Kathryn Trueblood takes the world of medical humanities by storm. Armed with her personal experiences and a heavy dose of social realism, Trueblood’s books “The Sperm Donor’s Daughter” (‘98),“The Baby Lottery” (‘07), and “Diary of a Slut” (‘14), culminate in her newest release, “Take Daily as Needed”(‘19), a novel in stories that explores themes of chronic illness,marriage, divorce, feminism, and aging.
The book’s main protagonist, Maeve, is a mother of two who lives in Washington and works as a paralegal. The book, published last September by University of New Mexico Press, explores Maeve’s struggles with Crohn’s disease, her child’s Asperger’s diagnosis, and the intimate relationship between physical and emotional well-being.
How do you go about starting a new project?
I start by spending time alone. If I spend enough time alone, an inner voice always stirs in me. I allow myself to spend days combing through my journals where I keep notes for stories.I am usually driven to writing by a persistent question. A friend’s death from multiple sclerosis compelled me to begin “Take Daily as Needed,” as did my own fear of illness.
How do you think your writing has changed overtime?
The questions of my books have changed as I cross new thresholds in life. My first book, “The Sperm Donor’s Daughter,” looks at assisted reproduction and was based on my own feelings of displacement as a child.My second book, “The Baby Lottery,” deals with the repercussions of infertility in a female friend group, and I wrote it while trying to get pregnant with my second child. Concerns that surfaced in “The Baby Lottery” evolved in my next novel, “Take Daily as Needed.”The story opens after Maeve, the protagonist, can no longer over-ride her body’s messages with her willpower. I’m closer to Maeve than any other protagonist I’ve written.Like her, I have Crohn’s disease, which goes in and out of remission.
Out of all your published works, is there one you’re most proud of?
I am proudest of my recent novel, “Take Daily as Needed,”because I took some big personal risks to write it. There’s very little in our society that recognizes living well with pain or illness. We are preoccupied with achievement, speed, and novelty. I wanted to write about problems that don’t go away, and also about the durability of love.
How long did you spend working on “Take Daily as Needed,” and how are you feeling now that it’s out in the world?
This book took me six years to write, and it took another three years to find a publisher. When I was on medical leave in 2007, I sought out books about parenting with a chronic illness that might help me navigate the new terrain I was in and help my family adjust. I didn’t find much that was useful or reflected the reality of my existence. Some of my frustration went into the novel.
Maeve is also unable to find valuable advice on parenting with illness. Nothing mentions anger as a possible reaction in children. As Maeve figures out the tools to live with chronic illness, her children become less frightened and more supportive. Still, it is a steep learning curve for everyone. I recently heard from a woman who had undergone open-heart surgery ten days prior, whose teenagers had fought instead of taking out the trash and then disappeared to their rooms. My book gave her some hope and some humor; that really matters to me.
What’s next on the horizon for you, do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
I am enjoying writing short nonfiction pieces, making sprints as opposed to the long march of a novel. One of my essays is forthcoming with [the literary journal] Minerva Rising. “Honey, Don’t Break Yourself” is a love letter to young women entering careers. Right now, I’ve got a piece in progress called “The New Rude,” which examines how social media and digital submission have affected the social climate of publishing for writers.
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