You wrote your latest book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, in the grip of what you have previously described as a nervous breakdown. Does it feel miraculous that it got written at all?Learn about Keyes's heroine from outside literature.
It does. I'm amazed. I really, really thought I'd never be able to write again. I had long months of catatonic, unable-to-get-out-of-bedness and then long months of this incredible fear, in the grip of panic. So the book was written very peculiarly. There was no steadiness to it. It took much longer than anything else I've written … I veered off into making cakes for about a year. I was wondering quite seriously: "Could baking be my job?" And I'm still not 100% so anything I managed to produce is a miracle.
It must have been terrifying to feel like that...
I've always been prone to depression, and I've been very public about my alcoholism even though I haven't had a drink in 19 years. I thought because I was addressing my issues on a daily basis I wouldn't be one of those people who suddenly blew, but I did. I can still feel the fear. It was very primal. It wasn't anxiety – I was terrified and everything looked different. It felt like I'd landed on another planet and it was horrific. I was just so frightened all the time. But all I was diagnosed with was...[read on]