Related to: 'Never Go There'

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.

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, fourteen bestselling novels and a series of childrens' books. Like playing Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Medal of Honour, Chris Ryan's writing will put you at the heart of the action. You can find out more information on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ChrisRyanBooks. You can also follow Chris on Twitter @exSASChrisRyan

David Swinson

David Swinson is a retired police detective, having served 16 years with the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department. Before joining the DC police Swinson was a record store owner in Seal Beach, California, a punk rock/alternative concert promoter in Long Beach, California, and a music video producer and independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, California. Swinson currently lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, daughter, bull mastiff, and bearded dragon.

Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly is the author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind 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/mserinkellywww.facebook.com/Erin-Kelly-Author

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.

John Connolly

John Connolly is author of the Charlie Parker mysteries, The Book of Lost Things, the Samuel Johnson novels for young adults and, with his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, co-author of the Chronicles of the Invaders. John Connolly's debut - EVERY DEAD THING - introduced the character of Private Investigator Charlie Parker, and swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers. All his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He was the winner of the 2016 CWA Short Story Dagger for On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier from NIGHT MUSIC: Nocturnes Vol 2.In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature. He was the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award and the first Irish writer to win an Edgar award. BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which he edited with Declan Burke, was the winner of the 2013 Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards for Best Non-Fiction work.

John Grisham

John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade, specialising in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987.His next novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and became the bestselling novel of 1991. Since then, he has written one novel a year, including The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker and The Runaway Jury.Today, Grisham has written a collection of stories, a work of non-fiction, three sports novels, five kids' books, and many legal thrillers. His work has been translated into 42 languages. He lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

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.

Matthew Blakstad

Matthew's first career was as a professional child actor. From the age of ten, he had roles in TV dramas, in the films and on stage at theatres including the Royal Court. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications, consulting for a wide range of clients from the BBC to major banks. Since 2008, he has been in public service, using his communication skills to help the British population understand and manage their money.In 2012 Matthew took the Writing a Novel course at Faber Academy.Sockpuppet is his first novel.

Mick Herron

Mick Herron is a novelist and short story writer whose books include the Jackson Lamb series, the first of which - the Steel-Dagger nominated Slow Horses - has been described as the 'most enjoyable British spy novel in years'. The second Jackson Lamb novel, Dead Lions, won the 2013 CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger, and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of the best 25 crime novels of the past five years. Mick was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and now lives in Oxford.

Noel Barber

Noel Barber has enchanted millions of readers with his six bestselling novels. In these powerfully exotic novels he drew upon his own experience as one of the leading foreign correspondents from the 40s to the 60s working on the Daily Mail. He was the first Briton to reach the South Pole since Scott, was stabbed five times while covering the wars in Morocco and was shot during the Hungarian uprising. He died in 1988.

Paul Cleave

Paul Cleave is an award-winning author who divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where all his novels are set, and Europe, where none of his novels are set. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages and have sold over a million copies. He's won the Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival's crime novel of the year award, has been shortlisted for the Edgar, the Barry and the Ned Kelly Awards. When he's not at home with the stereo cranked up loud and working on his next novel, he can normally be found on a tennis court, a golf course, or throwing a Frisbee somewhere.

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson's DCI Banks is now a major ITV1 drama starring Stephen Tompkinson (Wild at Heart, Ballykissangel) as Inspector Banks, and Andrea Lowe (The Bill, Murphy's Law) as DI Annie Cabbot. Peter's standalone novel BEFORE THE POISON won the IMBA's 2013 Dilys Award as well as the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel by the Crime Writers of Canada. This was Peter's sixth Arthur Ellis award. His critically acclaimed DCI Banks novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.Peter grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada. Peter keeps a website at www.inspectorbanks.com.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

Sabine Durrant

Sabine Durrant is the author of three psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin, Remember Me This Way and Lie With Me, a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection and Sunday Times paperback bestseller. Her previous novels are Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, and two books for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh La La! Connie Pickles. She is a former features editor of the Guardian and a former literary editor at the Sunday Times, and her writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. She lives in south London with her partner and their three children.

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 Lotz

Sarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist who pens novels under the name S.L Grey with author Louis Greenberg; YA novels with her daughter, as Lily Herne; and is one third of pseudonymous author Helena S. Paige. Lauren Beukes calls her 'a natural-born storyteller. Like the hand reaching up from the dark well, she'll drag you into her thrall. You'll come up gasping.' Sarah lives in England with her family and other animals.

Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling crime fiction writer. Her crime novels have been translated into 34 languages and published in 51 countries. Her psychological thrillerThe Carrier won the Specsavers National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year in 2013. In 2014 and 2016, Sophie published The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, the first new Hercule Poirot mysteries since Agatha Christie's death, both of which were national and international bestsellers. Sophie's novels The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives have been adapted for television as Case Sensitive, starring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd. Sophie is also a bestselling poet who has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE and A-level throughout the UK. Sophie is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, two children and dog.

Stephen King

Stephen King is the bestselling author of more than fifty books. His novels include Carrie, The Shining and Revival. His novel Under the Dome is now a major TV series. His novel 11.22.63 won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association.Many of his books have been turned into celebrated films including Misery, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Over the years, King has had various cameo roles in film adaptations of his books as well as playing rhythm guitar in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock and roll band made up of some of America's bestselling and best-loved writersHe was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives with his wife, novelist Tabitha King, in Maine, USA.

Stephen Leather

Stephen Leather is one of the UK's most successful thriller writers, an ebook and Sunday Times bestseller and author of the critically acclaimed Dan 'Spider' Shepherd series and the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective novels. Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mirror, the Glasgow Herald, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He is one of the country's most successful ebook authors and his titles have topped the Amazon Kindle charts in the UK and the US. His bestsellers have been translated into fifteen languages and he has also written for television.You can learn more from Stephen's website, www.stephenleather.com, find him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenleather.Stephen also has a website for his Spider Shepherd series, www.danspidershepherd.com, and for his Jack Nightingale series, www.jacknightingale.com.

Tana French

Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the United States and Malawi. She is the author of In the Woods (winner of the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry awards for Best First Novel), The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbour (winner of the LA Times prize for Best Mystery/Thriller) and The Secret Place. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two children. She keeps a website at www.tanafrench.com