I’ve been proofreading Disease this week, and suddenly I realized the story was no longer mine…

This week I spent with my latest manuscript, working on marketing plans, contacting people who might review it etc. Most importantly, I reread the manuscript several times, first to work through the edits from my publisher, then to proofread the revised galley. A very early ARC was sent out to a couple of recipients in the medical industry to get endorsements. So far, the feedback is uniformly positive and very encouraging. That is, of course, a huge relief, as I had been worrying about this one, not just because of the way I’d written it, but also because this story was as close to home and my own life as it can get.

Disease, the cover, a novel by Hans M Hirschi

Disease, the cover, a story about Alzheimer’s, but no longer the story of my life. Reading it again was very cathartic.

I’ve often said that Family Ties was my autobiography, which is not entirely true, even though the book includes a lot of me, details about my own life and youth, but it’s adequately fictionalized. Disease is an entirely different beast, it’s not written “after” the fact, it’s written as a way of dealing with the fear of having the disease, having Alzheimer’s. Turns out – luckily – that I don’t. I’m just a nutty professor, in possession of a highly functional brain that just can’t be bothered to deal with certain mundane tasks such as remembering gym shorts or cutting the claws of my cat.

I had sent away my manuscript in July to my publisher, but I still remembered the story, maybe not in all its details, when the manuscript came back on Monday. It was weird reading it again, after my visit to a neurologist to do some of the same tests that Hunter had undergone in the book. Well, where I got a green light or a negative diagnosis, his is red, positive. It’s how the book starts:

“I’m sorry, Hunter. The results are conclusive. You have the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. I know it’s rare, particularly for someone your age. But sadly, it’s not unheard of. Early-onset Alzheimer’s isn’t something we fully understand, but given that your mother had it, and your grandfather, those are strong indications that your family carries a genetic predisposition.”

“Is there nothing we can do? More tests?”

After reading the first paragraph, again, and then continuing through the novel, I realized that Hunter’s story was no longer mine, not one bit. And I began to read it differently, not just as I worked through the edits, hunting for typos. No, on an entirely different level, this was a story about someone I wish I’d known. But it wasn’t me.

My writing always begins with me, be it topics I struggle with, questions or philosophic issues on my mind, and there have been quite a few through the years, weaving together my experiences from traveling the world with the research I do, with possibly opposing views on the subject to weave a narrative that hopefully stirs emotions and thought in my readers. I am well aware that this isn’t how you reach millions of readers, but it helps me stay ‘sane’. It helps me to reflect on the big issues in my life.

I cried a lot reading this manuscript, which is not unusual for me (reading) books. But it’s unusual in the way that I read my own stuff. After all, I know what happens when and how. But this was a different reading. It was cathartic to see just how the characters took on a life of their own, how they were no longer reflections of me, but flesh and blood, in their own right. I cried for their suffering, I cried for my own health, it was quite cathartic. With the manuscript back at the publisher’s, my task continues, to prepare my readers, my audiences for the release of my latest book. The first reader reactions are in, and they are encouraging, beyond my own tears:

Truly exceptional! I think I ran through half a box of tissues. I think this is your best work ever!!!!!!
or the endorsement from this Alzheimer’s expert:

The novel captured the essence of Alzheimer’s disease accurately and on point. It should be read by all people who are affected by Alzheimer’s, patients, families, and friends. This is a tragic story but full of hope and an exceptional read.
Being in the geriatric field and encountering so many people with Alzheimer’s dementia, this book gave me so much hope that showed that even when the disease progressed, his family was still there and very supportive, keeping him home as long as possible, using the nursing home as the last option.
Dr Claudine Hutchinson-Clarke

Disease releases October 26 from Beaten Track Publishing. I hope you’ll give it a chance, too. Pre-orders are available from Amazon et al.If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Thanks,

Hans

 

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