I recently read an outstanding novel, Splinters of Light, by Rachael Herron, “a poignant and beautiful novel about love, loss, and the unbreakable bonds of family—particularly those between mothers, daughters, and sisters.” — Amazon
In this full-of-heart novel, the mother has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I wondered how Rachael could write so authentically and intimately about something she didn’t have personal experience with. This is the gift of a writer who knows how to research and turn that information into a compelling story.
I asked her how she wrote so authentically about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD). Her answer:
“I love immersing myself in the worlds I write about, but I’ll admit this was a hard one. Because there’s no cure for early-onset Alzheimer’s, there are really no happy endings. So I had to read about and research families that were breaking apart, but still focus on the happy parts of the love that remained. Luckily, it was easy to find. Memories are precious, and almost every family has precious stories of love. I borrowed the feelings, not the particulars, and imagined myself in each scene. I’m so pleased if it worked.”
Herron’s dialogue is spot-on, from the mother and her age-range friends to the teenage daughter and her friends. Rachael responds, “I love writing dialogue — if it rings right to my ear when I read it out loud, then I’m satisfied.”
Excerpt from the Conversation Guide in Splinters of Light:
Q. How did you get the idea for Splinters of Light?
A. I was sitting on my couch, my feet up on the coffee table, the cat on my stomach, reading a People magazine that featured an article about a teenage boy who was taking care of his forty-six-year-old mother as her EOAD progressed.
Note from Marlene: Notice how specific Rachael is. . . sitting on couch, feet up on coffee table, cat on stomach, People magazine, ages of boy and mother. These specific details enable readers to “see” this scene.
More from Rachael: “That boy’s story—that glossy page-and-a-half write-up—was something I couldn’t let go. . . I began to play with ideas, slipping them around in my mind much the same way Nora does with the sea glass in her pocket.
As this book took shape in my mind, the characters became real and the plotline began to twist its way through my imagination like a river twists to the sea. At the same time, I was deeply aware that I had to get it right. I was entering a conversation that I needed to be part of . . . the truth is that we are the ones responsible for raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, and this book is my method of doing that, of opening the dialogue.”
Note from Marlene: I think Rachael Herron does a fantastic job of opening the dialogue on this difficult subject. I encourage you to read Splinters of Light . . . for this important topic and for the gorgeous writing.
Your Turn: Do you have something difficult you want to write about? Go for it! Sit down and start writing. You can always toss what you have written. No one ever has to see it, unless you invite them. Just write!