Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

“Where is ADB?”

He’s over here, technically homeless.

More accurately, how is ADB?

In short, he’s great. But more on that in a moment.

Lately, I’ve been asked about a bajillion times where I’ve vanished to, and what made me vanish. Usually it comes with a side order of “I hear you’re struggling with your mental health” along with a genuinely humbling show of support from many, many people.

To get the technical stuff out of the way, we’ve been getting work done on our house, so we’ve been living at Katie’s parents’ house since last July. Which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a not-insignificant amount of time to be technically homeless.

Also, we had a baby in December. As adorable as Madeleine is, she eats up a lot of everyone’s time, focus, time, energy, time, and time.

This creature respects no deadlines.
Scout meeting Mouse.
Shakes meeting Mouse.

Additionally, when we painted eggs for Easter, I got out the Macragge Blue spray and made Mr. Bump. This isn’t really a contributing factor to why I’ve been totally offline, I’m just really happy with him.

It’s pathetic how proud of this I am.

Anyway. Where were we?

Probably the most common sentiment I’ve seen is the double-edged blade of how my mental health might affect my writing. This is coupled with a recent delay to Echoes of Eternity, which has my inbox heaving with conjecture about how the novel’s going. Let me set your minds at ease and, if you’re in the market for it, give an answer with slightly broader context.

You’ve probably seen this by now. Sexy, right?

Firstly, I finished Echoes of Eternity last year, back in September. I did the signing sheets for it back in November 2021, and that’s the last thing an author does in the process. Right now, the book exists somewhere, drenched in delicious secrecy, imprisoned in the metaphorical chains of scheduling. Perhaps this admin-based embrace makes the text all toasty and warm? Perhaps not; perhaps it grows increasingly sour with the resentment of the untouched.

I know not.

I really want to have a cool story here, but release/sales schedule jiggery-pokery is a sadly boring and uncontroversial issue. Things are pretty crazy in the world right now, especially in terms of global supply chains and release schedules. It’s coming out this year, I know that much, and Warhammer Community’s website tends to know this stuff, so check there if and when they announce something.

Here’s Scout helping me do the signing sheets, last year.
It took me about ten hours. She got bored and wandered off after a solid twenty minutes.

Secondly, and totally relatedly, there’s been a mountain of “How will his mental health affect his writing?” which is absolutely a fair question. I can offer some context on that, though, which I fear will be another boring answer.

And the answer is: You already know. 

You already know how my mental health affects my writing, because most of you have been reading my work for years. When I went public with my mental health struggles, it wasn’t a sudden snap that came out of nowhere. My suicide attempt was a decision to end twenty years of mental gears grinding and going nowhere. I can point to the peaks and valleys of my mental state over the last twenty-ish years, thirteen-ish of which I’ve been a novelist. The stuff released at my highest ebbs hasn’t been reviewed any differently from the stuff I released at my lowest – and vice versa. Trust me, I’ve checked. Relentlessly. Endlessly. It’s been literally my greatest worry for my entire career. 

So while authors and artists pour a lot of themselves into anything they create, it’s also a notion that wallows in the wilderness of assumption. What I’m saying is, you mostly get to choose what you pour in. The same way you get to choose what face you present to the world.

There’s also a timeline factor here. I didn’t go public with my issues in 2020 until I was well over the hump. To be honest, I was terrified of being accused of talking about it for attention, or being defined by it, so I didn’t want to talk about my mental health until most of the chaos was safely in the rear-view mirror. By the time I started Echoes of Eternity, I was feeling better than I ever had in my life – a state of mind that I’m happy to say still holds true.

My reply to a Reddit comment on this very subject.
I don’t know why my flair is “Warmaster”. I logged in one day and it was there.

If you’re looking for specific insight into how writing Echoes of Eternity went, I can offer some of that, too.

Really slowly. Just like always.

The writing itself went great, with the massive asterisk that I find writing anything to be a stupefying uphill grind, which I confess isn’t a great trait to be found in a writer. But relatively speaking, in terms of my writing process – it went great. 

