Hid­den tragedies in a world of trou­bled lives and loves

Best­selling author Linda Green re­veals the facts be­hind the fic­tion of her lat­est novel And Then

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - BOOKS -

WHEN peo­ple ask you how long it takes to write a novel, what they tend to mean is how long be­tween writ­ing Chap­ter one and The End.

In re­al­ity, of course, there’s far more to it than that. But my lat­est novel And Then It Hap­pened in­volved a level of re­search far be­yond any­thing I have en­coun­tered be­fore.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the re­search ac­tu­ally started 14 years ago when I in­ter­viewed some­one whose life had been dev­as­tated by a coma. Jean Dennis’s 40year-old hus­band John had suf­fered a heart at­tack dur­ing the am­bu­lance dis­pute of De­cem­ber 1989. John’s brain was starved of oxy­gen dur­ing the jour­ney to hos­pi­tal in Coven­try and by the time he ar­rived he was in a coma.

When I met John he had been in a per­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tive state for seven years, the past six of them hav­ing been spent at home be­ing cared for by Jean, who had re­fused the of­fer of a long-term nurs­ing home place. Un­for­tu­nately, John never re­cov­ered and he died in 2006, al­most 17 years af­ter slip­ping into the coma.

Jean and John’s story had a last­ing im­pact on me and by the time I had to come up with an idea for my fourth novel, I felt I was ready to tackle it. Film and TV are lit­tered with un­re­al­is­tic por­tray­als of peo­ple wak­ing up from co­mas and car­ry­ing on as if noth­ing had hap­pened. In or­der to en­sure I cre­ated some­thing more re­al­is­tic, I em­barked on a lengthy pe­riod of re­search. For some­one who flunked her O-level Bi­ol­ogy, I ended up know­ing a sur­pris­ing amount about the hu­man brain!

I con­tacted two char­i­ties whose help turned out to be in­valu­able. Head­way, the brain in­jury as­so­ci­a­tion, pro­vided in­for­ma­tion book­lets and case stud­ies which en­abled me to work on pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios for my story. I also vis­ited Daniel Yo­rath House in Gar­forth, near Leeds, which is run by the Brain In­jury Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Trust, and in­ter­viewed staff in­clud­ing An­drew James a con­sul­tant in neu­ropsy­chol­ogy and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

An­drew pro­vided some fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into how brain in­juries change peo­ple and how fam­ily and friends strug­gle to come to terms with those changes. I also spoke at length to Jean Dennis, the wo­man I had first in­ter­viewed 14 years pre­vi­ously, and asked de­tailed ques­tions both about the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of car­ing for some­one with a brain in­jury and the emo­tional strain of it all.

My task was then to ap­ply my re­search to the char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tion in the novel. Many un­pub­lished writ­ers make the mis­take of think­ing that ev­ery nugget of in­for­ma­tion un­cov­ered dur­ing re­search needs to find its way into their novel. That is not the case at all. What that re­search al­lowed me to do was come up with a cred­i­ble sit­u­a­tion and de­velop an in­sight into how those in­volved may re­act as the story pro­gressed.

I hope And Then It Hap­pened will prove a mov­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing read. As a nov­el­ist, I be­lieve that is my prime job. But if it also helps to in­crease aware­ness of the hid­den tragedy of brain in­juries, I will be very proud in­deed.

And Then It Hap­pened, set in Calderdale, is pub­lished by Head­line Re­view (£6.99). For more in­for­ma­tion on Linda and her books go to www. linda-green.com

FACT-BASED FIC­TION: Best­selling author Linda Green with her lat­est novel And Then It Hap­pened.

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