Amy Lane on Why She Believes in Happy Endings

7544649Welcome back! Thanks for stopping by for my third and last post in the  series. This week I’ve shared my conversations with Megan Erickson and C.S. Poe where they discussed writing characters with PTSD, and my chat with Dal Maclean who came by to talk about her process writing a character with severe childhood trauma. Today I delighted to have one of my favorite authors of gay romance, Amy Lane, to talk about why she is so passionate about given HER broken heroes happy endings.

If you are a fan of gay romance you surely have read at least one Amy Lane novel. She is a prolific author putting out multiple novels every year, and although she is known for her more angsty books, she has quite a collection of lighter romance as well. A common thread in many of her books is to have characters who have suffered abuse and neglect (sometimes extreme)  or some kind of trauma in their childhoods. They reach adulthood with some emotional battle scars and happily in her stories they get to find unconditional love. 10821000

Amy’s stories can be raw and sometimes the emotional pain her characters carry can be almost too much to bear. I love her books because I can relate to the struggle in her characters, especially that yearning we all have to be seen for who we truly are by someone. To be loved even with our wounds.

I don’t think I could list every book of Amy Lane’s that I’ve loved in just one blog post, but I will briefly list some I think are particularly notable in relation to the theme of this blog series.

“Locker Room”, which is my favorite of all her books, and believe me that is saying a lot, gives us Xander, the basketball player who pushed himself of from a childhood of neglect and abuse to become a professional basketball player with the love and support of his lover Chris, who also has his own demons.

Others include, the “Promises” series  which has powerful stories that show not only how much the world can hurt people, but also how healing and happening is possible. “Racing for the Sun” delves into the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. It is a harsh and bloody story, almost like an avenging fantasy, but I loved it for how raw it was. “Bolt-Hole” touches upon the incredible damage that systematic racism can have on the life a  young black man. I think this is one of Amy’s more profound books. The “Johnnies” series, which starts of with “Chase in Shadow.”  A heart wrenching love story, the whole Johnnies universe is frankly some of her best work. This list is pitiably short, Amy as I said is very prolific, and her back list could keep you in books for months. I just wanted to highlight some of my favorites.13423284

So let’s get on with my chat with Amy, she was kind enough to answer some questions I had for her. I hope you find her answers as moving as I did, I as humbled by her honesty and willingness to share some of her personal reasons for writing the stories she does.

The Tipsy Bibliophile: Why is it important for you to give happy endings to men that have endured so much emotional damage? 

Amy Lane:  I think it’s because we ALL have our damage. Yes, my ten on the Amy scale damage may be three on someone else’s damage scale–but there was still a moment in my life when I was terrified and powerless, and it affected me profoundly. My family doesn’t do psychologists or counselors– we just power on through–so the first person to really see the extent of my damage was the first person I fell in love with. Luckily, he saw that I was more than just that damage, and we’ve been married for nearly thirty years, but still: rendering yourself naked before someone else, painful scars and all, is an act of bravery. 

And if you believe that people deserve love, forgiveness, a chance for absolution if they have sinned and to be productive and positive if they’re innocent–if you truly believe that, showing your naked painful scars is something everybody must do to find happiness. 
17700033So I write people with that damage, who do the unspeakably brave and live and love to tell about it. 
It’s a belief in humanity and hope. 
TTB: Trauma is a theme you have explored widely in your books, childhood trauma, sexual and domestic violence, PTSD in veterans, grief. Are there any traits in the characters or how you write them that are are consistent for every character or are they always different?

AL: As far as I can tell, there are two ways to react to trauma.

You can keep it quiet and let it make you weak, or tell the world and let it make you strong. 
But I don’t believe in absolutes–so most of my characters are on some sliding scale between these two extremes.  Deacon keeps his pain silent, Crick is pretty vocal about his, and Shane is somewhere in the middle.  Chase’s pain is so profoundly buried that he’s practically two people–the screaming child on the inside and the clueless man he pretends to be on the outside, and Kane just deals with each blow and keeps on rolling when it’s passed.  I know my own personal damage is known to a few people–but every now and then, somebody will say and do something that will resurrect it, and I’ll have to expose it to sunlight again and kill it. So if you’re writing damaged people, you need to acknowledge not only what the damage is, but how the character has reacted to it in the past–and what they’re going to have to do to expose their hearts and tell the world (or their significant other) so they can have a viable future.  And it’s always important to acknowledge that this is an ongoing process–even if you “rip off the bandaid” of your psychic pain, that wound still has to heal when exposed to air. 
Each person’s journey in healing from trauma is different and it takes a lot of strength to openly share that with others. I am grateful to Amy for sharing with us some of her own journey and those that she takes her characters on. She is a phenomenally brave human, I am honored to know her.
Again a big thanks to all the authors who joined me this week to talk about trauma and romance, and of course to all of those who stopped by to read the posts!
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend.
Cheers and Happy Reading!
Lauraa

