In Petrova’s debut, Her Daughter's Mother (Putnam, June), pregnant Lana Stone befriends her anonymous egg donor, who suddenly vanishes.
How does Lana’s story reflect your own?
Like Lana, I struggled with infertility and desperately tried nearly everything to conceive. It was an emotionally draining process for me, and the ups and downs that Lana faces deeply mirror my own. Unlike Lana, I never experienced the joy of finding treatments that finally led to pregnancy.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The structure was the most difficult element. The plot travels between the past and the present, and is told from the perspective of three characters: the mother, the father, and the egg donor. When it was time to edit my manuscript, I realized that changing even one element of the story, such as adding a minor character, would lead to a domino effect, and the puzzle wouldn’t work anymore. As a result, I would have to rewrite parts of the story completely from scratch.
Why did you discuss the issues of fertility in a suspense novel?
It’s the perfect vehicle to illustrate the endeavors of infertility. Each day, you are held in suspense wondering whether the pregnancy will lead to a healthy baby. Why are you bleeding? Will you miscarry? Did you choose the right egg donor? Uncertainty is an important element of a good suspense story, and so is a plot with situations that go awry. I thought of scenarios that were unusual but entirely plausible in the life of a woman using an egg donor. What would happen if she befriended the anonymous egg donor of the baby she is now carrying? What would happen if her egg donor disappeared without a trace?
How has your training as a mental health counselor influenced your writing?
Part of my training required me to understand people, as well as their motivations. It was an eye-opening experience to discover how much we hide from each other, especially when we’re feeling frightened and insecure. One advantage of having a story told by three separate narrators is that I was able to expose each of their innermost thoughts that they were unable to voice with one another. In my studies, I also observed how we can often misconstrue another person’s intentions and unintentionally hurt each other, so I tried to reflect this phenomenon in writing this book.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted Petrova as saying she became pregnant through fertility treatments.