Like I said in the Reddit post above, I’d been holding out these golden hopes of being mentally healthier suddenly making the writing process into sunshine and rainbows. But, nope, it was the usual spread of staring mystified at nine sentences on a screen for 14 hours a day, desperate to turn them into ten sentences.

I put everything I had into it, and I’m peachy-keen for it to get out into the world. The only difference these days is that after a book launch, I won’t spend weeks in a state of capital-A Anxiety, ignoring thousands of positive comments as mere digital vapour, while taking lone misreadings or occasional negative reviews as a damning indictment of my supposed hackery. I’m sanguine now. (Pun not intended.) I’m finally taking the advice of all those older, smarter writers than me, and doing what they do.

So all of this circles back to the original question: Why have I basically vanished offline?

In case you missed it: My last social media message on Instagram, FB, and Twitter. (October 2021)

That summation still holds true, and it’s hard to add anything more substantive on top of it. I haven’t gone offline because things are bad, but because they’re good. I’m enjoying other stuff, trying to hobby more, see more of my kids, more of my friends. All that good stuff. Admittedly, COVID and the chaos of the house move and the baby and oh God OH GOD… ahem, has slowed all of that down a little.

But to make a long story slightly shorter: Thank you for giving a shit about how I’m doing, and all the messages worrying where I’ve been. I’m sorry it’s not much of an exciting development, but the boring truth is that I’m doing great. It’s constant work, but that’s the trick, right? Happiness is a process. It’s maintenance. It’s the journey, not the destination. I hate how cliched that sounds, but it’s absolutely true. Regarding why I don’t talk about it more, I really don’t want to be defined by people online by a specific patch of my life, so you can probably see why I’d rather not discuss it too much. I felt like I’ve said all I can usefully say, especially now I’ve been over the hump for a long while.

Oh, and since it’s ended up being asked a crazy amount, I’ll answer this here, too: Yes, I’m incredibly freaking excited for the Horus Heresy to come out in plastic. My shriek of delight hit such a pitch that condors fell dead from the sky. And yes, I do have plans.

My plans.

tl;dr — Some useful links covering my withdrawal from online spaces:

Before I vanish, let me just say if you’re struggling with your own mental health – if the gears are slipping in your skull, or your thoughts are going in a hundred directions at once, or you can’t summon, master, or even feel your emotions: You’re not alone. I talked about this in the Twitter thread I linked, including my reluctant offer of advice, but it’s worth restating here: Often the hardest thing to do is getting help in the first place. I was incredibly lucky with not only NHS counselling and therapy, but with an incredible support network of friends and family. Talking about it was its own special agony, as well as frequently humiliating and upsetting, but it was worth it. Someone else getting it and believing you can be the most important step on the right road.

As always, be excellent to each other. We’re all just people. The older you get, the less trite that sounds, and the easier it is to see.

May 23, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

29 Comments »

  1. You’re awesome, you know that? And you have beautiful offspring. Go keep being awesome. We will be very happy with the words when they are allowed out again *quietly glares at Black Library*

    From a fellow mentalist/writer who may actually be slower at deadlines than you 😉 Big love and fistbumps x

    Comment by druidcat | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  2. Great to hear you’re doing ok – hope the house refurb allows you to move back in soon 🙂

    Comment by Stephen | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  3. so good to hear from you Aaron, and glad to hear things are going well, and congratulations on the new member of your family! Leaving social media feels like a great and healthy decision, despite us all missing you terribly. Hope you stay well, looking forward to Echoes, and excited to maybe get to see pictures of Blood Angel Beakies someday!

    Comment by Peter Hairston | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  4. Mr AD-B,

    This is a brilliant bit of news, not only as a fan of your work but as a human being who, despite best efforts, occasionally feels empathy and sympathy for other humans. The MH road is indeed an ongoing process, but one that is ultimately rewarding to those who commit to it. I am so, so happy that you’re feeling grand and going forwards. Much love to you and the ever-expanding horde!