 

Dal Mclean: Writing Heroes with Childhood Trauma

Welcome Back! Today I have the fabulous Dal Maclean to talk about her process in writing her amazing (and I mean SERIOUSLY AMAZING) book “Bitter Legacy“. This book was one of my favorites of last year, and one of the biggest reasons for that was how Ben, one of the main characters, was written. Ben survived severe trauma in his early childhood, and even after long years of therapy and family support there were still ways in which that trauma impacted him. I appreciated Dal’s, portrayal of what a trauma can look like for an adult survivor. I use the word “can” because trauma like everything else, is different for everyone. With characters like Ben, what I look for when I read fiction, is for a rendition that is thoughtful, and allows the character dignity and the possibility of healing.

I really wanted to chat with Dal about how she wrote Ben, his inner workings and why she decided to let him show his emotional pain, even if it did cost her some points in with the readers! In romance we have certain expectations on how a character should behave, and Ben broke some of those rules. He is such a layered character, and his pain was so palpable, he actually reminded me of some of the clients I’ve worked with over the years. So, I reached out to Dal with some questions about her process and other things that I was very curious about after reading her book.

Before I get to the interview though, I’d like to talk briefly about childhood trauma.  So what makes trauma in childhood different than trauma suffered as an adult? Aren’t children resilient and get past these painful events faster than an adult would? According to Judith Herman in her book “Trauma and Recovery”,

“repeated trauma in childhood forms and deforms the personality. The child trapped in an abusive environment is faced with formidable tasks of adaptation. She must find a way to preserve a sense of trust in people who are untrustworthy, safety in  a situation that is unsafe, control in a situation that is terrifyingly unpredictable, power in a situation of helplessness. Unable to care for or protect herself, she must compensate for the failures of adult care and protections with the only means at her disposal, an immature system of psychological defenses.

The pathological environment of childhood abuse forces the development of extraordinary capacities, both creative and destructive. It fosters the development of abnormal states of consciousness in which the ordinary relations of body and mind, reality and imagination, knowledge and memory, no longer hold.”

We can use that passage as an answer to my first question, which makes it pretty easy to guess what the answer to the second one would be. In short, trauma in childhood can have severe and lasting effects. And even though healing is VERY MUCH possible, there are no simple solutions, falling in love (even if it would be nice if it was) is unfortunately not a panacea. If anything depending on the type of abuse, it could trigger memories and old defenses that can be very hard to manage.

I will leave the lesson there, and go to my chat with Dal, I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did. For the those out there who are as geeky about books as I am, I think you will like just how deeply into Ben’s mind Dal got.

30777300The Tipsy Bibliophile: Writing characters with childhood trauma, specially trauma that comes from abuse, can be very hard. It can definitely create empathy for the reader, the issue is, people with trauma can be erratic and messy. Fiction (especially romance) tends to like their heroes a bit neater. So it can be hard to accurately portray the emotional pain and sometimes destructive ways in which that trauma can present.
It is not done often frankly, most times those self-destructive behaviors or poor coping skills just wash away once that romance begins to build. Which leads me to Ben, one of the heroes in your mystery Bitter Legacy, why was it important to you to continue to show the dark parts of Ben, even after he became involved with James?

Dal Maclean: I should say first of all as a disclaimer that I’m not a trained expert in mental health issues.
But as a writer, I think it WAS important, because those darker parts of Ben were vital to who he was as a character, and to the plot as it turned out. What Ben went through as a child was extreme and it didn’t seem to me realistic that it wouldn’t have a lasting effect on his emotions or outlook on other people and his relationships with them.

From a certain point,he had emotional support from his parents and extensive and expensive therapy (like his siblings) but because of certain traits in his character and the particular relation ship he had with his tormentor, he emerged the strongest and probably the healthiest emotionally of all the people affected by the ‘bitter legacy’ of the book. Ben has a very high IQ and EQ and an extremely strong will. Of them all he was most in control of how he dealt with his wounds but no, his behaviour wasn’t ‘neat’.

