Marlene Kanmogne, a junior neuroscience major, published her first novel, The Mind Wanderer, this summer. The 305-page young adult book combines a chronicle of a teen’s everyday life with a description of the magic of the brain.
Kanmogne’s novel tells the story of a girl named Melissa Wagner, an average teen who finds her life boring until she discovers that she has a special mental ability. Though her power comes with consequences, Melissa learns how to control her ability throughout the novel. Along the way, Melissa meets various people, some with questionable motivations, who guide her journey.
To Kanmogne, the novel is ultimately a story about growth.
A colorful dream inspired Kanmogne to write this novel.
“The dream I had was really vivid. It was my sophomore summer [in high school], and I wasn’t doing anything too demanding, so I decided to write that summer,” Kanmogne said.
Moving forward, Kanmogne has plans to continue writing Melissa’s story.
“In my head, I view this book as the first in a three-part series. It’s one of those things where I know how I want it to continue, and I know Melissa’s path and her journey and what’s to come for her, but it’s the middle part of fleshing out the details that takes time,” Kanmogne said.
Kanmogne is dedicated to finishing the series. When classes are in session, she said that finding time can be difficult, but writing provides an outlet for her creative side in the midst of numerous neuroscience classes. As a writer and science scholar, Kanmogne values the balance between critical-analytical thinking and more creative, free-flowing thought. According to Kanmogne, both skills are crucial to the development of a successful writer and scientist.
“I’ve definitely always been a science and English person. I think it’s important to have some of those creative skills in addition to the analytical ones. It is good to have some kind of creative outlet. My outlet is writing. I enjoy writing and reading and have kept that up from a young age,” Kanmogne said.
Although the workload of her neuroscience classes may be of some hindrance to the writing process, Kanmogne has also been finding new inspiration for her future books from her schoolwork. She envisions multiple sequels to her debut novel and plans to write a trilogy in total documenting Melissa’s adventures in self-discovery.
Kanmogne was already developing an interest in the brain in high school. Her interest early on inspired her to pursue the study of neuroscience, the brain and behavior in college.
Kanmogne described her fascination with the abilities and the mechanics of the brain, which is reflected in Melissa’s journey. While Melissa’s condition, or power, is depicted as fictional in the novel, the idea behind the protagonist’s change is inspired by real properties of neuroscience and neurological disorders.
“The book does center around the brain and the abilities of the brain,” Kanmogne said. “I think that there is a key that hasn’t been unlocked yet when it comes to the brain, and I think that idea manifests itself in the book. The more I learn about all these different activities happening in the brain in all my neuroscience classes — those are just more ideas and more connections. For example, even today when I was in my Diseases and Disorders class and my professor was talking about brain injury, I was thinking in my head for a second, ‘You know, what if I could connect this to Melissa. What if her axons were doing this?’”
Kanmogne had no intention of writing a scientific novel full of dense academic knowledge. The science that she has learned in high school and particularly in college through the Hopkins neuroscience program is the inspirational jumping-off point for her creative endeavors.
She does not expect her average reader to have a grasp of the concepts that fuel her creative process. Her target audience consists of middle school and high school students, although others may find the novel accessible as well.
“I started writing it in high school, so my mentality was that of a high school girl, but I’ve gotten some feedback from older people who enjoyed it as well, so it’s definitely more expansive than I had originally thought,” Kanmogne said.
In some ways, though, Kanmogne felt that she lacked confidence about publishing her book when she was in high school.
“Not a lot of people knew about this novel; I kind of kept it secret and didn’t tell a lot of people. It wasn’t until my really close friends said, ‘Of course you are going to do something with it. Try — what is there to lose?’ And so finally over this past summer I looked up some publishers that matched what I was looking for and then submitted it,” Kanmogne said.
Despite her initial hesitation about publishing the book, Kanmogne, like her character Melissa, has grown throughout the writing process and feels bolder and more self-assured about her accomplishment.
Kanmogne cites confidence as a key asset to the writer. She expressed remorse that she had not developed sufficient confidence within herself to consider publishing the novel in its first iteration during her high school years.
She noted that her confidence in her creative ability has blossomed alongside her grasp and knowledge of the concepts that inspire her writing. It was not until college that she acquired both of these assets.
She plans to use this confidence to propel her through future writing endeavors, including the remaining two-thirds of the trilogy she has already begun.
“My major regret was having so much self-doubt early on and not being able to be more confident with the book,” she said.
“I wish I would’ve been able to say to myself, ‘You know what, this is a good thing you’re doing,’ instead of continuously saying to myself that this is just a personal thing that no one needs to know about,” Kanmogne said.
She feels that the magnitude of her accomplishment has not fully begun resonating with her yet.
“Right now, I’m trying to grow more confidence in terms of the marketing and advertising of the book... It’s one of those things where I smile and appreciate everyone’s support, but I’m trying to realize, I [actually] did this,” Kanmogne said.
The Mind Wanderer was published by Solstice Press, and it is available for public purchase online from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.