course, a misunderstood sweetheart who just wants to be accepted for who she is (haha…not). She is determined to attend the University of Cambridge and does some shocking things to get what she wants. I had a lot of fun with that one; it’s meant to be read as a dark comedy. Evelyn is a truly vile, awful person, but I find a lot of joy in reading the internal monologues of diabolical people (Steven Stelfox, Patrick Bateman, Amy Dunne, Cersei Lannister) as it is fascinating seeing the world from their perspective. 

I wanted to publish the two stories together as a ‘novella collection’ rather than as two separate stories, but I couldn’t decide on a name, until one of my friends suggested I merge the two titles to create ‘Every Last Psycho.’ 

How long have you been writing?

All my life. Ever since I was a little kid, although I’m still a little kid to many I guess, being only twenty-one. Writing has always been my greatest joy and pleasure – something that comes as naturally as breathing. There are times when I get stuck, of course, or I don’t feel like it, or I’m convinced what I’ve written is utter s*** and no one in their right mind would ever read it. But we all get like that I guess. Artists are sensitive people and highly critical of our work – we forget that we need to take it less seriously sometimes and just get on with it. 

What prompted you to write in the mental illness arena?

Well you have to write what you know, she says with a dark laugh. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for years, including panic attacks, and I had a brief but destructive drinking problem. It’s not all romantic-tortured-artist crap, it’s horrible and I wish every day I didn’t succumb to such depressing darkness. I envy those happy-go-lucky people that are never bothered by much.

But it’s not just about me, of course; mental illness is rising in the UK and worldwide (particularly in so-called developed nations where we’re expected to shut our feelings off) and it’s something that a lot of people struggle with, often those whom we least expect. Those who are naturally chatty and vibrant and friendly aren’t always as cheery as we seem, and there’s a lot to be said for people not always being what they appear to be. I definitely wanted to explore that in Psycho Girl; Evelyn seems like the quintessential perfect young woman when really she’s an abyss of cruelty and malice. 

Why young adult?

Again, write what you know. ‘Every Last Thought’, ‘Psycho Girl’, ‘Anne’ (my upcoming book), and some of the other stories I have in the works – they were all crafted or honed when I was in my mid-to-late teens. I don’t know anything about middle-aged married women or adults working a nine-to-five corporate job. That’s not my world. I do know what it feels like to be a lonely, scared teenager, and to not really understand our bittersweet world. 

Tell us about your research process.

I spend a lot of time on the internet (seriously, I have to constantly massage my arms and fingers due to the amount I’m on my laptop) reading articles and all sorts of forums. I study people, I observe behavioral characteristics. I consume a lot of literature and movies and use them as character studies and analyze why certain people are the way they are. For me it all starts from character – the character drives the narrative. I do sometimes go to funny lengths to get stuff, like ringing up a hospital to ask where their ICU unit is and how long they would keep a patient on life support. But life is research – talking to people, reading, observing. I can find actively rifling through things a bit dire, and I’m not a ‘literary’ writer, but provided I get my basic facts straight then hopefully no one will throw dodgeballs at me. 

What is next for you?

So glad you asked darling, hehe. My next book ‘Anne’ is a coming-of-age YA novel that will be out June 3rdand is currently available for pre-order. It deals with some heavy themes; domestic violence, mental illness, bullying, lesbian teen romance, grief, trauma. But I took great care to make the character of Anne someone who comes out strong and resilient despite her pain. Protagonists don’t have to be likeable – Evelyn certainly isn’t, and Tess is a bit annoying – but they do have to be real and relatable. Anne is likeable, of course, but her story really is about growing and overcoming hardships and reaching out to the ones you love. It’s a very moving story if I do say so myself. Is available to pre-order now.

How can readers find you?

By typing my name into Amazon? Haha. Links to my website and social media are below:

Tell me what you think!

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