Author in Focus: Matt Haig

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Matt Haig is a British author and journalist who has gradually gained fame over the last few years. After the release of his first self-help memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, in 2015, many of his words were shared all over platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, and a wider audience then discovered his work. Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, maintaining a place in the British top ten for a total of 46 weeks.

Born in Sheffield in 1975, Haig studied English and History at the University of Hull, which evidently sparked a passion for writing. Previously running his own internet marketing company, he eventually delved into writing and has explored many genres, both fiction and non-fiction. He has also written many pieces for The Guardian, which tend to focus on mental health.

Although Reasons to Stay Alive was arguably the book which harnessed much of Haig’s fame, he was writing books for many years before this. Some of his older adult fiction novels include The Last Family in England (2004), The Dead Fathers Club (2006), and The Radleys. (2010). Alongside these, Haig also has written multiple pieces of children’s literature, notably A Boy Called Christmas (2015), The Girl Who Saved Christmas (2015), and Father Christmas And Me (2017).

Haig has achieved many different literary awards for his novels. His first children’s novel, Shadow Forest, won the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, and his other adult fictions have been nominated for awards such as the Edgar Award for Best Novel and the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Science Fiction.

Haig has been very open about his experience of major depressive disorder, which inspired his two self-help memoirs, Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet (2018). On multiple literary tours over the years, Haig has discussed the process of writing these memoirs in great detail. He states that he was actually asked to write Reasons to Stay Alive after he published a single blog post discussing his personal experience. He felt apprehensive to start the book at first, and even once publishing it he felt regrets as many people would approach him regarding their own personal experiences in mental health, which as a result caused much worry for Haig as he suffered from his own health anxiety and felt the pressures of being a source of help for others. However, he now declares that if he had to choose one book to keep around out of the multiple works he has published, it would be Reasons to Stay Alive.

All of Haig’s books prove entertaining reads, however his two most recent adult fiction novels are ones which inspire much thought and are most relevant to the modern day, which is ultimately a leading factor in Haig’s distinctiveness. The Humans, first published in 2013, is one of Haig’s masterpieces which everyone can enjoy. It is often described as a useful guide to human beings, written from the perspective of an alien. Although this concept may seem bizarre at first, the alien perspective which the reader is exposed to creates a humorous, relatable and perhaps quite frightening depiction of humankind. Readers will find themselves thinking about how to be human and why we are what we are.

How to Stop Time (2017), his most recent adult fiction work, is one which has achieved much fame and attention from readers, and is currently in the process of being made into a film featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, who will play the protagonist Tom Hazard. The book explores the life of a 400-year-old man, Tom, who meets many famous figures throughout history, including Shakespeare, Captain Cook and Fitzgerald. This novel follows similar themes to The Humans, where an outsider figure must research and discover the ways of modern humankind. This creates a fascinating read which ultimately forces readers to adopt an outsider perspective and judge the nature of humans of the 21st Century.

As well as a film in the making, Haig has also worked alongside songwriter and musician, Andy Burrows, to write an album. Burrows took Haig’s words and wrote the music for the album, also named Reasons to Stay Alive, released in 2018. This album portrays Haig’s words in ways which allow the ultimate message on mental health to become even more accessible.

Haig’s work very cleverly incorporates humour into poignant topics, such as mental health and living and surviving in the 21st Century, which in turn leads to extremely interesting reads. His books are fairly easy to read, particularly due to the accessible nature of the short chapters which he employs throughout much of his work. Everyone should have the experience of reading at least one of Matt Haig’s works, as they are guaranteed to laugh, cry and feel the sheer relatable nature of many of the topics explored in his novels.

Listen to the collaboration between Matt Haig and Andy Burrows below:

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