Author Sandra Block tells us about her novel The Girl Without a Name and when she finds time to write between being a neurologist and having a family.
‘Girl Without a Name’
Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in training in a psychiatric ward in Buffalo, New York, and she’s more than a little different. Not only does she stick out of the crowd because of her height, but her ADHD makes it hard for her to focus, keep her mouth shut, and play by the rules.
But that’s what makes her so good. Even if she can be a pain in the ass for her coworkers.
In The Girl without a Name, Zoe gets a new patient in the form of a little girl they’ve dubbed Jane Doe. Jane is catatonic and they can’t find any record of her before she got her own room on their floor. Read our review.
Interview with Sandra Block
Tell us 5 interesting facts about yourself.
- I love sushi.
- My iPod is evenly split between rap and folk music.
- Taking an around-the-world cruise is on my bucket list.
- I used to be in a band called the Underdogs.
- I’m a Sabres fanatic.
What first interested you in writing?
I’ve always loved writing. I can’t explain why, but it just gives me joy. I remember writing poetry back in fourth grade and forcing others to read it. Luckily, they didn’t have Amazon reviewers back then.
Have any of your real life cases influenced the cases in your books?
Only obliquely. I may steal a funny line from a patient here or there or the outline of a case. But since I practice neurology and not psychiatry, the focus is actually quite different.
Do you share any characteristics with Zoe?/How did you decide to make her the way she is? (Above average height, ADHD, etc.)
After reading one of my books featuring Zoe, people will sometimes ask me 1) Are you tall? 2) Do you have ADHD?
Answer: 1) I’m 5 foot 2″ (and a half). 2) I don’t have ADHD (well, not a formal diagnosis).
Why did I write her that way? As for her height, that was a conscious decision to try to create some distance (literally) between us. I didn’t want Zoe Goldman to be Sandra Block.
With the ADHD, this was a less conscious decision. When she started talking to me, with her scattered thoughts and sometimes inappropriate humor, it came to me. “Oh right, she has ADHD.”
Is everything we see in your books true to life, or do you have to make allowances for the sake of fiction?
I do use poetic license. Medical visits are full of boring questions and conversation that would drag any story straight into the ground. I heighten the drama and play up the fun stuff.
Zoe has solved the mystery of her past and made a decision about her future. What sort of challenges do you see her facing next?
I think ADHD will always remain her opportunity and her challenge. She’ll have to get through a fellowship, as well as navigate her relationship with Mike, who’s the ultra-calm to her ultra-hyper. Opposites attract, but sometimes they clash as well.
What kind of cases would you like to explore next?
The next book will probably touch on addiction, then possibly schizophrenia in a future book.
Which authors have influenced your writing the most?
Quite a few. Alexander McCall Smith for his easy style. Sue Miller for her gorgeous prose. Kate Atkinson for her wit. Henning Menkel for his character development. I’m missing so many, but we could be here all day!
What’s been the most challenging part of writing these books?
Exhaustion. Between work and family demands, just like everyone else, I get tired. I have to carve out specific hours when I’m at my peak, then steal dead time throughout the day to polish things up.
Have you ever considered writing in a different genre (i.e. fantasy)?
Lately I’ve been fantasizing about writing romance. Not necessarily a bodice-ripper (since I’m cringingly bad at sex scenes) but maybe a happy love story where nobody dies. Never say never…
About Sandra Block
Sandra A. Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan, and lives at home with her husband, two children, and impetuous yellow lab Delilah. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. Little Black Lies is her debut, and The Girl Without a Name is the next novel in the series.