I wanted to show that there is hope of course for a happy ending for survivors of abuse, but equally I didn’t want to diminish it or make it facile. I didn’t think it was realistic to suggest Ben would easily lower a lifetime of learned defences and innate suspicion because he ‘fell in love’, or that he would necessarily think ‘falling in love’ was a good thing even if he could recognise it.
Ben is above all, a survivor. He wouldn’t have come through what he did in such good shape, if he weren’t, but having survived, throwing himself under the wheels of someone else’s emotions isn’t going to be done lightly. For Ben I would say, the greatest issues were always going to be control and trust.

How could Ben find anyone he could trust to tell the truth of who he was, and believe they’d still want/love him, when he’s himself repelled by it? How could he ever trust another person not to betray his secret or change their mind– and remember he’s seen graphic proof as a child of how much ‘love and commitment’ weren’t worth? How could he allow himself to relax and try to be with anyone who didn’t know his past, always fearing the truth would emerge somehow? Much easier to keep people close enough for fun and company but always at a safe emotional distance, through his …behaviour (trying not to give everything away here…)

You describe his behaviour as self destructive, Laura, but I think for Ben it’s the opposite – for him its self preservation, which is, after his childhood, his most basic instinct.

Then along comes James — not just someone to whom he’s overwhelmingly physically attracted, but also, that rarest of things — a white knight — truly honourable, brave, kind, almost innocent; a force for good.

And that is an unbelievable pull to Ben; he’s caught from the start by that potential to trust him. He’s in just as deeply as James is, all the way, though, through James’s eyes, it’s hard to see. (That ‘white hat’ thing is why Steggie is so attracted to James too, incidentally).

But for Ben, falling in love, and depending on someone else for his happiness – someone who could find out who he is and turn away from him – is ceding control of his own destiny. Not something to be welcomed, but to be resisted at all costs. Which he does manically, and sometimes cruelly. though that’s more desperation than conscious choice.

Finally it’s proved to Ben both that James deserves his trust, and that he genuinely doesn’t care who Ben is. So Ben finds the courage and desperation to make the most terrifying leap of faith, against everything he’s ever lived by, to try to hold on to this one person. And it works out. I thought that was actually kinda romantic in the end. ☺

TTB: Did readers react to him in unexpected ways because you chose to let his character stay “broken” even when he had James’ love?

DM: Oooh. Well. Yes! I’ve said elsewhere that I don’t think I’m a romance writer so much as someone trying to write romance and I think Ben’s character in Bitter Legacy sort of proves that. It definitely went against… expectations? And I think because maybe some readers had those expectations – which is perfectly reasonable given its ‘a mystery romance’ — people took Ben to the very end at face value, as a romantic love interest who hadn’t behaved romantically enough.

Ben says at the end ‘its what I did, not what I am’ and that is the essence of his behaviour. It had a purpose far beyond enjoyment – as I said above, it’s his shield, his protection, distancing him from involvement, leaving him in control. But some readers did see ‘what he did, as what he was’ and decided it wasn’t realistic that he could be anything else.

In my view though Ben’s behaviour was not compulsion. It wasn’t pathological; it was a behaviour usef/chosen made for specific purpose.

An important clue really that Ben probably isn’t ‘cured’ is, that James is unique to Ben. He’s unique from the start as is shown by Ben breaking his rules for him and lying by omission to try to hold on to him. And James becomes more and more singular right through until the end– the one person who, by what James is shown to be (the white knight; a friend Ben can confide weakness to), and by what James knows and accepts – can be trusted by Ben. I don’t think anyone else can fit that space for Ben. And Ben will not voluntarily risk losing him.

I think perhaps in our genre though, Ben’s behaviour, especially in persisting in causing the hero so much pain even after the love affair begins, is one of the worsts thing a character can do really. Some readers were very much more sympathetic to the murderer because his character arc and his way of dealing with his experiences had been hidden behind a more sympathetic (to the hero) pattern of behaviour. It surprised me I admit, as a rookie, that what Ben did, even with reasons behind it, was seen by some readers as less forgivable than murder. But… lol
TTB: While reading “Bitter Legacy” I was happily surprised just how flawed you let your characters be and without taking away their humanity. It can be easy to let a label, determine where a person can go, or what they get to have in a story. That includes love and compassion. However in your novel, even the “villain” had deeply redemptive qualities and was a character with which I had a lot of empathy. Was showing how complex people can be, and that there is a lot of gray when it comes to relationships something that you went about with intention?

