YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Growing up in Jamaica, Olive Peart would often write stories for her own enjoyment, but didn’t consider taking her hobby to the next level until she was much older.
“It was actually my children who influenced me to start writing,” she said. “I actually felt there was not enough fiction geared towards boys. In my experience, my girls were reading but my son was not. So I needed to get something to motivate him to read.”
That desire led Peart, a radiographer and the current program chair with the radiologic technology program at Fortis College in Maryland, to write her first novel, “Linked.” In the book, two boys, one black and one white, end up switching bodies and discovering that their lives are not as different as one might think. Peart said that the inspiration from the book came from watching her children’s experiences moving from the Bronx to Yorktown.
“Coming from an all-black neighborhood in the Bronx to a neighborhood that is almost 90 percent white, the cultural difference was something,” Peart said. “So this was based on exploration of the cultural differences and the fact that people tend to be comfortable in their surroundings and places that are familiar. You have to sort of move people away from their comfort zones. It’s not necessarily that someone doesn’t want to interact with you, it’s that they’re comfortable where they’re at. So, with a little nudge, they can move to another level and interact.”
While “Linked” received positive notices from critics, one particularly vocal naysayer was the very person for whom the book was written.
“My son said, ‘Oh, Mom, it’s not an adventure!’ ” said Peart with a laugh. “So I said, ‘OK, fine, I get it. I will write an adventure story.’ ” Taking her son’s words to heart and pen to paper, Peart came up with “The Intruders,” a book much more to her son’s liking. “The Intruders” tells the story of a diverse group of teenagers who, while exploring an abandoned park, are time-warped 300 years into the future. There they find a world ravaged by tribal warfare and have to use whatever skills and knowledge they have to survive.
In addition to her fictional work, Peart has published numerous educational texts on radiology and mammography, including “Lange Q&A: Mammography Edition,” which is now in its fourth edition. The book came about as a result of Peart’s extensive studying of mammography during its early days when not as much was known about breast cancer awareness and prevention.
“I just became very passionately involved in the whole concept,” she said. “And also, it was around that time that, exploring my family history, I realized that my grandmother had actually died of breast cancer. So then I really started delving into it.”
As she studied, Peart began attending conferences, trying to learn as much as she could, which led to her writing articles on mammography for various medical journals and publications. Before too long, Peart was giving lectures on the subject and was approached by a colleague about the idea of going a little further with her knowledge.
“She said, ‘You know, you’re writing all these articles about mammography. Why not write a book?’ ” recalled Peart.
Using a contact at McGraw-Hill given to her by her colleague, Peart put together a proposal and, before she knew it, she was writing and assembling the first edition of the “Lange Q&A: Mammography Edition,” which came out in 2004. The positive reception of the book led to Peart’s next mammography publication, “Mammography and Breast Imagine Prep,” now in its second edition. For Peart, writing the books led to a sense of urgency in reaching women about the vital importance of mammography and getting screened early.
“The more I explored, the more I realized that I needed to get the word out to others that you should not be dying of breast cancer,” she said. “You really don’t have to die of breast cancer. All you need is quick intervention. Early screening is really the key.”
In addition to the books she has written for McGraw-Hill, Peart has published a number of other books on mammography and radiology, including “The Dangers of Medical Radiation,” a no-nonsense look at the risks associated with overuse of X-ray procedures, and “Spanish for Radiology Professionals,” a book inspired by her own experiences in radiology.
“As a technologist, we come across a lot of Spanish-speaking patients, and the idea here was, ‘How do you communicate with these patients?’ ” she explained. “It’s not for someone who actually wants to learn Spanish, it’s basically just to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients in the radiology department.”
However, for all of her success in academic publishing, Peart has no plans to give up fiction writing any time soon. She has written a book for young readers called “The Mystery of the Feather Burglar,” which is part of the Starlight Kids series, and hopes to write another Starlight Kids book before too long. In addition, she has recently published “Mind Games,” a fantastical story about a boy who finds his telepathic abilities being exploited by the school bullies.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Peart also works as a program manager for RAD-AID, an international organization that works to increase radiology services in developing countries. This spring, she traveled to India to help assess a mammography program in Chandigarh. Once up and running, the program will provide breast cancer screening to underprivileged women in the region.
“They have a mobile van and they go out in the rural areas and screen them,” she explained. “And then, when they come back with the results, if there’s any concern, they’ll actually arrange transportation for the patients to go to the main hospital in Chandigarh.”
Being able to do meaningful work and indulge her passion for writing, Peart is enjoying the best of both worlds. And for aspiring writers, she offers some very simple advice.
“Don’t give up,” she said. “Writing is something that you have to really want. Some people will start and then stop and, even after you finish your book, getting it published is a big, big thing. But if you have a passion for writing and you want to get your story out there, don’t give up.”
For more information about Olive Peart and her books, visit opeart.com.