When Brighton resident Lynne Smelser came up with the idea for her first novel, it started out as wanting to write about her grandmother's experiences losing her husband and two sons to a flu epidemic in the late 1930s.
But after playing around, researching the flu and epidemics, Smelser came across some press releases where Russian diplomats along with other countries were accusing the United States of using flu vaccines as political tools.
"It was an intriguing idea," Smelser said. "From there, I built a much bigger story than I had originally planned. And I didn't think I would get a whole book out of my grandma's situation.
So 11 years later, the last four researching and writing, Smelser finally has the finished product. Her novel In Our Veins is scheduled to be released Nov. 19.
In Our Veins follows scientist Weston Anderson as he races the spread of a deadly flu virus he created that was accidentally unleashed on the American public - and his 8-month-old daughter. Along the way, he is thwarted by major drug companies and government agents hoping to use the virus as a tool for biological warfare.
"It's really amazing when you research this kind of thing," Smelser said. "It's a fascinating subject - much more than I ever thought it would have been."
Smelser said she came across the Tuskegee Syphilis Study during her research, where in the 1930s, the U.S. government took a group of men who had syphilis and offered free medical treatment, but instead studied them to learn more about the disease. The men never received proper treatment for their illnesses and died.
"The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) openly acknowleges this on their website," Smelser said. "That kind of became a spring board for some of the conspiracy theory that I weave into my book. That the U.S. government has actually done some outside the boundaries activities when it came to bio-terrorism and viruses and things like that. It's intriguing and mind-blowing."
Smelser said that besides researching and learning about flu pandemics, her favorite part of the process has been living through her grandmother's experiences.
"My grandmother died when I was in my early 20s," she said. "I have a character in the book who is basically my grandmother and I talked to a lot of family members. After having gone through all of this, it really made me feel more in touch with her and more of an understanding what she may have gone through dealing with this."
It was the medical aspects of the book, however, that Smelser said she had the most difficulties with.
"I don't have a real strong stomach and there were times when I was talking to a nurse about viruses and there was a point when I had to stop and take a break," she said. "That was challenging along with the terminology that I had to learn. I wrote my first draft and took it to a nurse and had her read it. She sad 'oh no, you have all the this all wrong, we have to fix this.' So the book actually is very different than what it originally was because I had a lot of learning to do about the medical aspects."