Related to: 'The Swap'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Hodder & Stoughton

The Maid's Room

Fiona Mitchell
Authors:
Fiona Mitchell

'A modern-day The Help' - Emerald Street'It's a book to read and then read again.' The Book Bag'I loved The Maid's Room with its exquisite writing, married with a shocking and powerful story line that had me gripped and moved until the uplifting conclusion.' Katie Marsh, author of A Life Without You and This Beautiful Life'A beautifully written and deeply moving novel . . . crafted with a mixture of grim detail, dark humour and poignancy, at times it's hard to believe that this book is a work of fiction. Genuinely excellent. *****' Heat******'This is where she sleeps. A cupboard. A bedroom. A windowless box.'Sisters Dolly and Tala have never felt further from home. In the blistering heat of Singapore, they spend their days enabling ex-pats to have lives they could never afford for themselves.Even though she has little freedom, Dolly can just about live with her job if it means she's able to support her beloved young daughter back in the Philippines. One day - if she's lucky - Dolly may even be able to go back and see her.Tala, however, just can't keep her mouth shut about the restrictive, archaic rules maids are forced to abide by on pain of deportation. She risks everything to help her fellow maids, who have struggled to have their voices heard for far too long.In a world where domestic workers are treated so poorly, The Maid's Room explores how women can come together to change each other's lives, and be the architects of their own futures.

Anna Jacobs

Anna Jacobs grew up in Lancashire and emigrated to Australia, but still visits the UK regularly to see her family and do research, something she loves. She is addicted to writing and figures she'll have to live to be 120 at least to tell all the stories that keep popping up in her imagination and nagging her to write them down. She's also addicted to her own hero, to whom she's been happily married for many years.She is the bestselling author of over eighty novels and has been shortlisted for several awards, and Pride of Lancashire won the Australian Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2006.You can find out more on her website, www.annajacobs.com or on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Anna.Jacobs.Books.

Chris Ryan

Former SAS corporal and the only man to escape death or capture during the Bravo Two Zero operation in the 1991 Gulf War, Chris Ryan turned to writing thrillers to tell the stories the Official Secrets Act stops him putting in his non-fiction. His novels have gone on to inspire the Sky One series Strike Back. Born near Newcastle in 1961, Chris Ryan joined the SAS in 1984. During his ten years there he was involved in overt and covert operations and was also sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team. During the Gulf War, Chris Ryan was the only member of an eight-man unit to escape from Iraq, where three colleagues were killed and four captured. It was the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS. For this he was awarded the Military Medal. He wrote about his experiences in the bestseller The One That Got Away, which was adapted for screen, and since then has written three other works of non-fiction, over twenty bestselling novels and a series of childrens' books.

Elizabeth H. Winthrop

Elizabeth H. Winthrop was born and raised in New York City. She graduated from Harvard University in 2001 with a BA in English and American Literature and Language, and in 2004 she received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of California at Irvine. Her stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Missouri Review and the Indiana Review. Fireworks, her first novel, was published by Sceptre in 2006, her second, December, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for 2009, she pulished her third novel, The Why of Things, in 2013. The Mercy Seat is her most recent work, published by Sceptre. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, daughter and St. Bernard, and is Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing at Endicott College.

Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind, He Said/She Said and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. In 2013, The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011. Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters. www.erinkelly.co.ukwww.twitter.com/mserinkelly

Gerald Seymour

Gerald Seymour exploded onto the literary scene in 1975 with the massive bestseller HARRY'S GAME. The first major thriller to tackle the modern troubles in Northern Ireland, it was described by Frederick Forsyth as 'like nothing else I have ever read' and it changed the landscape of the British thriller forever.Gerald Seymour was a reporter at ITN for fifteen years. He covered events in Vietnam, Borneo, Aden, the Munich Olympics, Israel and Northern Ireland. He has been a full-time writer since 1978.Gerald was interviewed recently on Andrew Marr's Sleuths, Spies and Sorcerers on BBC TV.

J M Holmes

J.M. Holmes won the Burnett Howe prize for fiction at Amherst College, received fellowships at the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the Napa Valley Writers' Conference. He's worked in educational outreach in Iowa, Massachusetts and Pawtucket. His stories have appeared in the Paris Review and HOW Journal. How Are You Going To Save Yourself is his debut.

Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde spent twenty years in the film business before debuting on the New York Times bestseller list with The Eyre Affair in 2001. Since then he has written another twelve novels, including the Number One Sunday Times bestseller One of our Thursdays is Missing, and the Last Dragonslayer series, adapted for television by Sky.Fforde lives and works in his adopted nation of Wales. Visit Jasper's website, www.jasperfforde.com, find him on Facebook, www.facebook.com/jasperffordebooks, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasperfforde.