DM: Thank you so much! I’m glad you appreciated the flaws. ☺ I think imperfect characters are my favourite thing. My biggest driver is trying to convey what makes different kinds of people tick. I love reading complex characters who have that layering which we all have as people. Relationships and people ARE complex things; that’s what makes them so fascinating.

So yes, definitely with intention –though maybe not always with success.

Villains are more interesting if they’re sympathetic, though sometimes outright scenery-chewing evil ones are fabulous too (Take a bow Dal Carrington Colby Dexter, nemesis of Nicole Kimberling’s Binky and Brutus!! :D)

But I absolutely love imperfect heroes best of all,,. with flaws and issues that cause genuine – not easily resolved — conflict.

I like heroes who’re sometimes messy and behave badly or stupidly or stubbornly or selfishly. Or hurtfully. People who’re afraid, or make mistakes, or occasionally think less than perfect things. But hopefully always for reasons that make sense, with who they are at that point. And they can still be heroes.

Romance is I suppose, ultimately, wish fulfillment, which is one of the reasons I love it and I’ll always want the happy ending. But when a writer gives me a believable HEA after getting me emotionally invested and making me feel the characters are real and have fought hard emotionally to get there, and for a while I even thought they may not make it… I love stories with an edge like that, that then take me home ☺

Thanks so much to Dal for this amazing chat. Please come back Friday for talk with Amy Lane, where she gives me incredibly honest answers about why she writes the characters that she does.  She made me cry…

If you would like to read more about childhood trauma here are a few books I have read over the years and have found to be incredibly valuable:

The Boy Who Was Raised as A Dog: And Other Stories From a Child Psychiastrist’s Notebook by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalvitz

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman

Bastard Out Of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

You can buy “Bitter Legacy” by Dal Maclean HERE.

You can find out more about Dal’s work HERE.

Thanks for reading! If you have any book recommendation fiction or nonfiction on this subject, please share them in the comments!

Cheers!

Lauraa

Megan Erickson and C.S. Poe Talk About Writing Veteran Heroes and PTSD

Welcome! So, today I have Megan Erickson and C.S. Poe on the blog today, to talk about what it was like for them to write characters who have come back from war, and are struggling with the effects of the trauma they experienced. I think both Megan in her book “Overexposed”, as well as C.S. in her “Snow and Winter” series do a great job of putting out there how hard it is to walk around wounded on the inside, but to the outside world looking completely fine. The fear of being “stigmatized” or being labelled as “crazy” is yet another layer of difficulty that veterans have to confront. Espcially when most people don’t even understand what PTSD even means or looks like.

So what is PTSD? According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs “PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”

Some of the symptoms can be, “reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms), avoiding situations that remind you of the event, having more negative beliefs and feelings, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal).” Imagine dealing with all that and trying to rebuild a life or starting a new relationship. It’s a lot, and even if it is doable, it does not magically disappear because they have fallen in love.

So, this leads into my conversations with our guest authors. First, I will share my chat with Megan about her heroes Thad and Levi from Overexposed, and why it was important for her to show their emotional pain as accurately as possible. Here it is:

28490317TTB: In “Overexposed” you had two characters who had each experienced traumatic events. Thad is a veteran who has recently come back from his latest deployment, and is still reeling from those experiences, and Levi is grieving his sister who died in active duty.  

While reading the story I was really struck by how their ways of dealing with their pain was so different, and yet so similar. Thad’s complete silence, he was almost unable to speak about anything. Levi who was such an extrovert, had to find quiet in order to finally let the grieving happen. And yet,  they both ended on the same path, literally. However even once their connection happened, still they could not heal the other person. Each of them had to find a way back from their journey on their own. I thought that was a beautiful analogy, and letting their pain be part of the story made the novel a really wonderful read. Can you talk a bit about why you chose to let the effects of their pain and grief linger, and not just dissipate once the romance began?

Megan Erickson: Thank you so much for your kind words on “Overexposed”. This book was difficult to write because I knew there would be a lot of pain and grief. Regarding letting the effects of their pain and grief linger: I think it’s important to show that grief will change us. It’ll change how we live, love, make decisions, etc. And with Thad and Levi, I wanted to show that love and romance can break down some walls inside of ourselves. Meaning, once we start to see how others view us, especially ones that love us, it gives us a chance to look closer at ourselves. Love can be a mirror. I’m sure there were times Thad was thinking–why is Levi into me? What is it about me that he sees? Do I see myself that way?

TTB: The “Damaged War Veteran” is not an uncommon theme in gay romance. It’s a well used trope, however a lot the portrayals of these character’s experiences can be pretty superficial. It’s hard to develop a romance while trying to accurately portray what the effects of PTSD really look like, without resorting to graphic details or images that could affect the reader in a negative way. How did you approach writing Thad’s PTSD, and how was it different for you than other characters in your novels?

ME: The thing about PTSD is that it affects everyone differently. For Thad, he’d always been a quiet guy, an introvert, and he hadn’t really found many people at all that understood him. So when his brain was actively fighting itself over trauma, his solution was to get away from everyone. He couldn’t understand himself, how could others? Thad was different for me, because I admire those who serve so much, and I wanted to treat his situation delicately. He didn’t feel like a hero, and never really wanted to be.

Some would say that romance is a less serious genre, that the focus should be on getting that believable “HEA” and that getting too deeply into a character’s trauma could hurt the story.

TTB: Why do you think it’s important to be mindful of portraying trauma accurately? Have you found the reactions to Thad and Levi’s characters to be positive or any different from other books?

ME: I think it’s incredibly important to portray trauma well. Mainly because even if a character didn’t go through the same experience, they might have dealt with another traumatic experience similarly, or had the same thoughts. And for them to see themselves reflected on the page and treated with care and respect is everything.

I had no idea how readers would react to Thad and Levi but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s an angstier read, so I’m sure it wasn’t everyone’s thing, but the responses have been amazing and very intense emotionally. One reader got a tattoo with a line from this book, and another got a tattoo of a tent and moon to signify Thad and Levi’s journey on the Appalachian Trail. Which just blows me away. I’m grateful every day for being able to do what I do.

29759618In the “Snow and Winter” series one of C.S. Poe’s heroes, Calvin Winter is a NYPD detective who is still suffering the effects from what he experienced while serving in the military. He is haunted by his memories, and even though he has tried to push it all down and keep going, things are slowly falling apart.

One of the things I really like about Calvin’s character is that C.S. shows how much his struggles with showing weakness, how opening up about his trauma would mark him some how. I think that conflict made Calvin very appealing to me, and I think was a great issue to address. So I had a chat with C.S. about her book and why she chose to approach Calvin in the way she did. Here is what she had to say.

TTB: PTSD in a character, specially in a romance, can be quite heavy if portrayed accurately. For your first novel you decided to delve in the trauma that Detective Calvin Winter had suffered while in combat. I think the book is better for it, and certainly makes Calvin a much more intriguing hero. What parts of Calvin’s struggle with his trauma were important for you to get right?

C.S. Poe: Writing Calvin’s character came with the very serious task of accurately representing aspects of PTSD, and it was in the forefront of my mind throughout the entire writing and editing process. It was important to me to show Calvin as a strong, smart, and brave man, while at the same time reflecting an inner struggle he acquired later in life. Calvin has a battle raging inside, where he is trying to be the man everyone sees– a hero, while accepting the fact that war has changed him and he may need help to overcome what he has experienced. It was his reluctance to seek help that I wanted to portray, the concept that he feels weak or has somehow let people down by not being Captain America.

Another important element to his character was to not make the PTSD who Calvin is. He is a man. He is a highly decorated army veteran and metro detective. He’s a son, a brother, and a boyfriend. He is not PTSD. In order to show this, I had to do a lot of research, which involved days of documentaries and videos, reading articles and support groups, researching VA hospitals, and more. I wanted to represent symptoms of PTSD subtly that suggested Calvin was struggling hard, but that he won’t let it consume his life.

TTB: Something I struggle with when I see it in a novel, is the minimization of trauma once the romance begins to emerge. The idea being that love can make the PTSD go away, when in fact it is a lot more complicated than that. Do you think that putting Calvin’s struggle right in the midst of his relationship with Sebastian gives their love story a depth that would not have been there otherwise?

CSP: Absolutely it did. Through my extensive research on PTSD in veterans, I’ve learned that in fact, many relationships struggle to stay afloat, and even more can often fail. Of course a relationship that doesn’t succeed breaks the single rule of a romance novel, that being there needs to be a Happily Ever After, or at least a Happy For Now, in the case of this ongoing series. Calvin’s happiness and success with Sebastian is a very critical and key element of the character arcs in these books. When the two meet in Nevermore, Calvin is pretty low, and because of how PTSD can intensify with emotional stress from a relationship, especially a new one that didn’t start so easily with Sebastian, it was important that in Book Two, Curiosities, Calvin basically hit rock bottom. I needed to stay true to how devastating PTSD can be, to not belittle what real people experience, while at the same time giving hope and belief that things can get better, as seen through a man like Calvin.

