Rebecca Skloot is the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
From her Q & A with Noah Charney for The Daily Beast:
It took you about a decade to research and write The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. A long time for any project (but certainly worth the wait). Can you describe that decade, walking us through the process?"Skloot’s book does what great narrative nonfiction must do: Surprise us, outrage us, move us and make us care about something we never even knew existed."
Ha, no chance! To break that down into any coherent timeline would require a several-thousand word answer to your question. Between researching, writing, and publishing The Immortal Life, then doing endless book touring since it came out, I’ve been working on the book for 13 years and counting.
For starters, it took me more than a year and a half just to convince the Lacks family to talk with me for the first time. They didn’t trust me, or any other writer—all for good reasons, which I’d eventually find out. During the decade that led up to the book’s publication, while researching and writing it, I also had to build a freelance career publishing in magazines and newspapers (so I could pay my bills and fund the research for my book—with the help of a lot of credit cards and student loans—while also building my bio enough so a publishing house would someday want to publish my book). I got a big stack of rejection letters from editors, then and once I got a book contract, I fought some pretty big publishing battles (including one in which an editor insisted that I had to take the Lacks family out of the book). By the time the book was finally published, I was on my fifth editor and my third publishing house. Along the way, I also got married, got divorced, finished grad school, taught at three different universities, moved eight times … I’ll...[read on]
--Edward Humes, author of Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution
"[The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks] is just an amazing book: the story, the prose, the structure, the reportage, the memorable characters. What else can I say? I laughed, I cried--really!"
--Misha Angrist, author of Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics