James Hall on Writing Red Sky At Night


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An old college friend of mine from Atlanta suggested that I might be interested in writing about the new and extraordinary medical advances in the treatment of pain. The idea didn’t seize me until some months later when I spoke with my uncle who had suffered a spinal injury in a fall and was paralyzed. Almost immediately after his fall he began to experience phantom limb pain, that is, burning and cramping sensations in the legs that no longer had any feeling.

I asked my Atlanta doctor friend about phantom limb pain and he began to fill me in. Eventually I flew up to Atlanta and sat in on several consultations and rather exotic medical procedures that this doctor was performing on his suffering patients. It was an amazing and inspiring experience and gave me the motivation to go ahead with my attempt at a medical thriller.

I wrestled for a long time with the problem of whether or not to give Thorn some kind of injury that paralyzed him, or perhaps simply leave that to some other minor character. I finally decided to inflict a different kind of paralysis and pain on him. My uncle was extremely helpful in giving me insight into the daily struggles of a paralysis victim. And I believe it was his help that gave whatever accuracy in my descriptions of the condition that the novel managed to create. On my last book tour, and again on the most recent one, I’ve had several people suffering various kinds of paralysis show up at my signings to let me know how much they appreciated the portrayal of their situation, and to say that putting my hero in a wheelchair, even for a short while, gave them something to cheer about.