I actually wrote the first chapter to SICK over two years ago. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what the story was going to be, but that first chapter, with my main character Ash (not his name at the time) waking up to find his daughter burning up with a fever and his wife unresponsive, that was crystal clear to me.
Where it all came from…? Well, I’ve always had a fascination with mortality, and science, and plagues, and those kind of things. I’ve been reading books like LUCIFER’S HAMMER, ON THE BEACH, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, THE WHITE PLAGUE, THE STAND and Y: THE LAST MAN since I was a kid. So I guess it all had been mixing around in my mind for so long, it was natural that something like this chapter would come out at some point.
And boy did it come out. It just leapt from my keyboard onto the screen in one quick burst of activity. I was actually working on another book at the time, and had to set it aside for a couple hours while I wrote the chapter. When I was through I put it aside, and went back to what I was working on, planning on building on the chapter in a few months.
But the thing is, when you’re writing books that have been contracted by a publisher, you have to run your ideas by them first. Twice I pitched variations of SICK it to my then publisher (at the time under the title THE WRONG MAN), and twice I was told, “We’d rather you do something else.” In a way I’m glad they did that. I wrote two other books I really was happy with. But SICK still stuck in my mind—not the back, right in front, daring me to do something about it. Just after the new year I knew I could wait no longer. I decided to just go ahead, write it, and release it myself.
I have to say I’m glad that I both waited and did it on my own. My original vision for the book was a much closer held story, all told in first person from Ash’s point of view. But as soon as I sat down to write the actual novel I knew first person wasn’t going to cut it. My gut was to go bigger and wider. And my gut turned out to be right.
I’m a write by the seat of my pants kind of person, so I had no clue at the time just how much that change was going to free me up and really make the story sing. New characters kept showing up on the page…and scenes that I wasn’t sure how they would fit with everything else. But they all did fit, even better than I could have hoped. And like how that first chapter just jumped out of me two years before, the whole story did the same.
It was like it had been waiting there, urgent to get out. And, honestly, with a plot itself thick with urgency, I think that was the only way I could have written the story.
Brett Battles is also the author of THE CLEANER, THE DECEIVED, SHADOW OF BETRAYAL and LITTLE GIRL GONE.