Revenge of the Radioactive Lady: An Open Letter from the Author
Believe it or not, one of my inspirations for The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady was Nancy Drew. As a child, I read all the Nancy Drew books. Even then, I knew they weren't well written (my parents were both English teachers), but I didn't care. I loved the notion that mysteries are everywhere we turn and the way Nancy moved so easily through the world, fitting in as well in Hong Kong, France, and Hawaii as she did in her hometown of River Heights. In each new story, she revealed surprising talents -- often a helpful skill she'd already conveniently mastered (sailing) or a latent ability that took only a few lessons to master (bareback trick riding) -- and didn't hesitate to assume a new identity when she needed to blend in among strangers to obtain crucial information.
As I grew older, my tastes became more literary. I came to appreciate the gray areas in life and gravitated toward books that addressed the big questions: love, death, forgiveness. But when I began to write fiction, Nancy Drew kept working her way back into my consciousness. It didn't hurt, of course, that by then I had two daughters who also loved her.
At the heart of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady is an actual experiment done during the Cold War on 800 pregnant women at a low-income clinic in Nashville. These unsuspecting subjects were given a "health drink" laced with radiation at their first OB appointment; many later developed cancer, as did their children. How, I wondered as I read about these experiments, did those doctors and scientists live with themselves? And how did the women ever get over such a hideous experience? I began to plan a novel that explored these questions.
Because I have a daughter with Asperger's syndrome, I also wanted to write about a contemporary family dealing with autism. So, in a classic novelist's move, I decided to marry the off-kilter family to the radiation experiment, tucking the latter into the grandfather's backstory. The two elements seemed to be meshing as I wrote my first draft, but when I finished I knew something was missing.