Anthony Kessel, author of two books in the Don’t Doubt the Rainbow series, writes about his experiences and knowledge and their impacts on his writing.
There has always been a creative seed deep inside me and, over recent years, my literary and professional worlds have become excitingly inter-twined. As a doctor and public health leader I have tried to be imaginative in my professional work but, lurking in the ever-present background, that creative seed has been steadily germinating. Early on, this was reflected by studying philosophy after medicine and publishing extensively on medical ethics and the philosophy of public health.
My literary dream, however, was crystallised in 2021 when The Five Clues, first in the four-book Don’t Doubt the Rainbow series, was published by Crown House Publishing. The Five Clues was my first proper literary endeavour – a YA detective/adventure book centred on 13-year-old Edie Marble, who discovers that her mother’s death a year earlier may not have been an accident. The book has been short-listed for several awards including the prestigious CrimeFest Best Crime Fiction Novel for Children Award 2022.
I always write from my own knowledge and experiences and, crucially, from the heart. At the back of The Five Clues, I included a short personal piece called a ‘Note from the Author’. In this piece I describe the commanility between Edie receiving a note from her mum after her mum’s death, and how my own mum left a note (to me and my sisters) which we discovered some weeks after her sudden, tragic death. Less personal, but drawing on my medical understanding and career immersion, there is a public health plot in The Five Clues – concveived well before the Covid pandemic!
Outside Chance, second book in the Don’t Doubt the Rainbow series, has recently been published, and the experience-based underpinning continues. Set three months after the first book, Outside Chance has a new adventure story involving eco-terrorism, climate change, stolen dogs and exam fraud – as well as an over-arching discussion of determinism and free will. I am passionate about tackling the climate emergency, the world’s biggest public health problem, and the exam sub-plot reflects an episode when I was at medical school. The exploration of fate vs chance links to my academic background and interest in philosophy, plus awareness that readers of the book, like most people, are fascinated by the notion of why things happen in life.
The theme of good mental health in children and young adults remains prominent in Outside Chance, and is threaded through the whole series. Today’s mental health challenges for children and young adults are immense. In April 2021 the Royal College of Psychiatrists said“the country is in the grip of a mental health crisis with children worst affected”. This issue is important to me as a doctor, but also as a human being. In recent years, I have been inspired by a new-ish approach to psychological wellbeing based on an understanding of how the mind works – and thereby an understanding of how we experience life, moment by moment and day by day.
Awareness of how we generate our experience of life enables the reduction of psychological distresses, alleviation of common problems (depression, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders,addictions and the like) and the uncovering of our inner well-being. The approach is not just about managing life’s challenges, but also about facilitating the capacity for individuals to thrive and flourish. I am a trustee on the board of a charity, iheart, which provides ground-breaking psychological wellbeing educational programmes to schools in the UK (and internationally) drawing on this understanding – something I wanted to share in my writing.
Through books 1 and 2 of the series the protagonist, Edie, learns about this understanding and, in Outside Chance, continues her journey of self-discovery. I hope readers experience something similar. A story is an extraordinary vehicle for joy, entertainment and learning, as well as a potentially vital means to enhancing wellbeing.
Professor Anthony Kessel is a public health physician, academic and author who works at NHS England HQ as Clinical Director (National Clinical Policy). Anthony is an international authority on public health and a Trustee Director of BookTrust, and also advises other charities on global health and mental health. Anthony has trained as an executive coach and writes a personal column – ‘Global Health Experience’ (https://medium.com/@AKessel) – exploring his leadership work through a lens of psychological well-being.
Outside Chance, the second book in the Don’t Doubt the Rainbow series, is available now from bookshops and online retailers. Find out more: https://www.crownhouse.co.uk/outside-chance-dont-doubt-the-rainbow-2.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.