Canadian lawyer now living in Ann Arbor publishes her first novel


By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Julie Lawson Timmer told her husband that if she lives to see 80 and had any regrets looking back on her life, it would be not writing a book.

“I’m not a ‘bucket list’ kind of person, but a few years ago, I had a realization that at the end of my days, the single greatest regret I would have would be to look back and realize I’d never tried to write a novel and see if I could get it published,” Timmer said.  “I’ve always been an avid reader, and as a kid, I wrote stories all the time. In law, I gravitated to litigation and appellate work because those are the most writing-intense areas. Writing a novel has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and I thought I might be able to pull it off, but I had never allowed myself to make a legitimate attempt at it. I decided I would far rather look back and know I’d tried and
failed, than to know I’d never bothered trying and to wonder what might have been.”

Well, the 48-year-old Timmer succeeded in not only writing her first novel, Five Days Left (Putnam $26.95), and getting it published, but she also earned advanced praise from renowned New York Times best-selling authors Jacquelyn Mitchard and Jodi Picoult. Her book has also been named as an Ingram Premiere Pick and foreign rights have been sold in 15 countries.

“That was awesome – it’s such a huge, huge deal,” said Timmer. “I feel very, very lucky. I’m thrilled they read it. I’m thrilled they liked it. I’m thrilled I got their quotes.”

A native of Canada, Timmer lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, Dan, her two children and her two step-children. She has an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology from McMaster University in Ontario and a juris doctorate in law from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Currently, Timmer works as in-house counsel for wheel manufacturer Maxion Wheels in Novi.

Five Days Left chronicles the lives of two complete strangers, Mara and Scott. Mara has Huntington’s disease and has given herself five days to decide whether she wants to commit suicide instead of subjecting herself and her family to the end stages of her neurological disease. Scott is a teacher and coach in inner-city Detroit who took in an 8-year-old boy named Curtis who is to return to his mother once she is released from prison in five days. Both are looking for support and guidance at an anonymous online support group/parenting forum as they come to a crossroads in their lives.

“I am fascinated by interconnections between people and how those play out. I loved Mara enough to give her a novel of her own, but I also love that she has this anonymous – yet very powerful – connection to someone she’s never met: Scott,” explained Timmer. “I felt strongly enough to him to dedicate a novel to his story, too. The fact that he’s so close to Mara despite not knowing her real name or what she looks like was – for me – a significant thing and something I wanted to explore.”

Originally, Timmer planned on making two other members of this online support group main characters as well. This would have divided the novel up into four stories and not just two.

“But dividing the book between four stories would have resulted in short-changing Scott and Mara. Because theirs were the stories I felt most vividly, I relegated the other two to minor roles,” explained Timmer.

The plot of the book was inspired by Timmer’s friend Ellen (the author  wouldn’t reveal her last name), who died of brain cancer.

“I was consumed with rage by the injustice of it – she wouldn’t see her children grow up. I couldn’t fathom how it was that she could face numbered days with her children and her husband. I was so distraught about it. So I started writing about it – I wanted to process my feelings and honor her,” she said. “She inspired Mara, but not Mara’s story – Mara has Huntington’s disease and not cancer because I didn’t want to write my friend’s story; it wasn’t my place to write my friend’s story.”