    Chris

    Comment by Chris Robinson | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  5. Hi Aaron, I’ve been a huge fan of your writing since I first picked up Cadian Blood waay back in 2009, I think I’ve read everything you’ve released and you’re quite probably my favourite author!

    I love the way you bring life to characters, there’s something about the way you do characterisation in your 40k novels that makes it all seem so believable, despite the space fantasy grimdark setting.

    I have suffered with my own mental health struggles all my life, I was only diagnosed with BPD 5 years ago, and I’m 40 next year!

    Life with such disorders is a genuine struggle, the wild emotions that just refuse to be reigned in, the feelings of emptiness, loneliness and loss of control. Feeling every day like you’re an observer, watching yourself do the most ridiculous stupid shit and you’re helpless to stop it.

    Reading this blog post was really quite inspiring for me, because if you can find a way through, then so can I!

    Life can be a struggle, all the years I’ve spent in survival mode instead of growing as a person are thankfully behind me, and I’m happy to say that your writing has been a part of that growth.

    Please, keep doing what you’re doing, your books give me something to look forward to, a reason to keep going.

    Thank you so much.

    Comment by Paul Wilson | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  6. Glad to hear you’re doing well, and I’m very, very excited to read Echoes of Eternity. I’ve read most of your books, and have loved all of them. Hope the house renos finish up soon and you can get back to enjoying your own space.

    Comment by Adam | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  7. I’m very happy you’re doing better 🙂 You’re one of the best people I know and I’m glad I got to know you.

    Comment by Mark-Anthony Fenech | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  8. Since my incident in 2018 I’ve lived on Sertraline, done the CBT, know the signs and can ride out the troughs. But it never goes away, so i can appreciate what you have and are going through.

    I’ve been your fan since “Cadian Blood”; I, like thousands (millions?), wish I could help, but am just glad you made it out, got the help, and are well. If you only release one book every 10y it’ll still be the best I’ll have read.

    Take care. Deshi basara.

    Comment by plasmaspam | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  9. Faith is the daring of the soul to go further than the eye can see
    Courage is being scared to death and saddling up any way
    If your luckey enough to get a second chance at something don’t waste it.
    Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing. You are not done writing things worth reading
    Maby we all have darkness inside of us and some of us are better at dealing with it than others The best are ones who seek help.
    You are worthy of love and respect. You are beautiful, gifted, and intelligent. Don’t let the storm make you forget that
    Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ” I will try again tomorrow.”
    Yesterday is over and there is nothing you can do to get it back. You either already won or lost that day. If you won, build on it. If you lost, learn from it, grow, and win today.

    Comment by Ray shoemaker | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  10. Funny to get an email from you today just started re-reading the NL Trilogy the other night for the fourth time. Currently waiting on a new desk to get some night lords painted and would love to show. Anyway glad to hear you’re doing well and here is to hearing from 10th company again one day:)

    Comment by Patrick Ralston | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  11. Hey Aaron, I’m so glad to hear things are going better for you, even if your living situation isn’t ideal right now. I’m glad that you have such a supportive family and congratulations on your baby daughter! I too have had lots of struggles with depression and anxiety, so I can empathise with at least some of what you have been going through.

    My partner left me with my daughter at the end of January and I have been heartbroken ever since. I attempted suicide myself back in early March, and nothing has felt the same since. I am getting help, taking meds and trying my best to stay on top of things, but (as you know) it’s not an easy path.

    I honestly hope things will work out for me as they are for you. I just feel directionless, stagnant and heartbroken right now. I’m looking for reasons to keep afloat.

    I hope things keep on getting better and better for you and it’s my sincerest wish that you never have to feel so low again. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    Take care and all the best!

    Comment by Iain Morrison | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  12. You are by far, FAR my favorite BL author, and its good to hear you are doing, by your own words, well. Greetings from Finland. Life and mental health must come first.

    Comment by Kari Rostin | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  13. Hey Aaron!

