A mature student at Leeds Trinity University who struggles with severe depression is celebrating the launch of her first novel this month.
Creative Writing student Liz Mistry (52) received a two-book deal from publishing house Bloodhound Books, for a gritty crime fiction series based in Bradford. Her debut novel, Unquiet Souls, will be released on Amazon Kindle on Saturday 30 July – and soon after in paperback.
Having experienced mental health and depression for over a decade, even the thought of going back to University resulted in anxiety and panic attacks for Liz.
She said: "Suffering from severe depression that made it difficult for me to leave my bed, never mind my house for long periods of time, I knew this would be one of the most difficult things I ever did. When I met with tutor Martyn Bedford for my pre-course interview, I was petrified. I'd practiced the route to Horsforth and despite the panic attacks and tears, I was determined to get there.
"The next hurdle was whether my health would allow me to complete the course, and truth be told, it was hard, especially at the beginning. Fortunately, I was seeing a counsellor for dynamic therapy which helped me cope with the panic attacks and anxiety, and the students and tutors at Leeds Trinity created a supportive network that allowed me to overcome many of my personal issues. Slowly, over the weeks and months, I gained a confidence I'd lost over the years and although still vulnerable to huge mood dips and panic attacks, I used my writing to get through it."
Having already completed the first draft of Unquiet Souls before starting at Leeds Trinity in September 2015, Liz used the MA course to tweak her novel.
She said: "The course has been invaluable in fine-tuning the book and getting my characters right – my fellow students are phenomenal and through their support and feedback, my writing has improved tremendously. I have ideas buzzing around all the time so I keep notes in a notebook, and I'm even using my dissertation module to work on the sequel, which will be released next year. It's infectious; when you start writing, the momentum keeps you going."
Unquiet Souls is the first in a police procedure series which follows Detective Inspector Gus McGuire in Bradford. When the murder of a prostitute leads to the chilling discovery of children in the dead woman's attic, McGuire and his team realise they are dealing with a complex case – and the subsequent abduction of a young girl from Ilkley links the case to The Matchmaker; head of an international child trafficking ring.
Martyn Bedford, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University, said:
"I'm so pleased for Liz – she's a very talented writer and fully deserves this breakthrough. Her success is all the more impressive when you consider that crime fiction is by far and away the most competitive genre in today's publishing market, which gives an indication of just how highly Bloodhound must rate her work.
"It's also fantastic news for the MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity, cementing our reputation as a centre of excellence in this field. The course has only been running for three years and we've already celebrated the publication of two novels, three poetry collections, a short-story collection and two anthologies by our students."
Over the summer, Liz will be organising a series of book signings and events which will also raise money for Mind Charity, to support other people with mental health issues.
Unquiet Souls will be available to purchase for £1.99 on Amazon Kindle, and £8.99 in paperback.