Imagine being alone in the world, but totally surrounded by the voices in your head.
That's the predicament faced by Charlie Davis, the schizophrenic main character in Team Charlie, a new novel from author Mark Evan. In the book, Charlie must suddenly fend for himself after his elderly caretaker father passes away. With joyous highs and crushing lows, the reader will be introduced to Charlie's many voices as he tries his best to survive on his own in our demanding and confusing world.
'All people are subject to one kind of delusion or another, no matter how sound we may think we are," says Evan. 'Team Charlie is a reminder of how that power of delusion can affect somebody – and how they interact with the rest of society."
Team Charlie profoundly explores the remarkable power of human delusion and the faculties of the mind, in a thought-provoking novel so relevant to the questions of how we treat mental illness in our society today.
Mark Evan is known primarily for his engaging and award winning short stories about modern life in Southern California. Team Charlie is Evan's first full-length novel. Evan lives in Orange County, California.
Author: Mark Evan
Question: What inspired Team Charlie?
Mark Evan: I wanted to write a story that was both thought provoking and entertaining. I recently read several news articles about mentally ill individuals, and their circumstances fascinated me. I felt someone who heard voices could be the subject of a great story. I wanted to write a novel in which the voices in the main character's head were, in fact, characters in the story. I felt this was the most intimate manner through which the reader could get to know the protagonist and understand his plight. I think this viewpoint provides a unique and inspiring view into the life of a mentally ill man.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Team Charlie?
Mark Evan: I am not trying to get up on any soapbox. I simply wanted to write a sympathetic adventure about the life of a man who hears voices. The voices guide Charlie through his journey. At times they direct and lead him successfully. They also misguide him. They cause him to be lonely, and yet they provide him with much comfort and company. At times they laugh with him, and at other times they commiserate. The voices tell this entire story. I hope readers will come away with an understanding of this character that could not be achieved in any other way.
Question: How do you hope to change the way we see and treat mental illness in our society today?
Mark Evan: I think people are afraid of mental illness. We are bothered when others are delusional and do not perceive the world and act upon it as we do. There is a burning desire to "fix" these individuals, to make them act like the rest of us. Yet sometimes the real problem isn't with how these people act, but rather with how we react to them. Aren't we all delusional to a degree? Is it really necessarily bad when another sees reality through a different pair of glasses? I think there are many times when we should approach this issue with tolerance rather than fear.
Question: Can you talk us through the delusions Charlie Davis experiences in Team Charlie?
Mark Evan: Charlie's primary delusion is that he hears voices. The voices advise him, direct him, and keep him company. They are alternatively the source of Charlie's problems and the solutions to them. At times Charlie's voices are rational, and at other times they are not. At times they provide sound advice, and at other times they misdirect him. They are as imperfect as Charlie is himself, the reflections of a living breathing human being. While Charlie is the main character, his voices are really the stars of the story.
Question: How are we subject to one kind of delusion or another?
Mark Evan: All of us are subject to delusions. Each character in Team Charlie thrives on one delusion or the other. Delusions are not necessarily a bad thing. They cause us to reach for lofty goals. They placate us in times of trouble. They boost our self-confidence and feelings of worth. Charlie's delusions become a problem for him only because they are so obvious. As Dr. Horton (Charlie's psychiatrist) says, "Life is a great supermarket of delusions; you can take your cart down the aisle and take a little of this, a little of that, take whatever works for you."
Interview by Brooke Hunter