Q&A: Kathryn Cushman
Tell us about Another Dawn.
Another Dawn is the story of Grace Graham, a woman who tends to run when things get hard. She returns to her hometown to help her estranged father recover from surgery and, soon after arrival, her unvaccinated four-year-old son is ground-zero for a measles outbreak. Several infants, including Grace’s niece, develop severe complications. As Grace begins to come to terms with how her decisions have affected others, she must choose whether to run, or stand strong and help in any way she can.
How did you develop the initial story idea? Did the book involve special research?
My editor sent me the link to a radio story about a measles outbreak in San Diego. I’ve always found the controversy over vaccinations intriguing, so this really piqued my interest.
I did a lot of research about vaccines and the studies about whether they cause autism. Also, I spent some time talking via email with parents of autistic children.
Your books tend to take an issue and show both sides. Did you have any issues that made it more difficult for you with Another Dawn?
The vaccination debate is always a tricky one. Since I spent a decade as a pharmacist, I tend to put more trust in the CDC and their recommendations than perhaps many people do. Also, when my daughter was on put on a medication that suppressed her immune system, it became much more personal, because her health depended on people around her being healthy (commonly referred to as “herd immunity”). But then, during my research, I’d go to a website or read a book by the mother of an autistic child—a child who seemed perfectly healthy before vaccinations—and it would make me pause. There are thousands of these stories. So, for me, it is still not a black and white issue.
Almost every author puts a little of themselves into their stories—what did you put of yourself into this one?
The setting is a fictionalized version of my hometown, Lawrenceburg, TN. “Shoal Creek” (my fictional town name) has many Lawrenceburg characteristics: the Square Forty Restaurant, Rick’s BBQ, the Lady Wildcats, and using the WiFi at Krystal, among other things.
What is your goal in writing?
My goal is to follow God’s leading and write the story I’m given to the best of my abilities. My hope is that it becomes an interesting novel that will cause people to stop and think about something in a new way.