I’m writing my second novel, Left Neglected. This is a story about a woman in her mid-thirties who is like so many women I know today—multi-tasking all day long, trying to be everything to everyone at work and at home, trying to succeed at everything, spread extremely thin. One typical morning, racing in her car on her way to work, she tries to make a call on her cell and takes her eye off the road for one second too long. And in that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled, high-achieving life come to a screeching halt. She suffers a traumatic head injury. Her memory and intellect are intact. But she has lost all interest in and awareness of the left side of everything.
The left side of the world is gone. She has Left side Neglect. She finds herself living in a bizarre hemi-existence, where she eats food only on the right side of her plate, reads only the right half of a page, and can easily forget that her left hand even belongs to her. Through rehabilitation, she struggles not only to recover the very idea of left, but also to recover her life, the one she had always meant to live.
2. Your first novel, Still Alice, went from being a self-published labor of love to a national resource, especially for families touched by Alzheimer’s. How did you do that?
Oh, what a difference a year makes! In 2008, I was selling copies of Still Alice one at a time out of the trunk of my car. And I was guerrilla marketing it online—at my website, amazon.com, social networking sites, blogs—trying to reach as many people as possible, trying to create a buzz. As David Meerman Scott would say, I was trying to create a World Wide Rave. A literary agent eventually heard this buzz, and the book then sold at auction to Simon & Schuster, who published it in January of 2009. They continue to reach a far wider audience than I ever could have from the trunk of my car. It debuted at # 5 on the New York Times Bestseller list (and is still on the extended list this week), and it’s in its 17th printing with somewhere around 400,000 copies in print in the US. It’s also been translated into 17 foreign languages.
3. What was your biggest challenge in completing it?
I didn’t find completing it difficult. I didn’t mind “killing my darlings” in the editing process (the scientist in me felt right at home reading my own book with a ruthless and analytical eye), and I felt very comfortable drawing a line in the sand, declaring it done. There was no agonizing. The biggest challenge was getting it published.
4. What do you do for fun or relaxation?
I love yoga, a hike on the beach with my husband. If I had more time, I’d love to get back to dancing and acting.
6. Last movie or play you saw?
Romeo and Juliet at the Monomoy Theatre this summer. I have a one-year-old and a nine=year old; I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies.
6. Best part about being your age?
Best part—everything still works. I don’t mind getting older—it sure beats the alternative!
7. Have you ever wanted to revinvent yourself? Do you feel you did, going from neuroscientist to novelist?
I think after my divorce, I started becoming increasingly fearless. I wanted to proceed in whatever was next in my life more consciously aware of the life I wanted to live, the me I wanted to be. When I got divorced, I asked myself this great question, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would that be?” My answer didn’t send me back to my old job as a strategy consultant for the healthcare industry. I decided to write a novel instead. And I’d always wanted to learn how to act. So I became an actress as well.
8. What do you know now that you didn’t when you were younger?
9. What’s next for you?
I have a two-book contract with Simon & Schuster, so I’ll be writing two more novels within the next couple of years. I’ll also continue to talk to audiences about Alzheimer’s, to increase understanding and awareness and to help raise funds for a cure.
10. What do you value most in life?