Related to: 'Everybody Died and So I Got a Dog'

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.

Celia Haddon

Celia Haddon is a bestselling anthologist whose books have sold well over 1,000,000 copies worldwide. She was the Daily Telegraph's pet agony aunt and is a reputed lover and worshipper of cats, having lived with them and loved them since she was a child. She has compiled a number of anthologies in their honour. She is also compiler of the best-selling One Hundred Ways series and a qualified cat behaviourist.

Charlotte Rea

Charlotte Rea is a veterinary surgeon currently working in a large London animal charity hospital. She graduated from vet school in 2008 and has since gone on to complete a post-graduate certificate in small animal medicine.She has spent several stints abroad working with various animal charities including in Nairobi for Kenya Wildlife Services and Worldwide Veterinary Service projects in Lisbon and on the Greek island of Samos. She is passionate about animal health and welfare and has spent nearly a decade of her life dedicated to the animals of London, including pampered dogs and cats, homeless and stray pets and city farm animals. Charlotte lives in north London with her husband, young daughter and eccentric, fluffy cat.

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist whose television career is now in its seventh decade. After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge and a brief stint in publishing, he joined the BBC in 1952 and spent ten years making documentary programmes of all kinds, including the Zoo Quest series. In 1965, he was appointed Controller of a new network, BBC2, and then, after four years became editorially responsible for both BBC1 and BBC2.After eight years of administration, he returned to programme-making to write and present a thirteen-part series, Life on Earth, which surveyed the evolutionary history of animals and plants. This was followed by many other series which, between them, surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth.

Derek Pringle

Derek Pringle was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, where he first learnt to play cricket on matting pitches. He attended St Mary's School, Nairobi, then Felsted School in Essex, before reading Geography and Land Economy at Cambridge, where he captained the university at cricket and won three blues. While still an undergraduate he was selected to play Test cricket for England in 1982, a feat achieved previously by Ted Dexter, 24 years earlier. He also appeared, briefly, in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, as Cambridge's vice-captain of athletics.He played 30 Tests and 44 one-day internationals for England, appearing in two World Cups, one as a losing finalist in 1992. His cricket career at Essex, which spanned 15 years, included five County Championship titles, three John Player League titles, a NatWest Trophy and countless friendships. He retired from the game in 1993.A second career, as a journalist, saw him appointed cricket correspondent for the Independent, then the Daily Telegraph, a role he fulfilled until 2014. He now works as a freelance writer. His hobbies include photography and collecting vinyl records, of which he has several thousand - the latter perhaps explaining why he has never married. He has a son whose musical tastes he is trying to shape. He lives in Cambridge.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website, www.gervase-phinn.com.

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. He also had a successful partnership with England Spin Bowler, Graeme Swann. Henry now tours the country with his one man show.

Henry Normal

Henry Normal is an English comedian, television producer, poet and writer. He co-wrote The Royle Family, The Mrs Merton Show, Paul and Pauline Calf's Video Diaries, Coogan's Run, The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon, Dr Terrible's House of Horrible and The Parole Officer. He is Managing Director of Baby Cow Productions Ltd, which he set up with Steve Coogan, responsible for bringing The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey to the screen, amongst many others.

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in London.

Jenny Tomlin

Jenny Tomlin was born and brought up in east London. She has two children and lives happily in France. Jenny is a bestselling author and children's rights campaigner.

Jessica Andrews

Jessica Andrews writes fiction and poetry. She grew up in Sunderland and has spent time living in Santa Cruz, Paris, Donegal, Barcelona and London. She has been published by the Independent, Somesuch Stories, AnOther, Caught by the River, Shabby Doll House and Papaya Press, among others. She teaches Literature and Creative Writing classes and co-runs literary magazine The Grapevine, which aims to give a platform to under-represented writers.jessica-andrews.com

Lorna Byrne

Lorna Byrne has been seeing and talking to angels since she was a baby. Now that her family is raised she talks openly about what she has learned. She lives quietly in rural Ireland. She is the author of the international bestsellers Angels in My Hair, Stairways to Heaven, A Message of Hope from the Angels and Love From Heaven. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. For more information, visit www.lornabyrne.com or follow Lorna on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lornabyrneangels

