posted on March 31, 2020 by Allison Ashley

Why Would I Set a Romance Novel in an Oncology Office?

As a debut romance author, I’m often asked where the idea for my book came from. And I get it—for my book in particular, it’s sort of an unusual setting for a love story. Perfect Distraction is about an oncology pharmacist who falls for a patient receiving chemotherapy at the cancer center where she works. The easiest answer to that question is: I’m an oncology pharmacist myself, and a common piece of advice is “write what you know.” But more than that, I wanted to write a romance that could happen to anyone, something readers could connect with, even if that included setting it somewhere unconventional for my genre. So, here are a few additional reasons why I chose to write a romance novel set in a cancer center:

Sometimes love is found in unexpected places.

I love hearing stories about how couples met. Often it’s something like a set-up by a friend, connection via app or dating website, or even “we met in a bar.” I love all of them, but my absolute favorites are when the couple never saw it coming. In fact, I met my husband this way.

Most people who go to an oncologist’s office aren’t looking to score a date. Understandably so—they have much more on their minds. But you never know, sometimes opportunities pop up in the strangest places.

Love isn’t always convenient.

There are several reasons why. It could be as simple as timing: we’re busy. Work, school, hobbies, friends, athletics, community service, family…the list goes on. It feels as if we’re so busy, we couldn’t possibly add something else into the mix. And sometimes, that’s when the perfect person comes along.

It could also be the situation: we fall in love, but something about the situation isn’t ideal. They’re a coworker, or a friend’s sibling, or someone who is about to relocate.

When this happens, hard decisions have to be made about what’s most important, and how hard we’re willing to fight for love.

It helps to share the burden of loss and grief.

As someone who works in oncology, something I’ve seen time and time again is the way people band together. It’s beautiful and inspiring, and it comes from all directions. The most common is family and friends surrounding a loved one to walk beside them through their treatment, and it never fails to amaze me the devotion one human can have for another.

Support is also found in the countless people who dedicate their lives to serve cancer patients. The doctors, pharmacists, nurses, medical assistants, social workers…the list goes on. Not only do we focus on the patient, but we turn to each other when times get tough, too.

Pain and sadness are everywhere we look, but I find there’s beauty in how we share those burdens, making our own a little lighter. This is portrayed in many ways in the book, and I think in some ways, writing about it eased my own.

Some people DO get a happy ending.

Cancer sucks. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But it doesn’t equal a dire prognosis for every person. In fact, in some situations, cure rates are pretty high.

As someone who works at a cancer center, I’ve seen the full spectrum, and was pretty honest about portraying those experiences in the book. There are days when we celebrate good news for a patient, and we do get to see things end well. It’s one of the best parts of the job, and it’s what we’ll never stop fighting for.

I will always write love stories that end with a happy-ever-after, and I’ll always believe it’s possible, no matter the circumstance.

Being a provider in this setting is near and dear to my heart.

A common phrase in the writing community is “write what you know.” I’ve worked as a clinical oncology pharmacist for almost a decade, and I’ll take a line from the book: you can’t really know me apart from it. It’s part of who I am, and it’s what I dedicated my life to. While I’ve never fallen for a patient, I knew I could write many parts of this story authentically and realistically. I could offer a unique perspective to a world many people have experienced, but from the other side of the desk. I love my job and have utmost respect for those who work beside me. I am in awe of my patients, and their family and friends who stand beside them.

And I find the reason I keep doing this job is the same reason I keep reading and writing love stories—there’s always love, and there’s always hope.

One person who comments will win a signed copy of Perfect Distraction.

Allison Ashley

Allison Ashley

I hate chocolate with an ever-loving passion. I have an irrational fear of fish. I love to travel. I'm terrible at math. I love to cook and I drink at least six cups of coffee every day. Now that we've covered the big stuff, also know this: Any bizarre quirk my characters possess probably comes from me. When not writing, you'll find me working in oncology -- an emotionally draining, yet unfathomably rewarding profession. I've spent 10 years encouraging patients to push through and sometimes giving them permission to let go, and through it all my escape has been books. I prefer love stories with deep romance. I want that connection, that soul-wrenching yearning between two people and the satisfaction of witnessing that moment when they collide. I covet the happy-ever-after and promise to always give you one.

13 thoughts on “Why Would I Set a Romance Novel in an Oncology Office?”

  1. Avatar bn100 says:

    interesting book setting

  2. Avatar SONNETTA JONES says:

    Thank you for writing this story. I have friends whose husband left them during treatment. I definitely want to read about the positives. Although I didn’t meet my future husband while going through treatment. I did meet some amazing women.

  3. Avatar Sana Daliva says:

    Yay, another medical or health provider romance drama in storytelling format…

  4. Avatar Grace OBrien says:

    I’m so happy I get to say, “I knew you when!” Let me just go through my memory box FULL of notes from middle school and high school – who knows, maybe I’ll even find one of the first books you wrote? Currently reading this delightful book to distract me from the realities of being with my kids 100% of the time right now. PROUD OF YOU!

  5. Avatar Tina Alicea says:

    Probably if you’re in this situation/scenario (possibly life or death) you would be hoping for second chances in a lot of different things (love being one of them)…and we all definitely hope for a happy ending.

  6. Avatar Jessica Zuza says:

    I too, was not looking when I met and fell in love with my husband in Cuba. He was relocating in 2 months, so I didn’t think it was possible for us to have anything more than a few fun months of dating before he left to go back to the states. We fell in love fast and 25 years later we are still together. I absolutely love happy endings when reading romance novels. Can’t wait to finish this book!

  7. Avatar Louis N. says:

    Given everything that’s happening, I think this is a good time (although any time’s a good time) to read about things that make us happy. And what’s more joyful than a happily-ever-after? It also sends a message about the people in health care working so hard for their patients’ best interests

  8. Avatar BEth Manning says:

    This book is full of hope….during the struggle the one thing that was always there was LOVE . I pray everyone has Love when facing a battle. Cancer was a part of this story but LOVE was the main character. I’ll be reading every book you write!

  9. Avatar Ashley says:

    I can’t wait to read it! It’s already apparent Perfect Distraction is the modern love story I’ve been needing!

  10. Avatar Kelly McCabe says:

    I loved this as a concept and setting for the book, it’s what got me hooked from the get go when reading the blurb. Thank you for injecting brightness, romance and fun into a situation that really can be tough for so many. You’ve smashed it! 😊💖🙏

  11. Avatar flchen1 says:

    That is awesome, Allison–thanks for giving us a peek at your new novel! I love the sounds what you’ve aimed for, and look forward to giving it a try!

  12. Avatar Jessica Whitacre says:

    Sounds like a great read!

  13. Avatar Heather Simon says:

    Currently enjoying the story in this book unfold. 😊 For anyone unsure, go ahead and purchase. Pretty sure you won’t be disappointed!

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