Writing About Difficult Subjects
My debut novel, Have You Seen Her? was not written to be a treatise on spousal abuse, but it has gained a surprising amount of attention because it deals with the subject. Since I’m a romance/women’s fiction author, I always want my books to have happy endings. A romance should never be a depressing, downer type of story.
Strangely, the story idea didn’t even start with the heroine, a wealthy California socialite. The hero, nightclub bouncer and part-time musician Taylor Villanova came into my mind first. I already knew exactly what he looked like, and I pondered what type of woman he might be attracted to, and conversely, what kind of woman repelled him. That was when the idea of making his love interest a wealthy woman popped into my head. Taylor is a true alpha male, a protector, but he isn’t attracted to women with money, so I had to create a reason why he would even be drawn to Marcia/Dani. Her being in an abusive situation provided that reason. Without giving away too much of the plot, there is also a reason why Taylor feels such a need to protect Dani, and I believe it is a realistic one.
Domestic abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the world today. I am certain most of us know someone who has experienced physical abuse at the hands of a man, or we have been victims ourselves. I was well aware of what the average woman in this horrible situation might do–seeking counselling, going to a battered women’s shelter, etc. Dani considers those options and realises they would be ineffective for her. She has to come up with a better plan.
I asked myself how a wealthy, socially prominent woman might extricate herself from an abusive marriage. In an effort to give the subject the consideration it was due, yet keep the story enjoyable, I tried to infuse moments of lightness between those chapters or scenes where Dani is confronting her abuser or her feelings about what he has done to her. Writing the confrontational scenes between Dani and her husband were difficult, since I am a pacifist by nature. This is a romance, and I wanted to move away from the unhappy part of her life and introduce the possibility of real love entering her existence.
When an author deals with any real subject, she needs to have her facts straight. During my online research, I discovered Advocates for Family Peace (http://stopdomesticabuse.org/). The information about advocacy, intervention and empowerment on their site was truly an eye-opener. It gave me food for thought about what Dani might have to do once she makes the decision to leave her husband. Uncovering how and why she ended up in a marriage in which the man she once loved has used her as the victim of his rage in the first place was necessary. Also, it was important to show the range of emotions she experiences along the way–fear, panic, confusion, doubt, anger, determination, and eventual joy. There is no story if an author doesn’t show the obstacles her characters encounter and portray how that character grew and changed in the process. Dani’s evolution as a woman is vital to the story. Even though Taylor does protect her, he is not her rescuer. She has to rescue herself.
In my opinion, romance fiction should reflect the real world, and authors shouldn’t shy away from confronting tough issues. We need to show our characters working to overcome the obstacles just as someone might do in real life. Doing so makes your books more realistic and believable. However, we must be careful never to allow the topic to overwhelm or obscure the romance, which is the focal point of the story.
Contemporary women’s fiction/romance author Chicki Brown has published five novels, four of which have made different Kindle bestseller lists. She is also a contributing author to the WG2E All-for-Indies Valentine’s Day Anthology.
An avid reader, her favourite authors are Beverly Jenkins, Eric Jerome Dickey, Lisa Kleypas, J. R. Ward and Suzanne Brockmann.
A New Jersey native, Brown and her family relocated to suburban Atlanta, Georgia in 1994, and she now proudly calls herself a Georgia peach.
Her many homes in cyberspace include:
Personal Blog: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com
Thank you, Chicki, for becoming one of our guest bloggers and for sharing your story.
Tags:Ace of Hearts,Chicki Brown,comtemporary women's fiction,domestic abuse,domestic violence,Have You Seen Her?,romance author,romance fiction,spousal abuse,WG2E All-for-Indies Valentine's Day Anthology