Jen Campbell

JEN CAMPBELL is an award-winning poet and short story writer. She is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops series and The Bookshop Book. She won an Eric Gregory Award for poetry in 2016 and has been a judge for the Costa and Somerset Maugham awards. Her children's picture book series about a dragon called Franklin is published by Thames and Hudson. Having worked as a bookseller for ten years, Jen is a respected and influential book vlogger with almost 30,000 subscribers. Born in the north-east of England, she now lives in London. And she is a little bit obsessed with the darker side of fairy tales.

Julian Stockwin

Julian Stockwin was sent at the age of fourteen to Indefatigable, a tough sea-training school. He joined the Royal Navy at fifteen before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, where he served for eight years in the Far East, Antarctic waters and the South Seas. In Vietnam he saw active service in a carrier task force. After leaving the Navy (rated Petty Officer), Julian practised as an educational psychologist. He lived for some time in Hong Kong, where he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve. He was awarded the MBE and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He now lives in Devon with his wife Kathy. More information can be found on his website at www.julianstockwin.com.

Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver captivated readers with her achingly beautiful first novel, BEFORE I FALL. She followed that up with her bestselling young adult Delirium Trilogy and three adult novels. Her latest book, RINGER, was published in 2016. Her new novel BROKEN THINGS will be published October 2017. She is also the author of three novels for young readers, including the CURIOSITY HOUSE series. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.Find more information at www.laurenoliverbooks.com, or connect with Lauren on Twitter (/OliverBooks) and on Facebook (/laurenoliverbooks).

Lex Coulton

Lex Coulton studied English, and later Creative Writing, at Oxford. She spent fourteen years teaching English in secondary schools before taking a sabbatical year in Paris, to focus on her writing. She has recently been awarded the Literature Works First Page Prize (2015) and the Thresholds International Feature Writing Prize (2016), and her short fiction is due to appear this year in the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, the literary magazine Shooter and the London Journal of Fiction. Lex grew up in Herefordshire, and has recently returned to live there with her husband, John, and their dogs Bazil and Sadie.

Luke Jennings

Luke Jennings is a London-based author and journalist who has written for the Observer, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and Time. He is the author of Blood Knots, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson and William Hill prizes, and the Booker Prize-nominated Atlantic.

Mary Adkins

Mary Adkins is a former lawyer living in New York. She teaches storytelling for The Moth and is an award-winning playwright. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, The Atlantic and more.

Rachel Heng

Rachel Heng is a Singaporean writer who graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Comparative Literature Society. After working in the finance sector in London for several years, Rachel moved to Austin, TX, to pursue an MFA in Fiction and Screenwriting at the Michener Center for Writers, where she is currently a James A. Michener Fellow and assistant editor for the O Henry Prize anthology. Rachel's short fiction has received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention, Prairie Schooner's Jane Geske Award, and has been featured by the Huffington Post. Her fiction as been published widely in literary journals such as The Offing, Prairie Schooner, The Adroit Journal, the minnesota review and elsewhere. Her debut novel, Suicide Club, is out in July and will be translated into 7 languages.

Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher has had a long and distinguished career as a novelist and short story writer, but it was her phenomenally successful novel, The Shell Seekers, that captured the hearts of all who read it, and won her international recognition as one of the best-loved storytellers of our time. It was voted one of UK's top 100 novels in the BBC's Big Read in 2003. Her bestselling novels, September, Coming Home and Winter Solstice were made into television films. She was awarded an O.B.E for services to literature in 2002 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Dundee University in 2010.

Sally Magnusson

Broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson has written 10 books, most famously, her Sunday Times bestseller, Where Memories Go (2014) about her mother's dementia. Half-Icelandic, half Scottish, Sally has inherited a rich storytelling tradition. The Sealwoman's Gift is her first novel.

Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is the author of numerous New York Times bestselling thrillers. She lives in Arlington, Texas. Visit her website at www.sandrabrown.com and connect with her on Twitter: @SandraBrown_NYT

Sarah Haywood

Sarah Haywood was born in Birmingham. After studying Law, she worked in London and Birkenhead as a solicitor, in Toxteth as an advice worker, and in Manchester as an investigator of complaints about lawyers.She now lives in Liverpool with her husband and two sons.

Sheila Llewellyn

Sheila Llewellyn was born in England, of Welsh heritage, and has dual British/Irish citizenship. She has worked in Africa, Iran, Singapore, Germany and Russia. In 2002, she trained as a cognitive behavioural therapist at the University of Oxford, moved to Northern Ireland with her husband and worked as a specialist in PTSD at a national trauma centre. She completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in Belfast in 2016.