Lying with Strangers: Behind the Book
© Copyright James Grippando 2007. All rights reserved.
In 1998, my son spent the first eight days of his life in the hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit. Each day, my wife and I would visit him in that darkened room, reach inside the incubator, and touch his little hands and face. When we finally left the hospital, I told Ryan's doctors and nurses that they were my personal heroes.
What I didn't tell them—and what I didn't realize until some time later—was that I desperately wanted to write about them.
We had to closely monitor Ryan's condition after he came home. Luckily, I had a friend whose twin brother had graduated at the top of his class from Harvard Medical School and who had just been named Chief Resident at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. David Weinstein was in the most coveted position at the best pediatric hospital in the world, but he always found time to take my calls. Lucky for me we really hit it off. During one of our conversations, I told him—only half-jokingly—that I ought to write a novel about a pediatrician. Later, he phoned and said, "Why don't you come up to Boston Children's and shadow me, see what hits you?"
I couldn't get there fast enough.
One morning during my stay at his house, David told me about another pediatric intern—a brilliant and beautiful young woman who had been stalked by a patient's relative. A light immediately went on, and Peyton Shields, the lead character in Lying with Strangers, was born. I realized, however, that I was building quite a challenge for myself. My editor and I were about to launch a series for HarperCollins featuring Jack Swyteck—a man who is a lawyer in Miami. The story in my head was about a woman who was a doctor in Boston. We went with the Swyteck series—the right decision—but Peyton Shields was never far behind in my heart and mind.
It took years to finish Lying with Strangers. First, there was the medical research, then the Boston research. But creating Peyton—and finding a woman's voice—was the real challenge. It helped that I'm married to an English Literature major. Even so, I can still see Tiffany looking up from the early manuscript, rolling her eyes, and telling me, "A woman would never say that!" Now, the feedback from women readers is glowing. And men love it, too. That's hugely gratifying.
As a footnote I would add that Dr. Weinstein is now at the University of Florida, which has given him the opportunity to create and direct the ideal program for children with glycogen storage disease. Dr. Weinstein's program is now the largest in the world, and the University of Florida has more researchers looking for a cure and new treatments for this rare disease than the rest of the world combined. One of the patients Dr. Weinstein treats is a boy named Jacob Gordon, whose family has provided critical support for the program. In honor of Jacob, and in a show of appreciation to the Gordon family, Dr. Peyton Shields' favorite patient in Lying with Strangers is named Jacob Gordon.
As a footnote to the footnote (can't you tell I was once on the Law Review?), both Dr. Weinstein and my son Ryan (now a completely healthy eight-year-old sports nut) are huge Gator fans. In fact Ryan and I went to the Final Four in Atlanta last month to watch the Gators win their second consecutive national title in basketball. Dr. Weinstein watched the game on television . . . and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to hear that he spent at least part of the game on the telephone, putting another new parent at ease.