Therapeutic is how Rachel McRady describes writing her book, Sun Seekers, released January 9.
The idea came to her when she was living in London, England, with her husband. During that time, she had regular calls with her grandfather who was living in a nursing home in Richmond. He was struggling with dementia.
“I was inspired by him and the rest of my family. I saw the complicated dynamics in relationships and families,” says McRady, a graduate of Godwin High School and the JMU School of Media Arts and Design. “
Sun Seekers is mostly written from the viewpoint of six-year-old Gracie Lynn whose grandfather has dementia, which Gracie refers to as the worm eating his brain, a metaphor her mother used to explain the disease and sundown syndrome when someone gets confused daily in the late afternoon and night.
Determined to help him, Gracie breaks him out of his nursing home and the two go off together to chase the sun.
“I wanted to go back to childhood when things were more comfortable. I am a worst-case scenario person. This was escapism for me, seeing from a different eye and letting the light in,” McRady says.
Her goal in writing the book was to reach people who might have a similar situation in their family. “I wanted to give them awareness they are not alone,” she said. “I wanted to show the kinder, lighter side. I hope no person’s legacy is defined by the last few years of their lives.”
In the book Gracie’s father is estranged from his wife. Her mom is dealing with depression. “She is afraid she is going to lose her daughter,” McRady says. “It was difficult to be in that world. That wasn’t always sunshine. I had to step back at times and give myself perspective.”
She recognizes a resemblance between her older daughter, Iona, four, and Gracie. “It’s the way her mind works and the questions she asks. It’s an out-of-body experience to see my children on the page in a lot of ways,” says McRady who wrote the book before she became a parent — she also has a younger daughter, Isla, who is one year old. “My daughter (Iona) told everybody at her preschool that her mommy wrote a book. It’s special to share that with her now.”
This isn’t McRady’s first foray into the book world. She remembers writing her first book at age seven for a school project. “In my bio I said I had wanted to write a book my whole life,” recalls the Emmy Award winning writer. “I started writing fiction seriously in 2011 after I graduated from college.”
She began career in journalism after college, working in New York for different media outlets before signing on full time with the television show Entertainment Tonight eight years ago.
“I always enjoyed writing a news story. My father used to write in his spare time. I saw him doing it and realized it was something I could do,” she says. “I am a voracious reader. It was a natural progression to write and come up with my own stories.”
It took McRady seven years to get Sun Seekers published. “Their objection was ‘we don’t normally do adult fiction books from a child’s perspective.’ I knew that was the heart of the book, and I couldn’t change that,” she says. “The publisher at Alcove Press really understood my vision. She had also been affected with Alzheimers in her family.”
Early reviews of the book are positive. “People liked it that I have that perspective, and that warms my heart as a writer,” she says.
When people were auditioning to record the audio book, McRady came across some who understood the character and connected with it. “That’s a special feeling for me. It’s validation of what I felt to be true for so long,” she says.
Maria Shriver’s The Sunday Paper picked Sun Seekers as the book of the week for January 7.
“That was so exciting,” McRady says. “Maria Shriver really focuses on families and love and relationships so for them to acknowledge my novel, which is so much rooted in those things, is very, vey special.”
Events with Rachel McRady
Sun Seekers Launch Party
Meet the author and have her sign your book.
Tuesday, January 23, 7 p.m.
Book People – 10464 Ridgefield Parkway in Gleneagles Shopping Center
Rachel McRady in conversation with author Sara Read, also from Virginia.
Thursday, Feburary 22, 6 p.m.
Fountain Bookstore – 1312 East Cary Street