Multiple sclerosis is a personal issue for New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard. She was introduced to the debilitating effects of MS when her best friend from childhood was diagnosed with the disease. While many would have felt it enough to lend the occasional hand to a friend going through a rough time, Mitchard went steps further and became an advocate for multiple sclerosis. To raise awareness for and dispel misconceptions about the disease, Mitchard participates in numerous National MS Society events across the country, often as the keynote speaker.
Along with her speaking out about the disease at events, Mitchard has also been inspired to base a character in her book The Breakdown Lane (HarperCollins Publishers, April 2005) on her friend. This book explores the challenges that can arise when MS is introduced into a family. In an interview with Jason Collington of the Tulsa World, Mitchard explained that her book is "about a character who has responded to her illness as gallantly as [her] friend." While speaking with Susan Troller of Wisconsin 's Capital Times, Mitchard said, "I wanted to write something about this devastating illness that causes so much pain and robs people of their vitality in the prime of life." But even though MS is a battle fought everyday by those with the disease, Mitchard works hard to relay that MS is not the end of one's life. Multiple sclerosis is one of the many complex issues people and their family's experience, but not the single influence.
It is possible that Mitchard is able to translate these struggles so powerfully because she has experienced as much difficulty and pain in her own life as the character she writes about. As a seasoned columnist and reporter, she always had a dream of becoming a novelist. After her husband passed away from colorectal cancer she found herself with four children to raise on her own and less than $200 dollars in the bank. Rather than give up, she channeled her personal strife into writing a book that became a New York Times bestseller. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was selected as the first book for the Oprah book club, named second most influential book of the past 25 years by USA Today in 2007, and turned into a Hollywood movie staring Michelle Pfeiffer. In April, 2008, her second Young Adult novel, All We Know of Heaven – also inspired by a personal loss – appears from HarperCollins. In July, The Midnight Twins, first in a supernatural trilogy of novels for Young Adults, about clairvoyant twin sisters born one minute before and one minute after midnight on New Year’s Eve, appears from Penguin-Putnam. Two of her novels, Cage of Stars and Still Summer, have been optioned for films and Mitchard is at work on the sequel to The Deep End of The Ocean, to be published in June, 2009.
Today, Mitchard is surrounded by her happy and loving family (she was re-married and has seven children aged 2-23) and continues to write, while still promoting awareness of the two diseases that have shaken her life: colorectal cancer and multiple sclerosis. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin. In late 2006, for her devotion to both the MS cause and the Society, Mitchard received the Society’s Advancing MS Awareness Award.
To find out more about Jacquelyn Mitchard, go to www.jacquelynmitchard.com.