Kath O’Connor was a general practitioner with the soul of a writer. But it would be a terminal diagnosis that finally led her to write her debut novel, Inheritance.
Despite experiencing little to no symptoms, Kath was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015.
It was only after being diagnosed that she discovered she shared a BrCa1 gene mutation with her grandmother Eileen, who died from the same disease in 1950.
Inspired to share a fictional story of two women linked through generations, Kath wrote Inheritance while undergoing cancer treatment.
Even with failing health, Kath was determined to finish her debut novel and continued to work up until the end of her life.
“The last couple of days where she was in the hospital before she died, she was still sitting up in bed with her computer and writing,” Kath’s partner Rachael Findlay said.
“She really didn’t think she was going to die until she finished the book.”
The journey to bringing ‘Inheritance’ to life
Kath O’Connor died in 2019, aged only 45, but despite her grief, Rachael knew that Inheritance had to make it out into the world.
“I’m still in awe of her writing, I didn’t see the whole manuscript until a bit before she died,” Rachael said.
“But I was blown away by her writing, some of her descriptions of domesticity and little things that happened in our life were just beautiful and so spot on.
“I knew how important the book was to Kath and so it was important for her and me and her family to complete it for her.”
Inheritance is interwoven with queer themes, and Rachael said this was true to who Kath was as a woman.
“Kath was always out, and that information was available to her patients as well,” Rachael said.
“But she lived in a time when lesbian women often didn’t have that representation of just having an ordinary life.
“There’s nothing political or ‘flag waving’ in the way Kath lived, nor in the characters in the book.
“It’s just about queer people living their lives, and for people to be able to see themselves in literature.”
“So it was really important for us to try and get it out into the world for her and me and her family as well.”
Inheritance has been published to coincide with Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
All royalties will be donated to WomenCan: Funding Gynaecological Cancer Research.
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