Thursday, April 24, 2014

to bring about change


For me, it's enjoyable to write stories where the characters overcome adversity. I mean if it's all working great, where's the story? Since I have known more than a few people who experienced childhood abuse, this was a subject I thought I could use for a romance. It is possible to take something that difficult and use it as a vehicle to illustrate how we overcome what happened.

The thing is-- some subjects are hard for readers to want to think about especially when it's fiction and a romance. I would say Moon Dust has been one of those. I also though believe it's a book that deals with very real issues that too many have had to face. 

To cover this subject, I read books, relied on stories I'd been told to delve into a topic that isn't often addressed for what it is-- what about when the victim is a boy? It has not been taken as seriously for many years-- as if a boy child would not be as impacted by being abused.

Abuse of a child is about the child losing control. It is maybe even worse for a boy where men are supposed to be strong or even how they might see any sex as good. Abuse has ramifications emotionally for years later. I wanted to take a very successful looking man, at a difficult time in his career, when he was facing divorce, trouble in the school where he was a principal, and show how he could overcome it all-- in a romance.

The topic that interested me beyond abuse was divorce. Why marriages break up and maybe should. But then how can such a relationship be healed in a way that doesn't ignore what led to the break. 

The story touches on a lot of other issues, but at its heart is abuse both in the past but ongoing for three teen-age boys who don't even know it's happening to them. 

I gave the story a villain who demanded his way was the only way as he tried to control others and fought to keep schools from teaching anything that went against his own white supremacist code. 

So ongoing abuse, results of having been abused, and a relationship that has been impacted by those long ago events. I guess it's not surprising it has been one of those books a lot of romance readers skip over.

Because I could put ideas about education, about healing, about overcoming into this love story, it's one I feel proud of having written-- popular or not. It definitely was a challenge to write since when you deal with hard topics, you often learn more about them than you'd want to know. I think though, surprising as this might be to some about a romance, it is a healing book for those who have suffered abuse of one type or another as they see solutions for today. Someone might have been victimized, but this book is about not staying a victim.

It also was a vehicle to show how we can get through traumas, which could be divorce or accepting that what seemed in the past is still impacting today. I also wanted to write it as a way to show the challenges we face as a culture regarding what education for our children should mean.

The doorway image was in the trailer and a photo taken at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland. My characters don't visit this garden in the book, but I thought this view through a round door was apropos for what it sometimes takes to move forward in our lives.

Snippet from Moon Dust:



      As Susan flicked the stop button on the remote control, the television screen darkened. She looked over at Dane, who was sprawled beside her on the couch, a picture of virile masculinity with rugged, battered face, a faint beard shadowing his jaw, jeans, the top snap undone, his only garment.
      "Why," he asked with a glare, "did you pick that particular film?"
      "Well, I certainly had no idea it was a movie about the war between the sexes," she said defensively.
      "You didn't?"
      "I did not. A friend recommended it to me. I had no idea it would be so..."
      "Argumentative?”
      "I couldn't agree with that interpretation. I thought it did rather well at exploring the problems in relationships."
      "From a female perspective at least," he agreed cynically raising his eyebrows.
      "It was not as biased as you're making out. Sure, the author of the screenplay was a woman but..."
      "There is no but. That says it all right there."
      "I don't agree. She was exploring legitimate problems between the men and women."
      "Like male unfaithfulness, male undependability, male obtuseness, male shallowness-- Problems like that?" he asked, grimacing as he shifted his position on the sofa.
      "That wasn't all it was about. It was about the need for communication, mutual trust and the harm that follows when those needs aren't met."
      "Aren't met by a man, you mean? Where were the female failures?"
      "Well, in this particular case, but it could have been different. I mean it could have been a woman who was unfaithful... and undependable and..."
      Dane shook his head. "But it wasn't. So we watch this movie, and you get mad at me all over again."
      "I didn't do that."
      "You didn't? Then how come you moved away part way through the picture. How come you shook my arm off when I tried to put it around you?"
      "I didn't... well, I guess I did. I suppose the picture did stir up just a tiny bit of resentment." She walked into her kitchen and came back with the wine bottle, refilling their glasses.
      "A tiny bit," he repeated, reaching into the popcorn bowl and finding a few pieces well coated with melted butter. "A tiny bit, huh? I caught the glares you sent my way and if I hadn't been a stoic, I would have left the room with my head hanging or sat in a corner until it was over."
      She smiled. "You seemed to me to be getting as irritated as I was."
      "Well, there were a few little things."
      "For instances?"
      "All right, since you asked for it. That woman let the man dig himself a hole so deep not even a gopher could have dug his way out. Why didn't she warn the poor schmuck what was happening--how she was feeling? Why let him make such a fool out of himself that there was no way out but suicide?"
      "He didn't kill himself," she corrected. "In fact, he seemed decidedly smug at the end, taking off with that pretty little tootsie roll."
      "He was killing himself by going to that other woman, being what she was, as surely as if he'd taken a gun to his head.”
      "So what else didn't you like?" she asked, sipping her wine and watching him combatively over the rim of the glass.
      "Well, how about the woman's friends? They were doing everything they could to put an end to the relationship."
      "They were trying to help her."
      "Hah! Women like that aren't helping anybody but themselves. They were miserable old biddies and weren't going to be satisfied until she was too. Something they had likely achieved by the end of the film."
      "That's not a fair assessment."
      "Maybe not, but it was accurate."
      "You are a male chauvinist," she accused, turning the charges from impersonal to personal.
      "And you are a female chauvinist," he retorted, sending the ball volleying back to her court. "The trouble is since the women's movement, men have been on the run with no idea where to run to."
      "That's ridiculous."
      "Ridiculous? Then why do men need writers like Robert Bly to get themselves back on their feet? Women have been using film and books to beat men into submission, to take away all their confidence. This movie is a good example. The worthless male again whacked out of the playing field by the noble female and her cohorts in character assassination and for all the women who watch it to nod their heads and agree."
      She pursed her lips, jutting her jaw contentiously. "So what you are telling me is that when women get together it's always to plot against a male." She raised her eyebrows in mock amazement. "But when males do it, it's for self-defense. Circle the wagons, boys."
      "Actually men don’t tend to go to each other but they should—especially when you see a story like that one out to geld all the males in the neighborhood."
      He saw her work to suppress her grin. "I'm not sure women would want to go that far," she said, glancing down at the evidence of his masculinity, her eyes beginning to show her amusement.

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