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The Perfect Son, Back Story

Back Story

This story grew out of several unrelated moments in my life and, as with everything I write, comes back to my passion for poking holes in stereotypes of mental or neurological disabilities.

I’ve always wanted to create a character with Tourette syndrome, and I’ve long been fascinated by the 80 percent divorce rate among families raising special-needs kids. My son has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder for most of his life, and I’m active in a support group for parents of OCD kids. I’ve watched many marriages in that community crumble. After someone asked why my marriage had survived, I started researching a story about a broken marriage and a high-maintenance teen in crisis. Then three separate events occurred.

The first event was a routine medical procedure that went horribly wrong. I ended up in the ICU, and the strain on my guys, who are both empathetic, was unbearable. We got through that crisis, but a few months later, on a family trip to visit my mother in England, I was struck down by a virus that manifested as asthma. I couldn’t breathe, and the steroids I was prescribed made my heart race. Since I have genetic heart issues, it was hard not to freak out. One night, my husband sat up with me for hours, holding my hand while I chanted silently, “I am not sick, I am not sick, I am not sick.” The next day, I wrote two pages of gibberish about a wife who has a heart attack. (I think that was therapy for dealing with my own fear.) The final incident happened on the flight home from a literary festival in Ireland when some poor guy collapsed three rows in front of me. (Yes, I was the bad person taking notes.)

I ditched the manuscript I was working on—which felt way too serious—and started fleshing out the Fitzwilliams. I’m drawn to dark humor, and the characters kept making me smile. Once I’d found Max, the punk / math genius who uses perfect grammar in his texts, there was no going back. From that moment on, my life was all about Harry. (That was my working title, It’s All about Harry.)

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