Author Stuart Steen McFaull has drawn on his own experience of losing his mother to suicide in his debut novel.
Yesterday’s Dirt is described as a heart-wrenching, emotionally powerful tale of suicide, grief, and the love between mother and son.
Stu, a copywriter at DotPerformance, said: ‘Yesterday’s Dirt is a work of fiction based on real life experiences.
‘My mum took her own life in 2016 and I suppose as a writer I was drawn to the darkness of that and the truth of that and trying to make some kind of sense of it.’
Yesterday’s Dirt, set in the island, follows protagonist Dylan Blakeney in the months following the traumatic suicide of his mother, Jane .
We join Dylan on a downward spiral of self-destruction as his life falls apart.
The novel covers a vast range of issues such as mental health, the complexities of grief, drug addiction, sexual abuse, businesses piggy-backing on social causes, along with the restorative powers of hope and love.
Asked how he found writing it, Stu said: ‘Take away the circumstance, I think writing a novel is the Everest of any writer really, so more initially it was “can I do this?”
‘Can I actually go through this treacherous ordeal. Quite a lot of people have asked me “was it cathartic?”.
‘I don’t know really because I was so caught up and swept up in my own grief, even though it was six years ago now, but I’ve been writing the novel on and off for three years.’
He added: ‘There were cathartic moments, I mean anybody who has been through suicide, the ones left behind like that, will tell you that you become a kind of detective, you become obsessed with how they died and why it happened.
‘It transpires as time goes on that you can never really find out the why, so you can try and make some peace with it.
‘I suppose writing this book was me trying to find a why and finding out that I couldn’t.’
Initially, Stu started writing a memoir but decided he needed to change tack.
‘I realised my life isn’t particularly interesting, so as I was hacking away at it, I realised I need to get the spirit of my mum in here and get it done to the core basis of what I’m trying to achieve, which is the love between a mother and a son and a grieving son following that loss.
‘As I was working through drafts, I realised it would be better if I made this hyper-fictionalised version, while maintaining the spirit of mum in the book.
‘So what I thought it would be best to do would be to write a version of myself, but the worst possible version.’
That led him to the character of Dylan.
He said that after a couple of drafts Dylan was almost unrecognisable to him.
‘It would be interesting to see if my friends and family read the book and see it as akin to me, but to me it didn’t really seem similar to my traits,’ Stu said.
Stu said he had ‘complete overwhelming relief’ when he knew he had finally finished his book.
‘That was a great moment, that was celebratory and it was really undercut somewhat by being alone in the study going “hooray” by myself,’ he said.
He said that he couldn’t have written the book without the support of his friends and his ‘amazing, supportive wife’ Lisa.