Sunday, July 17, 2016

Meet the authors, part one: Sandra Block




Note: In May, two local writers came to speak at the Grand Island Memorial Library. Sandra Block, the author of Little Black Lies and The Girl without a Name, was the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Grand Island Memorial Library. Later in May, Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk, came to speak to the Grand Island Memorial Library Book Club. Today, I'm sharing some of the things that Sandra Block said during her presentation.

Sandra Block said that, as a girl, she dreamed of becoming a writer. She also dreamed of becoming a doctor. She couldn't decide which career she preferred. As a college student, she double majored in pre-med and English. She had an internship with The Buffalo News as part of her writer side. As part of her scientific side, she had an experience shadowing a psychiatrist. That persuaded her that psychiatry would be a great career choice for her.

She recalled a conversation between the psychiatrist and a patient:

Psychiatrist: "Do you think you might be Jesus Christ?"
Patient: "Yep, I do."

She wondered, "How did he think to ask? I was hooked on psychiatry. I went to medical school, but the writing bug was hard to kick." During her residency, she wrote a medical thriller titled Scalpel. Despite sending 101 query letters to agents, the book never sold. "My ego took a big bruising. I put it (the book) away for about fifteen years. I got married, had kids, and had a busy practice."

Sandra's busy practice is in neurology, not psychiatry. She specializes in sleep disorders. When she was in medical school, she did a psychiatric rotation at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Buffalo. "I hated it." She tried to cheer herself on but had to ask herself the question, "Do you, in 20 years, want to give yourself a pep talk every 20 minutes?" Fortunately, she discovered neurology and odd neurological conditions, such as alien hand syndrome, a rare condition. People who have alien hand syndrome report that one of their hands acts involuntarily, without the awareness of the hand's owner. People discover their own hands around their own necks and have no idea why they are attempting to strangle themselves. Some people, who have this condition, believe that their hands are possessed by devils.

Sandra decided that she could try writing again. She began writing a novel that she originally titled "Psych Ward." This time, she found an agent, who sold the book to a publisher. It was decided, however, that "Psych Ward" was too "horror-ish" a title for a book. "The Memory Thief" was a good title, but, unfortunately, it had already been taken as a book title. So the book was titled Little Black Lies.

The main character in 
Little Black Lies  is a psychiatric resident named Zoe Goldman. She is exceptionally tall and she has ADHD. Her random thoughts are quite hilarious, especially when she keeps herself from blurting out something especially inappropriate. Sometimes, she doesn't succeed. She has an on-again, off-again long-distance relationship. She was adopted when she was a small girl and she has always wondered what happened to her birth mother. Her adoptive mother, however, has dementia and can no longer remember the answers to Zoe's questions. Sandra said that part of her story came from her personal experiences. She based the adoptive mother on her real-life grandfather, who had dementia.

At the end of the book, it seems obvious that the adventures of Zoe Goldman will continue in future books and, in fact, they did. The second book, featuring psychiatric resident Zoe Goldman, is The Girl Without A Name.   Sandra, who has managed to become both a writer and a doctor, is working on a third book featuring Zoe Goldman.


3 comments:

Alana said...

I was amazed to find out that Sandra Block also is a personal finance writer and reporter for USA today - what a long way from medicine that is! We need good neurologists in this area and I am amazed, with what must be a busy practice, that she has time for both writing books and for USA Today.

The Savvy Age said...

It's always so interesting to hear the story behind the characters - in person -

Martha DeMeo said...

How interesting to learn more about Sandra! I always enjoy reading your blogs that's why I listed you on my top 10 blogs :)

The silence of the sea

Today, I am participating in a challenge, called #writing wednesday. I found the challenge on another blog. There was a list of ten words an...