Lucy Daniels

Lucy Daniels is the author of the bestselling children's book series, Animal Ark, which have sold nearly 3 million copies in the UK alone, and more recently, the Animal Ark Revisited series for adults. Lucy Daniels is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of celebrated author Victoria Holmes and real-life vet, Sarah McGurk. Victoria Holmes grew up on a farm surrounded by animals, and started writing at a young age. After studying English at the University of Oxford, Vicky worked with horses for a year before becoming an English teacher, then moved on to become an editor at Working Partners in London. Over the past two decades, Vicky has been the creator and editor of dozens of well-known series, including Animal Ark, Heartland, Rainbow Magic, Puppy Patrol, Chestnut Hill and, most famously, Warrior Cats. As the creator, editor and, later, author, of the Warrior Cats books, Vicky has travelled around the world to meet fans, appeared in numerous TV and radio interviews, and had a tiny taste of the celebrity lifestyle. She is still happiest at home in her medieval thatched cottage in the Somerset countryside, with her beloved horse Nick for company.Sarah McGurk grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, and was inspired by James Herriot to become a veterinary surgeon some thirty years ago. A few years after she qualified, Sarah realised she wanted to follow him further, into the world of veterinary writing. She began with short stories, then longer works of fiction, related to her work in general practice and in emergency and critical care. Her special interests include anaesthesia and pain relief, and low-stress techniques in small animal handling. Sarah currently lives in Norway, where she works in a local veterinary practice and speaks Norwegian fluently.Currently, Vicky and Sarah collaborate on the Animal Ark Revisited series, returning to the beloved setting of Welford and favourite characters from the original children's books. The first Animal Ark Revisited novel, Summer at Hope Meadows, picks up the story again with Mandy now in her twenties and working as a qualified vet. Full of countryside-charm and plenty of pet rescues, the Animal Ark Revisited series will capture the hearts of original readers of the series, as well as new readers looking for romantic escapism in a small village veterinary surgery.

Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster whose first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965. His novels since include The Maid of Buttermere, The Soldier's Return, Credo and Now is the Time, which won the Parliamentary Book Award for fiction in 2016. His books have also been awarded the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the WHSmith Literary Award, and have been longlisted three times for the Booker Prize (including the Lost Man Booker Prize). He has also written several works of non-fiction, including The Adventure of English and The Book of Books about the King James Bible. He lives in London and Cumbria.

Mike Gayle

Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology, he moved to London to pursue a career in journalism and worked as a Features Editor and agony uncle. He has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan.Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by the Independent as 'full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,' and by The Times as 'a funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic'. Since then he has written thirteen novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.You can find him online at mikegayle.co.uk and on Twitter @mikegayle.

Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart made her mark appearing in shows including Smack the Pony, Absolutely Fabulous and Not Going Out. But when her sitcom Miranda burst on to our screens in 2009, her popularity rocketed. Miranda has since been crowned the Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards and won Best new TV comedy, as well as winning best actress in 2010 and 2011. She has also won three RTS comedy awards and has been nominated for four BAFTAs. Her book Is It Just Me? was the number one best-selling memoir of 2012 and to date it has sold over 580,000 copies. Her stand up show - My, What I Call, Live Show - was a sell-out in 2013. Follow Miranda on Twitter www.twitter.com/mermhart or vist her website www.mirandahart.com

Paul Carter

Paul Carter was born in England in 1969. His father's military career had the family moving all over the world, relocating every few years. Paul has worked in the oil industry now for fifteen years, relocating every few years (old habits). Paul has lived, worked, gotten into trouble and been given a serious talking to in England, Scotland, Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Portugal, Tunisia, Australia, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Columbia, Vietnam, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, USA and Saudi Arabia. Today he lives in Perth with his wife, baby daughter and two motorbikes. But who knows where he'll be tomorrow . . .

Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris was a teenage prodigy, becoming Newcastle United's youngest-ever player in 1982, only for injury to ensure his promise went unfulfilled. He later returned to the club as a physiotherapist before earning a Master's degree and beginning a successful quest to qualify as a barrister. But the lure of football was always strong and he went back for a third spell at Newcastle, as Head of the Medical Department, again working closely with a host of big-name players and managers. Paul also became a novelist and now runs a successful health and fitness business.

Penny Junor

Penny Junor is a writer and broadcaster. She is the author of many best-selling biographies including of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, both the Prince and the Princess of Wales and two British Prime Ministers. She also co-wrote best-selling autobiographies of Pattie Boyd and Sir Cliff Richard. For many years she presented The Travel Show on BBC2 and Channel 4's award-winning consumer programme 4 What It's Worth. She is married with children and grandchildren and lives in Wiltshire.

Phil Craig

Phil Craig, the creator of the Finest Hour TV series, is a distinguished independent producer of political and historical documentaries.

Rae Earl

Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.