Loretta Nyhan is the author of the new novel The Other Family. Her other books include Digging In and All the Good Parts. She lives in the Chicago area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Other Family, and for your character Ally?
A: A few years ago, I was at a party discussing the 23andMe DNA test. One man in the group said he'd discovered he had an aunt and cousins he never knew about. I started hearing more and more stories like this, and I thought, hmmmm...that's interesting.
At the same time, a number of people in my life started to suffer from autoimmune disorders. I wished I could do something for them, but I felt helpless. I'm not a doctor, but I am a writer, so I came up with Ally and Kylie's journey towards healing in The Other Family.
Q: Can you say more about the book’s focus on autoimmune disorders?
A: My nephew suffers from a severe peanut allergy--this book is partially dedicated to him. Also, I know so many kids and adults who've been diagnosed with autoimmune issues. I was very moved by their determination to seek answers. Autoimmune disorders can be very tricky to diagnose.
Q: What do you think the novel says about the idea of family?
A: That we can find happiness and fulfillment from broadening our sometimes narrow definition of what makes a family.
Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started working on it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: When I start a book, I only need to know two things--the first line and the last chapter. I knew going in how I wanted it to end. I just wasn't sure what I needed to do to get my characters to that point!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A novel called The New Person. It's about a woman who, feeling like a failure, decides to become a surrogate for an old colleague. It'll be out in January 2022.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: As a writer, my primary goal is to entertain with my work. I'm hoping, that in these troubled times, my stories can give readers a bit of an escape.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb