I’ve never met Spencer Wyatt but I’ve met his mom, Amy. Some years ago at the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, Amy and I talked dialogue and plot and character development over lunch. You know, boring topics that only writers find exciting. During the conversation Amy asked, “So, what are you working on?” That’s always a great question to ask at a writer’s conference.
I explained how I felt called to write for boys and that I was working on a middle-grade paranormal, murder mystery series for Harper Collins. “Oh, and I just released the first book in my Caribbean Chronicles series. It’s about a boy who suffers from absence seizures, falls into a creek, drowns, and refuses to go to heaven. When he comes back out of the creek, he’s on a raft in the middle of the Caribbean Sea being chased by pirates.”
Amy looked at me with wide eyes. “My son, Spencer, has absence seizures.” I knew right then the creek scene in book one was for Spencer.
See, in time-travel fantasy, the hard part is finding a way to transport your character back in time. You need a portal — an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole, a Harry Potter Nine and Three-Quarters platform at King’s Cross Station. During a previous writer’s conference, a friend told me about her absence seizures. When I asked if the creek scene was plausible, she said maybe.
“It’s possible someone suffering from an absence seizure could ‘blank out’ for a few seconds. I always smell something like burning wires just before it happens to me. If your character is leaning over the water when they have an episode, sure, they could maybe fall in.”
I felt bad about giving my character epilepsy just so my story would work, but I went with it.
Then I met Amy at the Ghost Ranch and I understood that my character’s epilepsy wasn’t just to make the story work. It was an opportunity to bring attention to those impacted by epilepsy. It was a chance to make someone with epilepsy the hero of a series.
I don’t know if I accurately portrayed what it’s like to have an absence seizure. But I know Spencer is devoted to family, loves his mom and dad, and doesn’t let his circumstances limit him or define who he is. That makes him a hero in my eyes and worthy of a book dedication.