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.
Andrea Cox says
Beth, my heart’s aching for you. I know first-hand what you’re going through by being estranged from relatives. It’s a difficult thing, one that brings many, many layers of emotional trauma to work on and overcome. If it weren’t for God’s assistance in this, we’d be doomed. Thankfully, He is with us and brings us comfort and healing.
Praying for you today.
Some days are easier than others, Andrea. Birthdays and holidays are difficult. But for the most part, I trust God in this and that gives me comfort.
Narelle Atkins says
Hi Beth, thanks for sharing your story with us. You’re in my prayers.
Beth Vogt says
Thank you, Narelle. I treasure the prayers of others.