Allison Lee Palmer talks with Book Glow about the writing of The Sun King, a fictionalized memoir about a mother, her son and mania. The book is available from Open Books Direct.
Describe The Sun King in one sentence.
This book is a fictionalized memoir where I recount the emotions and events I experienced with my son when he became mentally ill four years ago
What led you to write it?
I began this book as a journal in order to chart my son’s illness, but after I wrote several short stories about some of the strange things that happened as his illness emerged, I decided to incorporate each story into the fuller context of a novel.
How long did it take to write?
It took me one year to write the novel, which is relatively short, I guess, but during the time I was obsessed with learning everything I could about bipolar disorder and so I was reading and writing every day.
Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
This is my first novel. I am an art historian and so I mainly write articles on Italian Renaissance art. Although I love the detective work involved in uncovering new information about this historical era, writing novels allows me to step away from academic research and use a more free-flowing narrative style without having to cite my sources, which is very liberating. I actually like both equally well, however.
What book most influenced your life?
I think children who don’t read the really well written classic stories of their youth, such as the lyrical words of Dr. Seuss, have trouble with phrasing and cadence in their own writing later on. Even if they learn perfect grammar and punctuation, it is difficult to overcome a poverty of reading in one’s youth to form an interesting writing style later on. However, it can be done—if an adult struggling with writing has never read Dr. Seuss, I would suggest reading these books—over and over again, and out loud.
Where do you write?
At my kitchen table.
Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
Not really. I love writing. I would write all day if I didn’t have other things to do.
Any advice for novice writers?
Read your writing out loud.
I have to write a book on Leonardo da Vinci, due to the publisher May 1, 2018. Yikes.