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The problem with ‘message’ novels is that – unless they’re actually non-fiction – they can be a exactly that, all about the message. There are people who like to read them. Not me. Boooring. Depressing.
Or they can be the stuff of romance novels, movies or TV shows, like Sleeping with the Enemy, or countless detective stories. Not exactly accurate. It goes in fads, and lately its been about domestic violence.
After all, you’ve got this charming, sexy, good-looking guy who would give the shirt off his back to someone who needs it. He’s protective – maybe a little over-protective, but what’s wrong with that? If there’s an argument, he’s apologetic, bringing flowers or other little gifts. It’s straight out of Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. If he pulls away a little, though, it’s understandable, if a little unsettling, but like Bella or Ana it’s internalized. It’s their fault for upsetting him. It becomes more and more about self-worth and self-esteem, his need to feel strong and manly, in control, and hers to be considered loved and lovable. Consciously or unconsciously, he uses that. Little things start to set him off more and more quickly.
Oh, you didn’t realize that we weren’t talking about the hero…
Recently a new friend called me about getting together for coffee, then mentioned that she’d invited an old boyfriend over…and during the conversation added that he’d once given her a concussion. He was sorry, he said, he’d changed. Something happened though to give her second thoughts, though, and she told him to leave, finally having to resort to threatening to call the cops. She was done with him, she declared.
I was relieved, but a little stunned and even a little angry that she’d brought him back into her life.
I get it, though. It’s tough going it alone. Even if you have good friends, it’s not the same. Women still define themselves more by their relationships than their accomplishments. And, you get lonely. You want someone in your life. Someone who will help carry the load, too.
As accomplished as we are, we also want to know we’re capable of being loved.
It’s even more difficult for women with children.
That one in three? Somewhere I read that one in three people know someone who is the victim of domestic violence.
So when I decided to write my ‘message’ novel, I wanted to make it entertaining, informative and accurate. Talking of accuracy, there’s Sleeping with the Enemy. First, where did she get the money to run? The first thing married abusers do is take control of the finances. Second, almost every woman who runs goes home. Where else is she going to go? And it’s the first place that an abuser is going to go to find her. It’s also the most dangerous time for most women – when they leave. There’s countless tales of women who’ve fled and been killed by their ex-spouse – with others as collateral damage. Here in Ohio a woman took a friend with her to meet her ex in a public parking lot. He shot the friend, and then himself. Another married a police officer after escaping her abusive spouse – who then broke into the house to shoot and kill them both. Not all abusers are stalkers, although many are. And most don’t look like the sleazy guy from a cop show. In fact, you may have had one in your home as a guest.
So, I didn’t write your standard domestic violence novel. First, I did my research. No case is ‘typical’, although there are similarities. Years ago I read a newspaper article about a woman who ran a group that rescued domestic violence victims and I filed the thought away. So that became part of the story. Also, I didn’t want to do the usual ‘poor-pitiful-me’ or ‘rescue-me’ novel. That last because it so rarely happens, and when it does, someone else gets hurt as well. I also wanted to show someone who was empowered, capable and a survivor. There’s romance, too, healthy and real.
By the way, count yourself as one of those three now. The reason I know so much? I was a victim, too.
20% of all proceeds from the book – after costs – will be donated to domestic violence shelters.