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  • tarahathcock

Improbable But Not Impossible...

As we gear up for the release of book 2 (stay tuned for cover and title release soon!) in what will most-likely be the three-part Shattered Highways series, I’ve been thinking more and more about why, and how, I wrote the first book. As a writer, those are the most frequently-asked questions you get: what’s the book about, how did you come up with the story, where do the characters come from, is any of it true?

My usual answer is somewhere between Huh, I don’t really know and Yes, sort of, but not really. I suspect most indie authors, those who don’t have the benefit of a major conglomeration supporting, educating, and backing their every move, answer questions roughly the same way. I’m a writer, not a public speaker. Please don’t make me explain my baby to you with words from my mouth. Saying words is hard. I’m an author - can’t I just write it down?

These questions have been rattling around inside my head since I first started telling people I had written a book. How did I come up with the story? Where do my characters come from? Is any of it true? There is an actual answer to all those questions. Turns out, I just needed to sit down and write them out (which I decided to do instead of the much more pressing write-up for the back cover copy of book 2, but that’s a whole other story). So here’s the deal - to celebrate the imminent release of book 2, I’m going to spend a little time answering some of those most vital questions, posting every week or two until the release. I’ll start right now by explaining the basis of the story - RNB.

Reflexive neurological bias is not real. I created it over the course of almost two decades spent witnessing the aftermath of traumatic brain injuries and providing care for sufferers. I developed the theory slowly, over time. I didn’t realize I was doing it. But as I learned more and more about the anatomy of the brain and the wondrous healing capabilities of the human body (like I tell my students, if the body is built for anything, it’s built to survive), I began to wonder. If the left side of the brain can take over functions from the right side of the brain after a debilitating injury, or if the two hemispheres of the brain can learn to function independently after being purposefully severed (it’s called a corpus callosotomy and it’s super cool - look it up!), why can’t it find a work around when specific areas of the brain are damaged?

Without launching into my engaging and interactive central nervous system lecture, which is both fun and educational, I’ll just tell you that the thalamus became one of my focuses. The thalamus is buried in the dead center of the brain and it’s one of several structures that acts as a kind of filter. It helps eliminate the unnecessary information from the massive amount of input we get every day. So if that filter gets shut off or damaged, we typically can’t function any longer. But what if the brain learned to compensate? What if it learned to integrate the information it receives without its filter? What if, after an injury that should have killed you, you can suddenly hear every sound or see every wavelength of light? Is it theoretically possible? I think so. Is it a little out there? Yep. That’s what makes it fun.

The side effects from RNB, I decided to introduce as a way of coping with some of the issues I struggle with personally. If you’ve ever had an actual, honest-to-God migraine, or if you suffer from chronic migraines, you should feel personally connected to RNB. The sleeplessness, the stabbing, throbbing pain, the thought that if you could just go to sleep and not wake up...those are all very common for migraine sufferers, as well as a plethora of other symptoms I pop in and out of the book. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Quincy’s battle with RNB was a symbol of my own experiences with chronic migraine. You live with the pain and do what you can to function, but it takes a toll.

For anyone else who has ever dealt with these kinds of symptoms, my sympathies. You are not alone, even though you feel like you are. For the rest of you, I hope it’s a glimpse into how it feels to have an ice pick shoved through your brain over and over again. You suffer, even when the pain itself is absent.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read Shattered Highways. If not, I hope you do soon. I also hope you enjoyed the first book from a brand-new author. I like to think I’ll get better with time and that book 2 will exceed book 1’s quality. We’re digging a little further into RNB and the nefarious company that is hunting Quincy and others like her. We may even meet a couple of them… until next time!

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