I asked Lillian Duncan what advice she has for writers, and she said, “DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up your dream!” Now, Lillian, please tell us about the BOOK YOU NEVER WANTED TO WRITE.
Puzzle House is the book I never wanted to write.
What??? Let me explain. Rachel Summers, the main character in my new book, Puzzle House, has brain tumors due to Neurofibromatosis Type 2.
That’s what I said when my doctor told me I had brain tumors and something called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2 for short) in 2012. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. After all, I felt fine, but I was wrong—really wrong!
So what exactly is NF2? It’s a rare genetic condition that allows tumors to grow anywhere on the nervous system, but especially in the brain (almost always on the auditory nerve and vestibular nerve) and the spine.
The Rare Disease Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States or about 1 in 1,500 people. So exactly how rare is NF2? About 1 in 25,000 to 40,000 people (depending on what source you use) have it so as you can see it’s extremely rare which is why you probably haven’t heard of it either.
The tumors are almost always benign, but there’s two meanings for benign. One being non-cancerous and the other being harmless. The good news is that my tumors are not cancerous, the bad news is they are definitely not harmless.
So how has NF2 affected me? Without going into all the gory details, since being diagnosed I’ve had two Gamma Knife Surgeries, three rounds of chemo, and countless months of being on steroids. Because of the tumors and/or the treatments, I have chronic fatigue, balance issues that affect my mobility, complete deafness in one ear and partial deafness in the other, neuropathy and severe pain in my arms and legs that also affect my mobility as well as a multitude of “less severe” symptoms.
After reading all that you might think Puzzle House is a really depressing story, right? I certainly hope not. My first goal when writing a story is always to entertain and that’s true with this one as well. In fact, the subtitle of the story is a novel of healing and hope.
I’m not going to give away the plot but I’ll give you a little hint. While unconscious after an auto-truck mishap, Rachel has a very special visitor who asks, “Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” She makes her choice and that’s when her adventure begins.
Let’s get back to the healing and hope part of the novel. Nia is a 14 year-old girl who has lost hope and wants nothing to do with Rachel or Puzzle House. But they’re stuck with each other for the week so Rachel shares her story with Nia as they work her puzzle together.
It’s true that Puzzle House is a book I never wanted to write, but it’s also true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and I believe that’s what He’s done by inspiring me to write Puzzle House.
Why did I choose a puzzle theme? Because in many ways life is like a puzzle—not a box of candy! A lot of pieces have to be put together before you can see the whole picture. Many times we don’t understand why we need a particular piece of our puzzle but God does.
That’s where faith comes in. It’s not easy to keep trusting when we’re suffering, whether it be from a physical condition like brain tumors or some other difficulty. But if we trust God with all the puzzle pieces of our life, He will use them to create a thing of beauty.
Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.