Ami McKay's doctor's notes | Music | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Ami McKay's doctor's notes

The Virgin Cure launches Tuesday, October 25

Ami McKay's doctor's notes
Ian McKay
Author Ami McKay
Ami McKay’s second novel, The Virgin Cure, (being launched Tuesday, October 25 at Bayers Lake Chapters, 7pm, followed by a Q&A) began with her curiosity about the life of her great great grandmother, Dr. Sarah Fonda Mackintosh, one of the first female physicians in 1870s New York City. The painted portrait of Mackintosh that hung over her family’s piano captivated McKay as a child. Years later, her decision to pursue this project lead McKay first to family history, and then to sociological and medical documents, searching for the heart of the story she wanted to tell. Like the undertaking of her first bestselling novel, The Birth House, the journey towards The Virgin Cure was a research-intensive one.

“I've spent many happy hours in libraries and archives, poring over historical documents and collections of letters,” McKay says. “At the beginnings of a project, I devote the majority of my time to building the world of the novel in my mind. I surround myself with images of the period, read diaries and accounts of historical figures.” McKay even learned suture on a beef heart to get inside the head of a doctor. Her research culminated in the creation of the voice of Moth, a twelve-year-old girl abandoned on the streets of the Lower East Side who gets caught up in the world of brothels and watches many of the young girls around her play their parts in the myth of “the virgin cure”—the belief that intercourse with a female virgin can cure disease. It’s Moth’s friendship with a female physician, Dr. Sadie, that allows her to see other possibilities for her life.

McKay, who lives in Scots Bay, has embraced the use of a website, Twitter and Facebook to connect with her readers. Her blog is generous, filled with treats for fans: images that inspired her, peeks inside her creative process, extra bits of background and history that illuminate aspects of her novels. Readers get a sense of McKay’s hunting and gathering approach that eventually crosses over into imagination. “There comes a point when the research reaches critical mass and the writing takes over,” McKay says. “When the desire to create my own story trumps everything else, I know it's time to take all the bits and pieces I've gathered and make something new.”

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