I always try to weave real life into every novel that I write.
Yes, I write inspirational contemporary romance novels — but I like to say that I write “real life” romances. What do I mean by that? I believe relationships are messy — all relationships. Husband-wife. Parent-child. Sibling relationships. Friendships . . . you name it, when people love one another or fall in love with one another, things get complicated. Mixed up. Messy.
When I wrote Somebody Like You, my most recent release, I chose three specific real life elements to weave into the storyline:
- Twins: I have a fraternal twin sister. I’ve always wanted to write a novel that included twins.
- Military: My husband was in the military for 24 years. This is not the first time I’ve added my military family perspective to a story I’ve written.
- Widowhood: While I am not widowed, I’ve had several close friends face this heartbreak. I thought of them as I wrote Somebody Like You.
Then I decided to add estrangement into the plot line of Somebody Like You. While developing the story, I knew I didn’t want my heroine to know her husband had an identical twin brother. I needed a believable reason why — and a longstanding estrangement was a valid reason.
What I did not plan on as I wrote Somebody Like You was for a decades-long family struggle to overflow into uncontrolled conflict that then settled into an extended season of estrangement.
Fiction became a heartbreaking reality in my life.
I had several choices to make as I finished writing my novel and faced my release date:
- I could hide the fact that I knew exactly how Stephen Ames, the hero in my novel, felt when he was estranged from his brother. Instead, I decided to talk about it — in the Author Q&A in the back of the book, as well as in author interviews and guest blog posts.
- I could tell the whole story — or tell the part of the story I knew. I share my part of the story when I talk about being estranged. I cannot speak for my family. I don’t hate my family. There are days I ache because I miss them so much. They have reasons for the choices they made, just as I have my reasons for the choices I’ve made.
- I trust that God is in this. I ask God to bless the work of my hands (Psalm 90:17) with every book I write. As I wrote Somebody Like You, he reminded me that the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible deals with two brothers who are estranged. Troubled family relationships are a real issue — and I am not the only person facing this problem. Maybe by discussing this publicly — not just the fictional plot element, but my personal experience, someone else knows they are not alone.