    I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well. It occurred to me recently that we’d not seen anything from you in a while, which triggered a minor worry and hope you were doing okay and simply staying away from the collective brain dump of social media. To find this is true and that your family has grown by one more is wonderful! (Love the nickname.)

    Again, glad to hear you’re doing better and I’ll look forward to Echoes.

    All the best,
    Kev

    Comment by Kev Beal | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  14. Glad you are doing well and thank you for this. Not only are you brave for being so open about your situation, you are an inspiration to countless authors, content creators, and fans who I hope your posts and messages will provide a ray of light with their own struggles as it has for me. Happiness is maintenance and a journey, we should all remember that and glad you are in a better state.

    Your writing is awesome.

    Comment by Juan | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  15. Thanks for posting so openly! This community is absolutely privileged to have someone like you as a leader. I’ve been completely in love with your work, I can’t put into words how much this helps.

    Comment by David | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  16. Thank you for the update. Glad you are going better 🙂 Can’t wait to have my LE copy of Echoes of Eternity!

    Comment by Antarion | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  17. Nice to hear from you! I’m currently moving houses with an 11-year old – probably one of the most taxing things I’ve done, hehe. Hopefully you get those sweet moments of respite here and there! Looking forward to the book!

    Also – about mental health. I guess it’s about what kind of person you are – but taking those evening walks is so so helpful on all levels, atleast for me. So hope you get some of that cool spring air 🙂

    Comment by Staffan Gynnemo | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  18. Miss you bud hope you’re on the up. Looking forward to Eternity. Reach out when you’re comfortable and take care of yourself!

    Comment by Anuj | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  19. Nothing i can say you haven’t heard before brother, but just glad to hear you’re in a good place right now 🙂 I too have my battles. I too have good and bad days. But never doubt you have huge fans out here. I was going to end with ‘cant wait for your book’ but you know what? I CAN. Because your health is more important than any printed words could ever be mate!

    Comment by Nick Heffernan | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  20. Good to hear, I’m looking forward to EoE. Talon of Horus and First Heretic are probably my favorite BL books.

    Comment by Benjamin-Waters | May 23, 2022 | Reply

  21. Bloody awesome stuff.

    Can’t wait to see what you do with the lads in red in written and mini form.

    Comment by Tyler Moore | May 24, 2022 | Reply

  22. What can I say A D-B. For what it’s worth, you are among my favorite authors in general. Your books are great. Each imperfection is a perfection in itself. Remember Fulgrim and his hubris and where it took him. Yeah I get it all these geeks will say blah blah this is fiction. You know, it doesn’t matter, there’s a lesson there.

    And for what it’s worth your books have helped me deal with my depressive-anxious-obsessive problems/traits/whatever.

    I love your blog, I didn’t manage to read on your blog these last years because of my own mentalish issues.

    They came up with all this stigma bullshit. Come on, show me artists/writers who were in perfect health.

    You know, there are these people who come up with these reasons – blah family, blah children, blah success, blah whatever, why are you sick then when you have all these? I can’t find the quote now but Kennedy was a very sick man and he said smth along the lines – life is harsh some people are healthy others are not.

    We still can’t say for sure how the mind is interacting with its neural system that generates it, but sometimes things malfunction, all these diagnoses are technically worthless labels, what matters is something is off. People are anxious. Some are way more anxious than others. Some people are sad, others are constantly sad.

    I wish you well. Books will come – in time. The fans will wait. Let the bureaucrats have their little bureaucrating. And try to cultivate hope. I know I lack it myself, but research says to try to do it nonetheless. One step at a time. Until you get a balance in your life.

    Comment by Adrian Gabura | May 24, 2022 | Reply

  23. But don’t abandon the blog. Web logs are not social media. Social media is toxic by definition, blogs are not, it’s just data.

