Former languages student, Helen Barbour, has just celebrated publishing her first novel

Helen Barbour, French & German, 1986, Lonsdale drew on her experience of mental health issues to write The A to Z of Normal. She now lives and works in north London, suffers from obsessive‑compulsive disorder, perfectionism and anxiety, which she also writes about weekly on her blog, The Reluctant Perfectionist

She said ‘There is still a huge amount of stigma around mental health and so I felt that this should be at the heart of my first major fictional work, but I wanted to handle the subject in a very accessible way.’ 

Helen likened her approach to that of Mark Haddon, whose books include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Spot of Bother, in which the central character suffers a mental breakdown. 

‘I write in a similar vein – tackling serious topics, but with a light touch,’ she said. ‘The A to Z of Normal is about a woman struggling to overcome her obsessive‑compulsive behaviour, so that she can marry the man she loves, while also dealing with some difficult family relationships.’ 

Helen began her working life as a journalist on the Express & Star evening newspaper in Wolverhampton, and has written for the lifestyle magazine, Complete Wellbeing, and for the mental health charities Mind and OCD Action. 

The A to Z of Normal is available on Amazon as an ebook and paperback, and can also be ordered from all good bookshops and directly from the publishers, SilverWood Books ( It has been reviewed by Maria Malone, author and ghostwriter (Cheryl Cole, Tony Hadley, Eamonn Holmes and Mica Paris), who said: 'Helen understands the nature of obsessive behaviour and writes about it brilliantly. She explores a tricky subject with sharpness and humour and The A-Z of Normal is both a funny and poignant story.’