I think it's safe to say that the themes in our novels are reflective, somehow, of things deep within us. That which is important to us; that which stirs us; that which has changed us at some point.
One of my biggies is betrayal.
At seventeen, I loved a boy as though my immortal soul depended on it. He was the ringleader of the questionable gang I was adopted into after my best friend and I had a falling out. I yearned silently for months until, finally, right after Thanksgiving of my senior year, the Boy took me on a date, told me his feelings for me had grown past friendship, and kissed me like I'd never been kissed before.
The next day, I could barely remember to breathe. Every time I thought of him, my stomach plummeted. I had little appetite and no ability to do anything. I was lovesick--for real. When he finally appeared late in the afternoon to say his good-byes (he'd been home from college for the weekend), I melted into his arms, aching that I had to be parted from him so soon.
My parents hated him. Truth be told, he wasn't a good Boy. To his credit, he did tell me that he was also seeing a girl at college. It wasn't like this was some big love affair; at least, not for him. I was okay with that. I'd loved him silently for months; I could wait a few months more for him to realize that I was the One.
Sure enough, he broke up with the gal at college. And professed his love to me.
That's right. He said, "I love you." Girls don't imagine things like that.
Long distance relationships are hard, though, and whenever he was home for a weekend, I was too insecure to simply be myself. At Christmas, I was afraid to buy him the wrong gift. Around the rest of the gang, I was afraid to show my affection for him. When we sat on the sofa in my parents' living room, I didn't know how to drum up conversation.
It was all too big, and he was wrong for me. Of course, I couldn't see that. Every heartbeat was for him. Every weekday was another "X" on the calendar until I would see him again.
He grew steadily bored with me. As I saw the fire in his eyes slowly melt, I felt like a complete failure. As in, I-don't-even-know-how-to-make-my-boyfriend-stay-in-love-with-me. Still, I clung to him.
Summer came. I don't know how it happened, but a gal-I-didn't-like-much was sort of grafted into our gang. A Cheerleader (clearly, my life was a cliche). Once, she hung with them when I wasn't there. She later asked me if the Boy and I were still together.
What she meant, of course, was, "I think the Boy is hot, and if you'll just step aside, I think I'd like to take him."
Truth was, the Boy and I weren't doing very well. But I wasn't going to tell that to this cheerleader with a reputation for coming to school with hickeys on her neck. So I lied.
It was only a half-lie. Because I still deeply loved the Boy.
The rumors started. "Boy and Cheerleader have been together. We saw them."
I had to know the truth. Cheerleader lived walking distance from my house. One afternoon, when I knew the Boy had off from his job as a lifeguard, I drove to Cheerleader's house.
The Boy's car was parked outside.
I wanted to smash his windshield. Or kill myself. Or something else epic. He was with her, and he wasn't even trying to hide it.
The betrayal left an indelible mark. I was grown and married before I finally worked through it. Let it go.
But since then, betrayal is the one thing that will wreck me. And it's the hardest thing for me to forgive.
(I do forgive. I believe in living a life of forgiveness. But betrayal is the hardest.)
So it's no surprise that this shows up in my novels. Whether it's a real or a perceived betrayal, the raw emotions come easily as I write. I know what betrayal feels like. I know its power. And for me, in stories, it really works.
It's not the only raw material I have to work with. (How boring would that be?) But it definitely comes more easily. And when we reach deep inside ourselves to produce the emotions and ideas and circumstances in our novels, we're touching what's real. And I believe that's what makes stories resonate with readers.
That's me, really.
What about you?