Dana Burgess: As I read Mischa’s story, she became so real to me that I felt like I was reading non-fiction. In the author biog on the back of the book, you reveal that you also have epilepsy. How much of Mischa’s story is your story?
TT: Admittedly, quite a lot of it is my story, but distilled for the sake of a good plot with pace. If I had to put a percentage on it, probably 60% of the novel is "my life." In the process of writing I sent several drafts to professional readers to rip my manuscript apart. It sounds harsh, but their advice was constructive. I was very grateful for criticisms like “this chapter was too boring," or "this event interrupted the flow of the story," or "that element of the story was too unrealistic." Those comments gave me license to diverge from my personal story and be more imaginative. A Great Place for a Seizure is not a memoir, but it's true, there's a lot of me in the story.
DB: The title and the cover for the novel are compelling. How did you decide on it?
TT: The title was inspired by a conversation in Guatemala, where I was working as a free-lance journalist. At a party some journalists were inquiring about my seizures in a fascinated, unemotional, manner. They were just being journalists. Their tone was a refreshing change from the “walking on egg-shells” approach that most people take when discussing my epilepsy (which is completely understandable). As I was regaling them with stories of seizures in the weirdest places (e.g. a sugar-cane field in Honduras, West Point Military Academy, a car on my way to a Homecoming dance) I said something like, “I've had seizures in some interesting places.” Someone said, “That would be a great title for a book.” Nearly fifteen years later a variation of that phrase became my title.
As for the cover, thank you for compliment. I wasted quite a bit of money before I decided to do it myself. In the beginning I hired professional graphic artists. The results were hilarious and frightening. Their proposals looked like the work of a precocious child tripping on LSD whilst playing at a computer. I decided to take charge so I studied the designs of Penguin Books publications in the UK from the 1940's to 1970's. That was their golden age of design. After looking at a hundred or so Penguin Books publications from that period, I realized that simplicity was essential to a good cover and chose the graphics accordingly.