Like Writer, Like Character


Sometimes writers end up diagnosed with the very same disease they’ve inflicted on their characters. Natalie Serber knows firsthand—she received a breast cancer diagnosis halfway through creating Mona Brown, a character in her latest novel. Over at Beyond the Margins, Serber writes about sharing a diseases with Mona:

First I had to survive. I had treatment decisions to make and endure. Surgery, chemotherapy, reconstruction—my pathway through took five months. I realize I am very lucky. The cancer was tiny, and caught early. I healed well. My hair grew back. But I was still debilitated by worries. As I struggled to pull myself out of the months of depression and pain and fear, the last thing I wanted to do was fully immerse myself back into the world of cancer that Mona was enduring.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →