Luba Vikhanski: Immunity

Immunity cover

Immunity cover

IMMUNITY:
HOW ELIE METCHNIKOFF CHANGED
THE COURSE OF MODERN MEDICINE

Luba Vikhanski
Chicago Review Press, April 1, 2016, $25.43
ISBN-10: 1613731108
ISBN-13: 978-1613731109

Vikhanski reports:

More than ten years ago, I cut down my PIO job to part-time and was looking for story ideas I could pursue as a freelancer. A friend sent me a list of prominent immunologists worthy of being profiled in a book or an article. Elie Metchnikoff’s name immediately jumped out at me.

Luba Vikhanski, photo by Arnon de Shalit

Luba Vikhanski, photo by Arnon de Shalit

When I was growing up in Russia, then the Soviet Union, Metchnikoff was hailed there as a national hero: he is one of only two Nobel laureates in medicine that Russia has ever had. Intrigued by the prospect of revisiting a childhood icon, I began to read up on him, and was soon hooked.

For the next few years, Metchnikoff’s presence hovered over my vacation plans. Since I had no external funding for this project, I tried to schedule all my travels around opportunities to do research for the book in Russia, France, and elsewhere. In Paris, I tracked down a secret stash of Metchnikoff’s letters and obtained permission to break into safe deposit boxes in which it was contained. This story is in the book.

When I realized that, in the early 21st century, Metchnikoff had suddenly been rediscovered in science, I decided to structure the book around his remarkable comeback. The 30,000 words I’d written by then didn’t fit this storyline. I condensed them into 5,000, which, surprisingly, proved less painful than it sounds.

I started looking for an agent in 2014 because I wanted the book to come out in 2016, the centenary of Metchnikoff’s death. I put together a proposal following the guidelines on the website of the Dystel and Goderich agency, recommended by a friend, and got a quick response from a wonderful agent, Jessica Papin. A few months later I had a publisher.

As for regrets, I wish I’d finished the first draft earlier to leave myself more time for rewrites. And odd as this may sound considering that I’d worked on the book for about ten years, I would gladly have spent even longer if it weren’t for the centenary.

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April 6, 2016

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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