It’s always lovely to receive feedback from readers, even if you do have to accept the rough with the smooth (as one person who rated a potato peeler on Amazon more highly than my book proved recently). But I’ve been more touched than I can possibly say by some of the messages about ‘You Me Everything’ from readers whose own families have experienced a life-changing illness, like the novel’s protagonist Jess.
The grain of the idea for the book followed my discovery back in 2011 that the mother of someone I know well had been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. I’d heard of the condition but, until that day, wasn’t fully aware of all the facts; that it is a fatal genetic disorder whose symptoms present in middle-age and which causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities and has no cure.
I was struck by the ripple effect of a diagnosis and how it affects entire families, because every child of a parent with Huntington’s disease has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene that causes it. I did a great deal of research for the novel, read extensively and watched scores of YouTube videos depicting patients in every stage of the condition. I then worked closely with the Huntington’s Disease Association throughout the writing of the book, before they finally fact-checked the completed manuscript.
It was crucially important to me to ensure every piece of medical information in the novel was correct. But it was seeing first hand the love and support of HD families that determined my ultimate ambition for the novel: To accurately and realistically depict this terrible disease, but with a message of joy and optimism at its heart.
I've received lots of emails and messages since the novel was published, from those who’ve tested positive, or whose parents are in the late stage of the disease, or who’ve chosen not to take the genetic test at all. Some weren't specifically about HD, but had suffered the torment of having a family member with a life-threatening illness and found that reading the book helped them.
What shone through in all these messages was the strength of the human spirit, and nobody embodies that more than Instagrammer Kelly The Bees Knees, whose inspiring HD journey has been shared by 29,000 followers. You can read what she wrote about 'You Me Everything' on a recent post here. In the meantime, please do keep the feedback coming. It’s genuinely the best thing about being an author.