Making Fiction with Pieces of Truth by Julia Walton

A lot of people have asked me why I chose to create a protagonist with schizophrenia.
To be honest, I have no idea. It just happened.

I was reminiscing about Catholic school with some old friends and Adam just appeared, tall, sarcastic, and surrounded by hallucinations threatening to interrupt his life at every turn.

Schizophrenia was completely woven into his personality the moment I got the idea, so I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. I had that magical moment writers get when they meet a new character: I just wanted to bring him to life as truthfully as possible. To do that, I needed to hit the books.

Much of my research for the novel was done at the library, sitting with reference books on mental illness and reading firsthand accounts from people being treated for schizophrenia. I also spoke to doctors familiar with clinical trials to get a sense of what Adam might have to go through to secure treatment with an experimental drug. Using these resources, I created each of Adam’s symptoms by starting with the ones common to schizophrenia patients and then using the drug to tackle them. Well, most of them.

The fictional drug ToZaPreX allows Adam to watch his hallucinations without being forced to respond to them, but there are a few side effects. Insomnia. Tardive dyskinesia (involuntary muscle spasms). Paranoia. Then when the drug stops working, Adam must decide whether he can reveal his secret to those closest to him.

In my author’s note, I make it clear that (1) I do not have schizophrenia and (2) Adam’s case is certainly not typical. Adam’s condition is rare, and his visual hallucinations are much more defined than they would be for most people with schizophrenia. Though I did take great pains to research the illness and create authentic examples of what some symptoms might look like, even with a made-up drug, it is important to understand that this is fiction and therefore does not adhere to all the rules of a very complicated mental illness.

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