John Dunning's about to tour for his latest Cliff Janeway novel, but as he tells the Arizona Republic, writing it -- and previous books -- is tough going because he has Attention Deficit Disorder:
All his life he has suffered from attention-deficit disorder, which led him to drop out of school in the 10th grade. His condition was diagnosed only eight years ago, when his teenage daughter received her diagnosis.
"When the doctor told us that it was a genetically loaded disorder, everyone in the room turned and looked at me. That’s when I knew."
Dunning says his condition, which is characterized by racing thoughts that jump from subject to subject, is severe enough that even today he has trouble paying attention to anyone or anything long enough to take in information. "I can go to someone’s house, be introduced, then be taken to the back yard to see their prize-winning roses. But by the time I get back in the house, I’ve forgotten why the heck I’m there or who I’m talking to."
Medication can help those suffering from ADD, but it’s off-limits to Dunning because he has high blood pressure. But he manages to muddle through — however slowly.
"It takes me about an hour to write a single paragraph, and then it’s usually a terrible paragraph," he says.
"If you could see the first drafts of my books, they would scare you to death because they look like they were written by the village idiot. But when I start on the rewrites something happens. Still, because of the ADD, it takes me at least twice as long to write a book as it does anybody else."
Focusing on a project for long periods of time is often critical to producing a finished work, and no doubt having ADD hinders Dunning in this pursuit. But his story is about an otherwise able-bodied man making the most of a condition he's had all his life. Canadian mystery writer Howard Engel, however, is another story altogether, as I explain after the jump.