Talking Mental Health and When Men Cry with Nick Wasiliev
Posted by Top Livin on
Nicholas Wasiliev knows a thing or two about telling stories with his time in journalism and brought up in a household of a writers and journalists, so it was only fitting the next step would be writing a novel. But not just any novel, a novel written for a very specific reason with a very specific message and we sat down with Nick for a chat about that reason and message in his debut novel, When Men Cry.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from, family, upbringing . . . .
I am born and bred from the country, with a German Dad and Aussie mum, and grew up and went to school in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. While I moved to Sydney nearly seven years ago I still very much identify as being from the country.
Being on 'country time' is something I always love slipping back into whenever I got home. I grew up on a horse agistment property, and we'd have horses everywhere, even coming into the house and sitting on the couch! It was a wonderful place to grow up.
How long have you been a writer/journalist and what do you enjoy about the craft?
I'm still admittedly very new in my career in journalism, having started writing sports journalism (specifically rugby) back in 2016, but expanding that out to the likes of music, culture and art blogs later. I've always come from a freelance background, as I have made several connections within mainstream journalism and been published on quite a few occasions, but never worked professionally.
My own perspective on journalism is that it's actually quite similar to storytelling. The process of researching, crafting your perspective based on your research, putting together your ideas, putting it to the page, seeing how it turns out, editing it, and then seeing how an audience responds to it. The process of crafting and creating is such a joy for me, whether it be in written form, or in a visual or audio format.
Additionally, another thing I enjoy about journalism and writing is that it's also a constantly evolving process too. I see what other writers, journalists, podcasters, other people in the same field do, and see the small things they do that makes their content stand out. It's like having a reset button, and pressing it constantly. Every time, you improve, build on your own processes, and get better and better.
You've worked a lot in sports journalism and writing for the arts, what have been some of the highlights of your time in these industries and the people you got to meet?
I've been incredibly lucky to have met so many people in every field I've tried my hand at. In terms of the sports journalism environment, I was incredibly lucky to work at the Rugby Union Players Association, and for three months soaked up everything and gained perspectives on the game that I still use in my articles to this day.
Add to that, I was lucky enough to coordinate a podcast with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, and earlier this year write a four part piece with internationally renowned player Ben Alexander, one of the most respected rugby players ever to put on the green and gold jersey, and I guy who I grew up watching and idolising. I still pinch myself that I got to do that!
In terms of the arts, I've been so lucky in who I've got to chat to, from the likes of musicians Running Touch and Pat Davern from Grinspoon, to even the likes of increasingly relevant comedians and public figures like Jordan Shanks (aka YouTuber Friendlyjordies).
However, the interview I'm most fond of was chatting with Morris Hayes, the keyboardist of the New Power Generation. These guys were the backing band for Prince. THE Prince! On top of being a lovely guy to talk to, he went into so much detail about what Prince was like to work with, how much they miss him, all the way to his legendary performance at the Super Bowl.
I've been very lucky.
Do you think you found some inspiration for your creative writing, potentially even some character traits, through your time as a journalist for your new novel, When Men Cry?
Absolutely. Journalism first gave me the ability to actually write. That sounds silly, but the actual discipline of putting words down on the page can be notoriously difficult, especially if you don't know how to push through those moments of writer's block and procrastination.
Add to that, the book is heavily involved in perspectives, and what is said and not said. The characters interact, have differing opinions on situations, and engage in ways that, if you are selling this story to a reader, needs to feel natural and believable.
Good journalism acknowledges the differing perspectives on situations, and that to come to a constructive conclusion you have to fully understand the different arguments around a topic. Additionally, this process is incredibly human: acknowledging of different life experiences that lead characters to think in certain ways the reader can emphasise with.
Outside of that, there are of course more overt references and details I threw into the story: the fact that the protagonist's partner in the book, Louise, dreams of becoming a writer. Add to that, one of the four men the group the book is based around, Noah, is looking to break into a similar field, and the struggles they face around that.
