Related to: 'The Shadows We Hide'

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.

Angie Kim

Angie Kim moved as a preteen from Seoul, South Korea, to the suburbs of Baltimore. She attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer at Williams & Connolly. Her stories have won the Glamour Essay Contest and the Wabash Prize in Fiction, and appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Salon, Slate, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, The Asian American Literary Review, and PANK. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three sons. MIRACLE CREEK is her first novel.

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.

Chrissie Manby

Chrissie Manby is the author of twenty five romantic comedies including A PROPER FAMILY HOLIDAY, THE MATCHBREAKER and SEVEN SUNNY DAYS. She has had several Sunday Times bestsellers and her novel about behaving badly after a break-up, GETTING OVER MR RIGHT, was nominated for the 2011 Melissa Nathan Award. Chrissie was raised in Gloucester, in the west of England, and now lives in London. Contrary to the popular conception of chick-lit writers, she is such a bad home-baker that her own father threatened to put her last creation on www.cakewrecks.com. She is, however, partial to white wine and shoes she can't walk in. You can follow her on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website www.chrissiemanby.co.uk to find out more.

Cristina Alger

Cristina Alger is a lifelong New Yorker. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU Law School, she worked as a financial analyst and a corporate attorney before becoming a writer. Her third novel, THE BANKER'S WIFE is a USA Today Bestseller. She's currently working on her fourth novel. She lives in New York with her husband and children.

David Nicholls

David Nicholls is the bestselling author of US, ONE DAY, STARTER FOR TEN and THE UNDERSTUDY. His novels have sold over 8 million copies worldwide and are published in forty languages. David's fifth novel, SWEET SORROW, will be published by Hodder in July 2019. David trained as an actor before making the switch to writing. He is an award-winning screenwriter, with TV credits including the third series of Cold Feet, a much-praised modern version of Much Ado About Nothing, The 7.39 and an adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. David wrote the screenplays for Great Expectations (2012) and Far from the Madding Crowd (2015, starring Carey Mulligan). He has twice been BAFTA nominated and his recent adaptation of Patrick Melrose from the novels by Edward St Aubyn won him an Emmy nomination. His bestselling first novel, STARTER FOR TEN, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club in 2004, and in 2006 David went on to write the screenplay of the film version.His third novel, ONE DAY, was published in 2009 to extraordinary critical acclaim, and stayed in the Sunday Times top ten bestseller list for ten weeks on publication. ONE DAY won the 2010 Galaxy Book of the Year Award. David's fourth novel, US, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014 and was another no. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. In 2014, he was named Author of the Year at the National Book Awards.

Eleanor O’Reilly

Eleanor O'Reilly is a teacher of English and Classical Studies who has just completed an MA in Creative Writing, at Manchester Metropolitan University. Having first started writing five years ago, she has received several literary prizes, including the 2015 RTE Francis McManus Radio Short Story Award and the 2013 William Trevor International Short Story Award, and has been shortlisted for several others, including the 2016 Colm Toibin Literary Award. She lives in Ireland with her husband Brian Kelly, their daughter Ella Kelly, and a whole menagerie of pets. M for Mammy is her debut novel.

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, Stone Mothers 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. He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the top ten in both hardback and paperback, was longlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, and selected for both the Simon Mayo Radio 2 and Richard & Judy Book Clubs. She has worked as a freelance journalist since 1998 and written for the Guardian, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Red, Elle, Cosmopolitan and The Pool. Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters. erinkelly.co.uk twitter.com/mserinkelly

Graham Norton

Graham Norton is one of the UK's best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2, and writes a column for the Telegraph. He is the winner of nine BAFTA awards. Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London. His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2016.

Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne is a bestselling author. She is passionate about gender equality and mental health. How Do You Like Me Now? is her debut adult novel.

Ilka Tampke

Ilka Tampke teaches fiction at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her first novel, Skin, was published in eight countries and was nominated for the Voss Literary Prize and the Aurealis Awards in Australia. Ilka was selected for the WHSmith Fresh Talent in 2016. She lives on five acres in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria.

Janet Ellis

Actress, presenter and author Janet Ellis trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Best known for presenting Blue Peter, she stars in numerous radio and TV programmes and in 2018 appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in a successful month long run of Makes, Bakes and Outtakes, a play celebrating sixty years of Blue Peter. In 2016 Janet was awarded an MBE for services to charities and theatre.A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing course, her debut novel, The Butcher's Hook, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize.janetellis.comtwitter.com/missjanetellisinstagram.com/missjanetellis

Kirsty Wark

Kirsty Wark is a journalist, broadcaster and writer who has presented a wide range of BBC programmes over the past thirty years, from the ground-breaking Late Show to the nightly current affairs show Newsnight and the weekly Arts and Cultural review and comment show, The Review Show. Kirsty has won several major awards for her work, including BAFTA Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting, Journalist of the Year and Best Television Presenter. Her debut novel, The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle, was published in March 2014 by Two Roads and was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award, as well as nominated for the 2016 International DUBLIN Literary Award. Her second novel, The House by the Loch, has been inspired by her childhood memories and family, particularly her father.Born in Dumfries and educated in Ayr, Scotland, Kirsty now lives in Glasgow.

Laini Taylor

Hi! I write fantasy books. My latest is STRANGE THE DREAMER, about a young librarian, a mythic lost city, and the half-human children of murdered gods. Check it out :-) Before that I wrote the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE trilogy, which has been translated into 32 languages. It's about a blue-haired art student raised by monsters, a broken angel, and a war that has raged for 1000 years in another world. I also wrote LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES, which was a National Book Award finalist, and the DREAMDARK books. As well as various short stories and novellas. Thanks for reading!! www.lainitaylor.com; @lainitaylor

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.

Marianne Kavanagh

Marianne Kavanagh is an author and journalist. She has worked on staff for Woman, Tatler, the Sunday Telegraph magazine and British Marie Claire, and has contributed features to a wide variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. She lives in London.

Michael Hughes

Michael Hughes was born and raised in Keady, Northern Ireland, and now lives in London. He attended St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh, and read English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He trained in theatre at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, and has worked for many years as an actor, under the professional name Michael Colgan. He studied creative writing at Royal Holloway, and at London Metropolitan University, where he also taught. His first novel, The Countenance Divine, was published by John Murray in 2016. Country is his second novel.

New International Version

The New International Version is the world's most popular modern English Bible translation. Developed by Biblica, formerly the International Bible Society, the New International Version is the result of years of work by the Committee on Bible Translation, overseeing the efforts of many contributing scholars. The translators are drawn from a wide range of denominations and from various countries and they continually review new research in order to ensure the NIV remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance and authority.www.hodderbibles.co.uk www.facebook.com/NIVBibles

Nina Laurin

Nina Laurin studied creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal, where she currently lives. She arrived in Montreal when she was just twelve years old, speaks and reads in Russian, French, and English but writes her novels in English. Nina is fascinated by the darker side of mundane things, and she's always on the lookout for her next twisted book idea.

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.

Rebecca Tinnelly

Rebecca Tinnelly lives amongst the twisted sessile oaks of the Somerset coast with her two children and two cats. No doubt fuelled by the stories she was told by her stepmother, a consultant pathologist, Rebecca is most interested in writing about the darker side of society and family life. After a successful career in sales, most recently selling wicker coffins, she waved goodbye to the office to pursue a career in writing. And, when not writing, enjoys baking the odd cake or two. Her debut novel, Never Go There, was published to rave reader reviews. The Guilty is her second novel.