A Fairfax Station woman has written “Who’s Your Daddy, Baby,” a fictionalized account of her search for her biological father.
“I really wrote it to try and help other people going through a similar situation,” said Lisa Pell, who recently discussed the book at . “It’s a fun novel, but it’s not fluff. It’s medical history and family history."
Pell started writing as a journalist for the student newspaper at George Mason University 35 years ago. She has also worked at regional publications, television stations and radio stations.
She didn’t start writing for fun, however, until the early 2000s. She began writing a trilogy, but that was soon set aside when another idea for a novel came up.
She began undergoing in-vitro fertilization in 2005. When writing down her family medical history, the fertility specialist pointed out that it was not possible that the father who raised her could be related because of inconsistencies in her family's blood types. Her father was A positive, her mother O positive, and Pell is B positive.
“The fertility specialist said A plus O does not equal B, so I went on a search and kept a journal all along,” said Pell.
“It was quite a shocker. I was very close to my mother, who was always sacrificing everything for me and lived vicariously through me. And I was astonished that she had left something out," said Pell.
She soon consulted with potential family members, people who knew her parents, fertility experts and geneticists, writing notes for a novel along the way.
“I just kept following leads wherever they took me,” Pell said. “It’s all timing and tracking down a lot of people, and there were a lot of dead ends. It was a pretty intense process.”
She found love letters written to her mother, and found out all she could about him and other men she had dated.
“I decided to fictionalize everything to kind of provide an extra layer of separation, because I didn’t want to invade all these people's privacy,” Pell said. “I changed names, I changed place names and amalgamated characters and condense the plot a little bit.”
Her search to understand where she came from took four years, and the novel also underwent an extensive editing process.
“It just got to be too long. It was about 900 pages, so it was a whole process to decide what is important and what is critically important,” Pell said. “You have to be ruthless with yourself.”
Pell researched how to get published. By chance, her husband attended a chamber of commerce meeting where a publisher was speaking. Her husband briefed the publisher on the concept from the book, and the publisher expressed interest. “I was very fortunate to have had that happen,” said Pell.