It’s my stop on the Elizabeth Just 16 blog tour today, and I’m delighted to share a guest article from author Cecilia Paul with you all. In her article, Cecilia shares her process of writing a fictional novel based on her professional expertise as part of a team specializing in congenital genital tract disorders.
Below the article, you will find more information about the author, as well as a description of the book. Enjoy!
Points to Consider When Writing Fiction Based on Professional Expertise
by Cecilia Paul, author of Elizabeth Just Sixteen
When I started as a newbie nurse thirty-five years ago, I never envisaged specialising in congenital genital tract disorders. Most of my patients were adolescent girls and young women. The majority of them had Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH), a congenital disorder affecting 1:4,500 female births of the population. They were born without (or an under-developed) womb, cervix and vagina. It was these women who inspired me to write my fiction. When writing a fiction based on professional expertise, here are some points to consider.
Authenticity of your text
Having a solid background and expertise in your field will enable you to write with confidence because you have first-hand knowledge and experience, which will make your novel more authentic and believable. Also, this type of novel is a factual fiction so it is necessary to do your research to ensure your information is current and updated.
Writing a fiction rather than medical
Know your reasons and intentions for writing your novel first because this will help you decide on a fiction or a medical textbook. If you wish your novel to be in the public sphere, then a fiction will definitely be more accessible to them. Furthermore, if you have tried publishing medical articles, you will appreciate the difficulties of having to go through several ethics committees’ approval before it can be published albeit necessary for the public’s safety and protection.
Balancing ethical and own moral beliefs
Be clear on ethical and moral issues. Adhere to the “golden rule” of confidentiality and data protection – use pseudonyms so you never reveal person/s’ identity. It is okay to include medical facts and, even phrases like “feeling like freaks”, if it is relevant and a common psychological manifestation but not identifiable to a particular person/s and, if you feel morally obliged to inform. Also when using real experiences, use your imagination and tweak it so that the readers may identify with the theme/event you are trying to highlight but you still maintain confidentiality.
Identify main themes
Identify the main clinical presentations and themes that you wish to inform the public and, use your characters to demonstrate these. Especially, put all the psychological and physical symptoms of your expertise area and experiences onto your protagonist where appropriate so that your novel is truly inspired by factual events and, will feel real. Hopefully, the public can then empathise and understand better without knowing the person’s true identity.
Research your book title
I originally had “Just 16” as my book title but after researching, I found scores of these in different variations but, because it was still an important aspect of my novel, I changed it to “Elizabeth Just Sixteen”. So if you are clear about your characters and themes, stick to your guns and use your imagination and, do some tweaking.
Research on material written about your subject
If like me, your subject is still largely unheard of, I would still suggest that you do the research. I was aware of a few articles already published in the media and on the internet but fortunately, there was no novel on MRKH, which made me more confident to write mine, as a fiction. The last thing you want is yet another replica book but do not despair, your novel can still appeal if your prose and writing style is different, interesting and, you own it. Also, for me personally, I deliberately did not read any books with a similar subject except maybe the summary, because I wanted to write things from my head and not be influenced.
Be mindful of using medical jargon
It is very easy to talk shop especially when this is your medical expertise but it is best to write in plain English so that your readers can understand what they are reading. Never be condescending otherwise they will not connect with you and you will lose them. You need to engage them so know when to use medical terms appropriately because some people actually like medical jargon. If you use medical terms, always have layman’s translations too. You also need to proofread your work several times because you might know what you are saying but it may not be easily comprehended by the public so send your work to friends or relatives for their feedback.
Research appropriate publishers
I researched a few publishers to get some feedback and interest in my work because it is important to get someone who can generate the right interest for your novel and get it into the appropriate arena otherwise nobody will know about your novel or read it.
About the Author
Based in London, Cecilia Paul has worked for the NHS, in the field of gynaecology for over twenty years and, where she later worked within a specialist team, specialising in congenital disorders of the genital tract. Together, they have treated hundreds of women with this unusual congenital syndrome, MRKH. Now retired, and with a wealth of knowledge under her belt, Cecilia has been inspired to write her first novel dealing with this little-known syndrome hoping to bring awareness and understanding into the public sphere. Furthermore, as she has retired, she would like to encourage these women to get the appropriate help from specialist centres, that can provide them with a holistic support and treatment. She has also appended several websites and links in her novel.
Elizabeth Just 16 by Cecilia Paul (published by Clink Street Publishing 28th June 2016) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.
About the Book
Elizabeth Appleton is a sweet and easy-going adolescent. But as she turns sixteen, she discovers something so devastating about herself that her whole world is turned upside down. Elizabeth has been born without a womb or a vagina and is diagnosed with MRKH, an unusual congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive tract. Frightened and confused, Elizabeth must struggle to understand how she can still be a girl but no longer a ‘normal’ one. As she questions everyone and everything around her – her burgeoning sexuality, her gender, her hopes for the future – Elizabeth must fight against the shame and betrayal she feels if she is to ever become the woman she has always hoped to be. In her first novel, Cecilia Paul, now a retired expert in the field of MRKH, sensitively explores and illuminates this complex and often emotionally fraught medical condition, in order to raise public awareness of MRKH and to support those affected by it.