Tell us a bit behind the initial motivation and inspiration that made you sit down and start writing your debut novel?
When Men Cry began as a short story, focusing more specifically on the negative nature of gambling and how men take risks and push themselves in really unhealth ways. It was originally a short story based on the first section of the book, but when I got a publisher interested in the book they called me up one day and said, there's more to this, you can go deeper.
Yes, you can be falling back on simple, surface-level arguments about issues with society, but often a reader can see right through that, and will reject it.
So I went deeper.
What drives men towards these forms of escapism like gambling, drugs or alcohol?
What do they behave like, and why?
From that, the characters and story emerged.
Give us a quick overview on what the book is about?
When Men Cry tells the story of four university mates, reuniting for a night out. However, as the night goes on it becomes clear that one of them is hiding something, and the inability for the others to discuss with him the issues he's facing or even ask the question of if he's okay, creates ripple effects that extend beyond the context of their friendship.
Why did you feel it was important to write this story and develop these characters?
Within my life, I have (and many of my friends too) struggled with their mental health. In this period of your life you're essentially discovering who you are, and it can be an incredibly confronting period.
The story is all fiction, but it came very much from my own feelings and expression, and highlighted in my own life the need to actually be completely honest with yourself, and to have a healthy relationship around your mental health.
From sharing it with my friends, almost everyone who read it connected with it in a similar way: this idea of being honest. These characters all came from me, and they grew and matured with me as I wrote the book.
Even now, I'm still fully aware that in the grander scheme of things, I still have a long way to go in becoming 'me', but this story is about accepting growing up and accepting who you are, and above all, accepting being honest with yourself.
Is there one particular message you are hoping will stay with readers after they have read your book?
That you must always be honest with yourself.
A key moment of realisation at the end of the book one of my characters has is that "when you cry, you are saying 'yes' to life". This was a key end point for me, that for people who struggle to exhibit those emotions, actually letting them out and allowing yourself to cry is your body physically telling you to be honest with yourself.
Additionally, being honest with yourself means that if you're not okay, it's okay not to be okay, and that by extension, it's okay to talk to others about it.
Do you find writing is a good outlet for your mental health?
Yes. In so many ways. I am in my element and happy place when I am crafting, creating and writing. Often if I'm feeling awful or having a tough mental health day, I turn to writing. The art of doing something constructive often makes me feel so much better.
How did you hear about LIVIN and what made you choose to support the charity on the back of the launch of your novel release?
I play for Drummoyne Rugby Club, and they have an amazing partnership with LIVIN. When I was putting together the release for this book, I was really keen to support a charity because if you are going to talk about these issues, you have to back up these words with action.
I got chatting to Christian at Drummoyne about LIVIN, and the moment I checked them out I realised that they were passionate about the exact same things I'd written about in my book: the need to be honest about your mental health, breaking the stigma around it. For me it was a perfect charity to support the book with.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with their mental health?
Talk. Just talk. It may seem simple (and honestly), but if you speak to someone who loves you, they will listen without judgement or hesitation. You need to give yourself the chance as well to be honest. Having feelings of depression makes you think that nobody out there cares or loves you, it makes you feel alone.
Frankly, it can be blinding.
Depression does not care about your religion, your ethnic background, your sexual orientation, anything. It just wants to make you feel alone. But the truth is you are not alone.
There is ALWAYS someone out there who will listen. It is okay to not be okay and to tell people you're not okay, and the moment you realise that help you become stronger than you could possible imagine.
It is never weak to speak.
Anything else you would like to add . . . . . .
Just one thing. If you are reading this, whether you are struggling with your mental health or not, I think you're awesome. Seriously, I do. You are awesome every hour, every minute, every second.
Don't forget it.
When Men Cry is now available to order through Nick's website both in print and eBook with a percentage of sales donated to LIVIN.
Click here to find out more about his story and to purchase his book and if you're struggling, check out our Get Help page for services and resources that can help.