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IRDA Winning Author Sarah Zabel on the best part of being indie: “That what is produced truly represents me, not someone’s commercial interests.”

Fighting Chance: How Unexpected Observations and Unintended Outcomes Shape the Science and Treatment of Depression was the winner in the Psychology/Mental Health category of the 2021 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Sarah Zabel.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Fighting Chance: How Unexpected Observations and Unintended Outcomes Shape the Science and Treatment of Depression, published Feb 1, 2021.

What’s the book’s first line?

Carolyn’s voice on the phone was shaky. “I have something to tell you…,” she started, hesitantly. “I just got out of the hospital. I was admitted for suicidal ideation.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

“Fighting Chance” is a scientific exploration of major depression, from its cellular neurobiology to modern treatments. Incorporating the voices of researchers making fundamental discoveries about mental illness, physicians fighting to bring the most advanced treatment options to their patients, and ordinary people struggling for relief from their illness, it is a compelling tale of hope, resilience, and ingenuity.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

About 14 years ago, a longtime friend suffered the first of many major depressive episodes. She went from being a happy, gregarious individual to living in constant misery, and even attempted suicide several times. Over the years, I watched her go through various treatments and therapies, some successful and some less so, but she was never fully recovered. I wanted to help her, and was always afraid that I would do or say something that would make her situation worse. When I retired from my first career, I turned to studying depression and wrote “Fighting Chance” to help her and people like her understand what happens in the brain in depression, how it gets started, and how and how well the available treatments work.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

She is an ordinary person, representative of the more than 300 million people worldwide who suffer from major depression. Just like her, you wouldn’t know from outward appearances that they are dealing with a deadly, disabling illness.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

“Fighting Chance” helps people understand depression, in themselves or in a loved one. It helps break the stigma surrounding mental illness by laying bare the physical processes behind these conditions. Most of all, it brings a message of hope and empowerment to people affected by depression.

When did you first decide to become an author?

I retired from the U.S. Air Force as a major general in 2018. I started writing in order to pursue a lifetime of learning, and my friend’s condition compelled me to start with this subject.

Is this the first you’ve written?


What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

For me, the best part is feeling in control of my work — that what is produced truly represents me, not someone’s commercial interests. The hardest part, though, is feeling alone in this endeavor.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?  

Probably, but with conditions to make sure I have control of my work. The time I’ve spend in publishing comes at the expense of time available for working on my next book.

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