Working as a hospital psychologist for a decade and a half, I’d heard about Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome – a bizarre form of child abuse in which parents simulate illness in their kids. Very little had been written about MBPD and many psychologists and psychiatrists – and the vast majority of non-psychiatric physicians – had never heard of it. I thought it would be great fodder for a crime novel. I also wanted to do a book set in a pediatric hospital because I’d spent so much of my professional life as a hospital psychologist.
When I sent the proposal to my editor, she said, “Sounds exciting, Jon, but boy is that weird.” The month the novel was published, a non-fiction book on MBPS came out and several cases of hit the news. I’ve often thought of my work as a psychologist as altruistic and my subsequent years as a novelist as narcissistic. I sit in a room and type and get paid for what used to get me in trouble in grade school – spacing out and making up stories. But DEVIL’S WALTZ turned out to be altruistic in a rather wonderful way: several doctors and nurses read the book and realized that patients whose “ailments” had long baffled them were really victims of MBPS. Lives were saved. Extremely gratifying.
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