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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best-Laid Plans...


Write what you know and know what you write.  As an author, I’ve heard that my entire life.  But some things, the things that are the hardest to write about, are the things you know the best. They’re also the hardest things to share with the world because they’re so personal. You have to go to a place in your heart you don’t like to visit and tap into something you’d rather forget.

I encountered that very thing this past year as I was writing my Christmas-set novella A Bit of Mistletoe (which can be found in the recently released A PACT BETWEEN GENTLEMEN). I had every intention of writing a happy, fluffy Christmas story, until I realized my heroine wasn’t one who could ever be free enough from her past to be as light-hearted as all that – Christmas or not.

I could have scrapped that idea and started over with someone else; but in my heart I really, REALLY wanted Miss Theresa Birkin to have a happy-ever-after. Tessie deserved a happy-ever-after. She deserved so much more than she’d received up to that point. She isn’t so much my most flawed heroine as she is my most careful. She’s had no choice but to be so, however. You see, she made the mistake of falling for a rake and ruined her life in the process. 

I know what that feels like. To make decisions based on promises and then have the rug and my carefully planned life ripped out from beneath me.  And I’m intimately familiar with silver-tongued liars.  Don’t get me started!

The catalyst for the Christmas Pact Anthology collection (A PACT BETWEEN GENTLEMEN and A GENTLEMEN’S PACT) is that 6 gentlemen make a pact to remain bachelors after the death of their friend. You see, Lord Arrington, their friend (of the philandering silver-tongued variety) was caught cheating by his wife and then promptly murdered by her with the help of her fire poker. The 6 gentlemen in question feel the best way to avoid the same end to their lives is to simply to avoid marriage in the first place.  But you know what they say about the best-laid plans (or pacts, as the case may be)…

I posted the dedication to this book on my Facebook page the day the book was released, but I’d like to share it here as well…

For every woman out there who has been cheated on or abandoned ~ A few years ago, my husband of 12 years told me he was leaving me for another woman. I know I’m not a novelty in that regard, but when you’re going through a situation like that, you certainly feel like you are. So as unseemly as it is to admit, I do feel a little kinship for Lady Arrington and her fire iron. While I could never harm anyone myself, I certainly understand the emotions that could lead one to that place.
At the time, I had some wonderful friends who promised to help me hide the body should I decide to “knock him off” (in jest, of course). But their friendship, their commiseration, their support helped me through the most difficult time in my life, and I will always love them for it. Every woman should be as lucky to have such wonderful, devoted, and loyal friends.  Had Lady Arrington had friends like mine, I’m certain she wouldn’t have ended up in Newgate Prison.
I am here to say, however, that as hard as it is to believe when you’re recovering from that sort of betrayal, there really are some decent and truly good men out there. I am honored to know a number of them. And after rising from my ashes, I am very fortunate to have found an honorable hero of my own.  
Though Lord Berkswell isn’t the soft, cuddly sort – and flawed, though he is - Berks is decent and a truly good man who cares for and loves his family with all his heart. I hope you’ll love him as much as I do.
  ~ Ava

I am a baby, in that every time I read that dedication I cry. I hate to admit that, but it's true. Try as I might, I can never forget the betrayal and utter shock that went through me when my then-husband told me he was leaving me and for whom - a woman I knew, a woman I'd had at my house for holidays and graduations, a woman I never would have suspected was that sort of woman.

Because I had been through that particular situation, it made me anxious to give Tessie Birkin a well-deserved happy ever after, but it also hurt a little to write, getting into her head, feeling her emotions. She'd been betrayed and I knew exactly what that felt like. Tapping into that emotion can be painful, but also a bit cathartic too. Still, it had to be done. Good people don't always get happy endings in real life, but as an author of fiction, I can certainly make sure that good characters get the ending they deserve. (Bad ones too for that matter, though that's cathartic in a different way.)

Have you ever REALLY identified with a character in a book?


16 comments:

  1. No one is popping into my head immediately, but I'll keep giving it some thought. Most of the time the characters I was drawn to didn't share similarities with me or my life. I think that made it easier to read.

    Amelia Audley (Lady Amelia's Mess and a Half) is a character I wrote that I've related to most. I had a time in my life where I felt very alone and betrayed, but I had a good friend that held me up until I regained the strength to do it myself. We lost touch several years ago, which is strange for me since I have many long term friendships. It makes me wonder if certain people are brought into our lives for specific periods of times to help us and then they move on. Kind of like guardian angels in human form.

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    1. I think there's some truth to that, Sam. I definitely think there are certain people who have been in my life at the times I needed them. I only hope that I can return the favor or pay it forward and be there when someone needs me.

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  2. When I was a little girl, I adored the Little House on the Prairie series and it's probably because identified with Laura Ingalls Wilder. The more I think about it, however, the more I realize that I identified with the Ingalls family as a whole. They were big loving bunch with a strong patriarch. Thanks for sharing the dedcation xx

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    1. I remember the same thing, Sara. Reading the books and watching the show as a kid. Family did seem to be the central focus. Whenever I think about those books, it seems like a safe place to be. :)

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  3. Who *haven't* I identified with would be an easier question for me to answer, which probably explains why I devoted the better part of my life thus far to a career in acting. I've cried many times writing my own books, but it's never because of one character -- it's always a situation that drives my tears. The characters are all part of me, and therefore I must identify with all of them on some level, which is what makes the situations that much more emotional as I write/read them.

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    1. Hmm... Do you really feel like all of your characters are a part of you? I don't feel that way at all. I try to understand where they're coming from, etc - but there are some I don't relate to at all. You know - like the villains. ;)

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    2. LOL! Good point...I guess I've written a couple nasty characters in my day, BUT they all have some trait or another from someone I've known in real life. So, how the characters view them is definitely based on my own experience, if that makes any sense :)

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    3. I definitely think this is a topic we should discuss during this week's Romance Ramblings. :)

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  4. I’m sure at the time of reading any novel, I could say I identified in some way with a character but I can’t say that any one in particular stands out in my mind.

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    1. I know what you mean, Connie. If a story is done well, you should be able to relate to the main characters as you're spending time in their heads. :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story, and I guess writing it all gave you some kind of closure perhaps. I do hope the new man in your life is wonderful and you will have many loving and happy decades together.
    I think we all have some kind of misery in our lives, so we can recognize and appreciate true happiness when it (finally) happens.

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    1. Aurian ~ Thanks! And the new man in my life is wonderful. The best man I've ever known and after having been through so much - I appreciate him more than I might have if I'd met him earlier, if that makes any sense. :)

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    2. Yes, it does. You know not to take anything for granted, or as normal, your due. I can still be happily surprised with my boyfriend when he does something for me.

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  6. Oh Ava,
    What a touching and yet heartbreaking dedication. I admire your resilience and strength and I love that it inspired your heroine.
    One of the reasons I began to write heroes/heroines with great imperfections is because I started to feel that I couldn't relate to characters on the pages of too many books. I began to redefine my views on writing after the birth of Rory; because he wasn't a 'typical' hero but I found him more perfect, more interesting, and more beautiful because of that....as a result; I try to write characters who deal with struggles people can relate to.

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    1. Christi ~ That's so sweet about your son! And I think we can all relate to imperfect heroes/heroines who have to struggle. It makes the characters more believable. :)

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