BYU professor debuts YA fiction novel on mental health

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Spencer Hyde’s debut novel, “Waiting for Fitz,” follows a girl named Addie as she battles OCD and befriends a boy with schizophrenia. (Sadie Anderson)

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BYU professor and newly-published author Spencer Hyde has loved reading since a very young age. But it wasn’t until he became a graduate student that he decided he wanted to write and publish a novel. Every day after class, he said he would spend two hours “in very uncomfortable chairs” writing his debut novel, “Waiting for Fitz.”

The idea for this book came to him while he was unable to fall asleep one night. “My mind started racing at about midnight because this line came to me: ‘it’s not that you need to hear it, just that I need to tell someone,'” Hyde said. “I thought of that line and who would say something like that, and it became the main character, Addie Foster.”

Hyde said that voice followed him around as what he likes to call “the ugly baby.” He said, “The more I thought about her voice, the more I thought, ‘She has a story, and I need to write it.'” Hyde said he could be out at dinner with his family and look over and see that “ugly baby” sitting in the highchair next to him, telling him he needed to go home and write. “Only by writing it can you make the baby beautiful,” he said.

Sadie Anderson
Spencer Hyde holds his debut novel, “Waiting for Fitz”, which was published on March 5, 2019. (Sadie Anderson)

Hyde’s novel “Waiting for Fitz” follows a teenage girl named Addie Foster, an inpatient suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder — a disorder often referred to as OCD, which Hyde has suffered from himself. Addie befriends a boy named Fitz who is suffering from schizophrenia, Hyde said. He said he had to write from a female perspective to help distance himself from the story. The story begins similar to his own journey in which he was admitted as an inpatient at Johns Hopkins Hospital and started meeting with several different doctors. From there the book takes off with Addie’s own story.

Having never experienced schizophrenia himself, Hyde turned to a friend whose wife suffers from the illness. This friend would give Hyde feedback on accuracy and how to best portray the mental illness featured in his book.

When asked why Hyde felt the need to write Addie’s story, he said, “I think mental health is something that needs to be talked about more openly.” He said he hopes people will engage with his novel and start up conversations with their friends about their own mental health struggles so they can become stronger together.

I hope a story like this can build a community where people go, ‘I’m dealing with this, what about you?’ And they can share, share, share,” he said. 

Hyde said he wants readers to feel exhausted by Addie’s OCD so they can understand how it feels and develop empathy for others who struggle with similar illnesses.

Good stories teach us that there are others out there like us. Good stories connect us,” Hyde said. “We are always going back to stories because they remind us that we’re all a little more alike than we think. Which is a beautiful thing.” It is Hyde’s hope that “Waiting for Fitz” will do just that.

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