    Comment by Adrian Gabura | May 24, 2022 | Reply

  24. Hey, As a guy who, like yourself, has only recently himself acknowledged that ‘coping on your own’ not only just doesn’t work, but is actaully part of the problem. I just wanted to say, and I need to say, Thank you.  There are people suffering like you, like me, in the world and reading your words really really does help.  To know that we’re not alone, to know that our strugggles are real and justified to know that our normal, isn’t ‘normal’  but there is a light we can’t and shoulnd’t ignore.    And your words bring that home.  So thank you again.  John       

    Comment by Johnny TwoGees | May 24, 2022 | Reply

  25. Others have put it a lot more eloquently than I can. Good for you for taking the steps to get help, and I hope your message will help somebody else who’s struggling. For what it’s worth, I’m rooting for you, man.

    Comment by templeofthutmos | May 25, 2022 | Reply

  26. I am a huge proponent of mental health awareness and of leaving behind the stigma of seeking health. I have known many people who have buried their mental health problems or just tried to tough it out and those people are no longer with us due to feeling they had no other option.

    I’m glad you sought help and that you are on a good path now. I’m happy that you spoke publicly about it and understand why you don’t want it to define your life. It means so much that you spoke about it though.

    You are a gem of a human being and I hope others hear your story and get the help they need.

    I also understand the boring part of real life as someone who is about to get a ton of work done on the house and waiting on our second child. That takes up a lot of time! Totally worth it but doesn’t leave a lot of free time lol.

    My best to you and your family. I look forward to reading Echoes of Eternity.

    Comment by Luke | May 29, 2022 | Reply

  27. Dear Aaron,

    Sending my love and strength. And thank you for the strength of your words.

    It’s always been a great experience meeting you at Black Library weekenders and talking about stories. You’re a sound guy; you’ve got a great family; and I love reading your books.

    Your stories go beyond the hobby and you’ve got something to say. Spear of the Emperor was something.

    As a day job I look after sick kids and babies. Most of the time they get better and I can send them home. But every now and again some of them are too poorly and what makes them poorly can’t be cured. Or they arrive with blue lights flashing outside and it’s already too late. And afterwards I’m standing in a queue at a checkout wondering, what just happened? How was I part of that, and now I’m standing here? And I look up and I see that the world is just carrying on as if nothing had happened.

    One day I read your story about the Spears. It completely took me away from all of that. I became totally immersed. But then without realising, it took me back round to something familiar, something I’d witnessed before but I was seeing through someone else’s eyes. The unexpected humanity was one of the most forlorn but healing feelings I’ve got from reading. And I’ll always enjoy picturing the man and woman alone together, looking back from where they’d come from, sharing a moment together.

    The Spears, as you’ve mentioned, have got their backs to the wall. But they’ve got each other. You made me care and my heart will always be a Spear.

    Thank you for your stories. They go beyond the hobby. Take care brother. I hope we meet again.

    ❤️ 💪

    Tom

    Comment by Tom | June 1, 2022 | Reply

  28. You’re awesome man, take as long as you need. We’re all rooting for you. We’re blessed to have someone with your talent and imagination writing about our favorite plastic spacemen. I’ve read A LOT of books, and you’ve written some of my very favorite stories. Thank you for that.

    I’m so happy to hear you’re in a better place mentally these days. Mental health IS health, and you should never feel guilty about prioritizing your health over your work. We can wait, please take good care of yourself.

    Ave dominus nox

    Comment by Casey | June 11, 2022 | Reply

  29. Aaron, this is as tough to read as it was important to write, and thank you for sharing it. It is very important to us all how you’re doing — more important, by far, than the timing of release of the latest book — as the 31st millennium will still be here, waiting for you, when it is.

    I wanted to stop in to leave a message as I’m tearing my way through “The First Heretic”, which I won’t hesitate to say is a *beautiful* book, an account of a crisis of faith and philosophy, a rift between a dissembling god and his desperate son. It’s got me looking longingly at my 1989 copy of Epic Space Marine.

    Feel better. Take time for yourself and your loved ones. Be a good father. And as the stories are ready, we’re lucky to read them. Thank you.

    Comment by Ilan | June 14, 2022 | Reply


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