Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Charlotte woman's novel tells of a life-changing injury

In 1986, Charlotte's Elizabeth McColl had just married, graduated from Duke University Law School and passed the N.C. State Bar. Then, on her honeymoon, she suffered a head injury in a bike accident that changed her life forever.

That accident and its aftermath are the inspiration for McColl's debut novel, "Opening Arteries" (Main Street Rag; $14.95). Like McColl, the protagonist in the book has a brain injury and must rebuild her life.

McColl, now 48, had to relearn how to talk, how to read. She worked for a couple of years in a Charlotte law firm, but knew things weren't going well. Her brain wouldn't function as it once did.

So she left. She had three children, ran marathons, earned a master's degree in English from UNC Charlotte. Now, she teaches literature at Central Piedmont Community College and King's College.

And several years ago, she began her book. "I realized I had a story worth reading," she says.
McColl, who's the niece of retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl, continues to have occasional seizures. She believes her cognitive abilities aren't what they were before her accident. Her family and friends, she says, tell her otherwise.

She has, after all, just published a novel. She's already working on the sequel. This wasn't the life she had planned, but it feels like what she's meant to be doing.

"There’s something magic," she says, "about giving something to your reader that came from inside you."

McColl signs copies of "Opening Arteries" 6 p.m. Wednesday at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road. She'll be at Joseph Beth Booksellers, 4345 Barclay Downs Drive, 2 p.m. June 26.