Terry Pratchett On Alzheimer's And His New Novel

Best-selling fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett sets the record straight about the genesis of his new book, Nation, and how the writing was affected by his illness.
Terry Pratchett, fantasy author and creator of the Discworld series, actually got the idea for his latest young adult novel, Nation, six months before the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami, but he's been worried that people would think he was capitalizing on it.

"Partly for that reason, [at the time] I thought it would be too soon to turn this into a novel," Pratchett told SCI FI Wire's JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, "and then, rather more than a year ago, I thought, really, I must get this one out of my head, because it's getting in the way of other things."

Pratchett was diagnosed last fall with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease known as posterior cortical atrophy, and the effects of the disease caused him some trouble while writing Nation. "But, on the other hand, I walk and talk and am quite capable of constructing a novel."

The non-Discworld book opens on a Krakatoa-type volcano eruption, and the resulting tidal wave kills everyone on the island at the center of the story. The only native survivor is a boy named Mau, who was at sea when the wave hit. His first duty upon returning home is to bury everyone he's ever known.

At the same time, a ship runs aground on the island, with a mid-Victorian girl its lone survivor.

"The early part of the book," said Pratchett, "are these two people who are, shall we say, locked in their own cultures having to deal with one another when they don't just not share the same language, they don't even share the same understandings."

Nation is available now.
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