SALT LAKE CITY — Spencer Hyde is good at trusting the process. As an author, he calls himself a “discovery writer” who doesn’t plot things out beginning to end.
“I find my way in a work of fiction through voice,” Hyde said in a recent interview, “and just go where the voice takes me.”
As a teenager, Hyde was also good at trusting the process. Diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Hyde’s rituals related to his illness were becoming debilitating. At the same time, his parents were asked to move their family from Salt Lake to Baltimore for an assignment for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After arriving in Maryland, Hyde became connected with a doctor at Johns Hopkins Medicine who also happened to be the nation’s foremost pediatric psychiatrist working with OCD patients.
“It was the right move,” says Hyde. “This doctor told me ‘don’t plan on anything’ in terms of my future — college, job, etc. But he also said, ‘I want to do a study on you.’”
That study changed Hyde’s life.
"I had tried so many things with therapy and meds that didn’t work. This doctor found that part of my brain,” says Hyde. “There were a lot more meds, gaining and losing weight, falling asleep in class.” But then Hyde’s doctor gave him Ritalin — a stimulant he had never tried on an adolescent — and it worked. Within three days, Hyde’s mother called the doctor to tell him her son was back.
Years later, after not just college but a doctorate in creative writing, Hyde’s debut novel "Waiting for Fitz" (Shadow Mountain, 256 pages) is a story about OCD.
“I never encountered a character with OCD,” said Hyde, who is now an assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University. “Reading was a guarantee I could put a wall up against the world, and my OCD didn’t consume me. I wanted to write a book that would say to someone with OCD: 'You can overcome. There is hope.'”
Hyde is quick to note, however, that the idea for the book did start when Addie, the main character, came to him as a voice in the middle of the night. That voice was Hyde’s entrance to the story.
“I don’t think the written word’s going anywhere, even with Netflix taking over the world. We’re all still interested in character development, and we go to the written word to find a distillation of characters,” Hyde said. “Stories connect us. When we find ideas we’re interested in, we use the written word to test it out.”
When asked if he’ll continue writing about OCD, Hyde said, “It comes naturally into the things that I write.” His next book is about synesthesia, while a third manuscript has a young character with the small tics of OCD.
Hyde is determined to help his audience know that regardless of our mental health, we are defined by more than just one thing. So, what about Hyde? How is this man now who was once an obsessive-compulsive boy?
“If you didn’t know I had it, I don’t think you’d notice,” he said.
If you go …
- What: Spencer Hyde book signing
- When: April 10, 7 p.m.
- Where: The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East
- Web: www.kingsenglish.com
- Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of "Waiting for Fitz" from The King's English.
- When: April 20, 2 p.m.
- Where: University Village Deseret Book, 1076 S. 750 East, Orem
- When: May 2, 11 a.m.
- Where: BYU Bookstore, 1 Campus Drive, Provo