Brookhaven-based author Julia McDermott’s very personal account of her son’s struggle with cancer has put her in the running for Georgia author of the year alongside fellow nominees like former president Jimmy Carter.

McDermott’s work of creative non-fiction “All the Above: My Son’s Battle with Brain Cancer,” has been nominated for the Georgia Writer’s Association’s 2016 Georgia Author of the Year award in the memoir category. The book recounts her son Jack’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery from a brain tumor.

She said the experience of switching gears from her usual fiction to a very personal, true story was therapeutic, though somewhat difficult.

“It is kind of difficult […] because you are an open book, and this is what really happened to you,” she said. “I had to be willing to be open and tell people about what was going in my heart and what I was feeling.”

She said she began writing the book three years ago by recalling her and her family's memories of the experience as well as consulting the journal she kept, receipts and other records.

“I am so proud of my mom for writing this book, and for being willing to share her feelings as I battled cancer,” Jack McDermott said. “We leaned on each other during those months, and I hope that my story helps others facing cancer and other serious illnesses."

The book reads like a medical mystery, according to McDermott. She said she did not want to it be a simple stating of facts and infused it with emotion and elements of suspense, which she said her previous writing experience helped prepare her for.

The book has resonated with others, and McDermott said she has heard from people who have gone through similar struggles and have related to her own experiences.

“It is an amazing story, and we made it through even though we did not know we were going to,” she said. “My son stared death in the face.”

All Of The Above

The book cover for McDermott's creative non-fiction, "All of the Above: My Son's Battle with Brain Cancer."

McDermott’s typical stomping ground is in the suspense genre, she said. She has written two suspense novels, “Underwater” and most recently “Daddy’s Girl.” Her first novel, “Make that Deux,” was a romance novel.

Though her background is in economics, she said after her four children began to leave the nest, she decided to finally pursue her long-time desire of writing for a living.

“I never looked at it as a hobby, but just decided I wanted to write and that I would sit down and write a novel,” she said. “With my first novel, I joined several writing groups, went to book festivals and learned a lot about the craft.”

A typical day for McDermott involves waking up early, catching up on social media, working out and writing for at least four hours per day.

“You have just got to sit down and do it,” she said.

Georgia novelist Terry Kay has been a friend and mentor to McDermott, she said. Kay said he believes McDermott is a better writer than she even realizes.

“It doesn’t require a lot of reading time to know she understands the application of skills that writers must master if they are to be more than a grease fire in a pan,” Kay said.

McDermott grew up in Tucker, Georgia and moved around the country before returning to Brookhaven in 2000.

“I love Atlanta. The location, the weather, the people,” she said. “I am involved in a lot of local writing groups and do not see myself moving away.”

The author is already hard at work on her next suspense novel, she said. She hopes to have it out within the next year.


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