Author Nancy Taylor Rosenberg was kind enough to respond to an interview request. What follows is her unedited, extraordinarily frank answers. Regardless of your reaction to the book, you must admire the remarkable fortitude and courage this woman shows.
1.) What inspired you to write this book? Did you ponder mightily or was it a thought provoking lightning bolt or….?
MY LOST DAUGHTER, based in a real life experience, was a novel I wanted to write since the onset of my career. In the early 1990s, I had a terrible accident while jumping my horse. The injuries were so severe I was prescribed potent pain medication. I had quit using the pain killers although I still had difficulty walking, when I flew to Dallas from California to visit my adult son and daughter, who considered Dallas to be their home. When I arrived, I discovered that my son was deeply depressed and possibly suicidal. I was so distraught that I began having chest pains and feared I was having a heart attack. I called the paramedics and when I arrived at the hospital, they looked through my purse and found several empty prescription bottles that I wasn’t aware were still in the bottom of this particular purse. The hospital must have assumed I was abusing prescription narcotics, and without informing me, contacted a local mental hospital which also specialized in drug rehab.
After the initial exam, none of the nurses and attendants would answer my calls or enter my room. I was in the room for over twelve hours, and none of the nurses and attendants would answer my calls or enter my room. In addition, they posted an armed security guard at my door. He also refused to answer my questions and blocked me from leaving the room to find out what was going on.
Sometime the next day when I was frantic and dismayed that a hospital would hold me against my will and not respond to my pleas for help, a woman came in with a clipboard, smiling and telling me that I could leave as soon as I signed a piece of paper. I had not slept all night and didn’t take time to read what it was I was signing. I was desperate to get to my son who needed me. The woman and another man then placed a blanket over my head and strapped me to a gurney. I was taken by ambulance to an unknown location. I thought I was being kidnapped. My husband was quite wealthy so I knew this was in the range of possibilities. Nothing else made sense. To my knowledge, the only time a blanket was placed over a person’s head was if they were deceased.
Once I arrived at my destination, they informed me that I was in a mental hospital and injected me with a mind altering substance that I had a severe reaction to, causing my chin to jut forward and my eyes to roll back in my head. Never had I felt such fear and confusion.
I was held in the hospital for approximately ten days, and was not allowed access to a telephone. Several years later, I wrote a book written by an esteemed journalist named Joe Sharky. The book was entitled BEDLAM, GREED AND CORRUPTION IN THE PRIVATE PSYCHIATRIC INDUSTRY, and described how private psychiatric hospitals paid kickbacks to ER doctors who made referrals, and in numerous instances, would even dispatch their security guards to pick up individuals from their homes and transport them to their facilities. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the hospital I was in mentioned in Mr. Sharky’s book. The attorney general’s office investigated this problem and closed down many of the offending hospitals. The hospital I was in, however, is still in business and I doubt if they’ve changed their business practices. The stigma attached to anything related to mental illness is so great that it has taken me two decades to get a publisher to print even my fictionalized account of what happened to me.
2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
Publishers sometimes require you to outline, but I personally find it a waste of time as the finished novel is sometimes nowhere close to the outline. I just sit down and write and the story evolves.
3.) Did the fear of losing your own adopted daughter to disease fuel the theme for “My Lost Daughter”? If this question is too personal do not answer and please excuse me. As a struggling and fledgling author, I introspectively try to determine my own motivation and wonder what others do and how they harness their own experience and emotions.
The young girl I adopted is still alive and in her mid thirties. The book is fiction and has nothing to do with any of my daughters.
4.) What do you like the most about writing?
The thrill of seeing the story and characters come alive.
5.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
My mind, my past experiences, and current events.
6.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
That writing is rewriting and you don’t have a chance if you refuse to take editorial advise and do the work.
7.) What can we look forward to next?
One never knows.
8.) Who is your favorite author and why?
Martin Amis. My all time favorite book is LONDON FIELDS. Martin Amis is a brilliant writer.
9.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
Write and rewrite. All the advice I can possibly give is listed on my website: www.nancytrosenberg.com. Listen to the speech entitled Fight to Write. Be sure to have a pen and paper handy.
Many thanks to Nancy Taylor Rosenberg for her candid interview.