Feelings . . . oh, oh, oh, feelings

As I drafted Once Upon A Project, it occurred to me that some of the subjects addressed in this story might provoke unpleasant memories for some readers, particularly those parts of the plot that revolve around failing marriages, illnesses, and worries about the health of spouses who are considerably older.

This is always ticklish for me. The last thing I want to do is be a source of emotional stress or despair for anyone. But no one wants to read a book about people whose lives are hunky-dory; there must be conflict to stand in one's way, secrets one hopes to keep quiet but which threaten to be revealed, with all the consequences.

Fortunately, my husband and I are reasonably healthy - something that can change at any time - but I had a marriage that failed myself, even if it was a long time ago, and I do remember my anguish at making up my mind that it wasn't working and I needed to end it.

Then I thought back to the reader mail I received when my second novel, the romance A Love of Her Own, was published in 1999. I did this book for therapeutic reasons, having suffered that condition myself without a happy ending. I always said that when I hit 40, published or not, I would write a romance about this topic, since that was the age where I let those hopes fade away. Women who had suffered infertility wrote me and said how much they loved the story. (Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, women who had given birth to healthy children also wrote to say how much they loved the story, but we're not talking about them right now.) I remember some of the comments the readers made: "You gave me hope." "Thank you for not ending this beautiful story by having her miraculously get pregnant." "I'm glad I'm not the only one."

That last comment is the most telling. I'm not the only one. I'm not alone. And I began to feel better, more confident. I sat down and wrote the synopsis. When my editor greenlighted it, I wrote the story and allowed the characters' emotions to run free.

At least one person who read the ARC and who has been personally affected by one of the situations mentioned in the book told me that I did a fine job.

I hope other readers who can identify more closely with the plight of my characters because of personal experience will feel less alone . . . and will feel hopeful as well.

As Morgan Freeman said in The Shawshank Redemption . . . "I hope."


shelia said...

"I'm glad I'm not the only one."
Sometimes we think we're the only one until we read a book or see someone tell their story on TV. It's good that books are able to touch on a variety of topics. Readers are demanding "real endings."

Patricia W. said...

Bettye, I think you have a gift for taking real-world, difficult situations and exploring them in a fictional setting. If OUAP is anything like If These Walls Could Talk, I'd better stock up on tissues!

bettye griffin said...

Shelia, I've seen many a book be skewered because readers didn't like the way it ended . . . mine included!

Patricia - Get the tissues!