It took one year for each of my first two novels to come to fruition. That included time for the idea to germinate, research, writing, and finally the dreaded editing. The idea for my third novel came from a real-life fact—my father’s being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and going through a harrowing eight years for both himself and our family. So in a sense, the germination was many years in the making.
After he passed away, I started to write a novel, not even remotely about him or us, but about a fictional family. Even if I had wanted to, I doubt I could have written about such a personal subject in a non-fiction book. I guess I’m too private a person, so I have to commend those who have written such books and thank them for their courage.
Before this, I wrote to entertain, and in interviews would say, “I just want to let people escape into a world where they forget their own problems.” Well, you can do that in a thriller, and it may not be a noble cause, but if done well, can allow for a few hours of distraction.
But you can’t do that with a terminal disease like Alzheimer’s. Yet I knew I had to write something that would resonate with people who wanted not only entertainment, but also information—or, as my publicist says, “edutainment.”
Yes, they want it to be a page-turner, but they also want to learn about the disease. It took me years to get there, and although I think I did, and have corroboration from experts, it’s going to be readers who will ultimately decide if I have succeeded.
Certainly the day-to-day joy of penning a thriller is exhilarating. When I am in the middle of the writing process, I can’t wait to get out of bed and rush to my computer. And when doing research, I have the opportunity to enter the world of the CIA, Secret Service, FBI, etc. That’s all really exciting, like a young kid with his face plastered against a window, getting to see the inside of what really goes on in these secret branches of government.
Although the process of writing about Alzheimer’s is more difficult and not a “fun” project, there is a sense of accomplishment in being able to expose the reader to the reality of what this dreaded disease really is. And that’s done through a different window, one that takes the reader into the lives of the family and exposes them to the different stages of Alzheimer’s.
So, what’s next? Going back to my half-finished thriller? Writing another novel like An Absent Mind? I frankly don’t know right now.