To Sebastian, Calvin is his knight in shining armor. Sebastian doesn’t think anything less of Calvin when the armor is too heavy to hold up without some help. There is a raw, naked honesty between the two men. The ability to ask for and receive help during the darkest moments, while remaining equals, that I think solidifies their romance, and makes them so very special to one another.


I am always grateful to have stumbled upon this genre, and one of the biggest reasons is that it is filled with authors who feel such passion for writing their stories. Thanks so much to Megan Erickson and C.S. Poe to taking the time to talk with me about their heroes and their writing process.

Please comment if there are any other books out there with veterans or those suffering the effects of PTSD that you recommend.

Other favorites of mine are:

Think of England by KJ Charles

Marlowe’s Ghost by Sarah Black

Racing for the Sun by Amy Lane

If you would like to read more about Trauma and PTSD in particular here are a couple of books I recommend:

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence- From Domestic Abuse to Political Power by Judith Herman

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel A. van der Kolk

You can buy “Overexposed” HERE.

You can learn more about Megan Erickson and her work HERE.

You can buy “Snow and Winter” series HERE.

You can more about C.S. Poe and her work HERE.

Please stop by again on Wednesday to read about my chat with Dal Mclean and our chat about writing a hero with childhood trauma.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Lauraa

Real Talk: Reading (and writing) Romance with Heroes who are Trauma Survivors

As I have mentioned before I am a social worker, and most of my work is doing advocacy for survivors of domestic and sexual violence (a big reason why I read so much romance, I need to gorge on those HEAs sometimes , ya know?).  So that means I have a critical eye for how trauma is portrayed in books. Those stories with veterans suffering from PTSD, characters who survived sexual or physical abuse as children, or those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted as adults. Are their stories told with care and respect for what they survived? Does is it ring true, is it fair, or is it simplistic? Does it minimize the struggle living with the effects of trauma can be for the person who has experienced it, as well as the loved ones who are there to support them? These are questions that I constantly have in my head when I pick up a book with this kind of story, and the answers matter.

So what is trauma anyway? According to Judith Herman in her book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftemath of Violence From Domestic Violence to Politcal Terror (which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone doing research about trauma) “psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force. When the force is that of nature, we speak of disasters. When the force is that of other human beings we speak of atrocities. Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection and meaning.” That last line is the important one when it comes to relationships and one that I think has a lot weight when thinking about romance.

635994940155590791-1535165399_ptsd-symptoms1

Heroes with histories of trauma are a popular theme in Gay Romance, which frankly is one of the reasons why I love the genre. These stories are hard, and provoke empathy and a connection with the characters that is quite powerful. However, there is also a tendency to try and fix that brokenness in the characters once love is part of the equation, in ways that to me feel a bit simplistic. It would be wonderful if love could solve everything, but the reality is that for most people who are struggling with the effects of trauma, even when they are loved and supported unconditionally, those wounds don’t go away. They can be managed and healing is definitely possible, but they don’t just disappear. These are subjects that need to be approached with care, because implying that they can be solved so easily could be hurtful or feel like judgment for readers who are going through similar situations. However when they are done well, they make for some of the very best reading the genre has to offer, and they could be sources of hope and validation for those out there trying to heal.

So who is out there writing this stuff in ways that rings true and are also delivering on those powerful HEAs? Well, lots of authors actually! I reached out to a few who have written some of my recent favorites, and chatted with them about why it was important for them to show accurate portrayals of what the effects of trauma looked like for their characters even if it was a messy sight.

Over the next few posts I will share my conversation with Megan Erickson whose book Overexposed, is one of my favorites and I think does a beautiful job of rendering both of her heroes’ struggles. Thad’s PSTD from his time in Afghanistan, and Levi’s grief from losing his sister to the same war. I also talked with C.S. Poe whose hero Detective Calvin Winter in the Snow and Winter series, struggles to adjust to civilian life after leaving the military. The portrayal C.S. does of how violent and pervasive PTSD can be is fantastic, and she still manages to give us a funny and robust love story.

I also will be chatting with Dal Mclean and her book Bitter Legacy, which deals with a hero who is survivor of horrific child abuse. This topic is particularly important to me, and I think Dal does one of the finest jobs in rendering it that I’ve read in this genre. And yet her heroes still get their happy ending. Finally we will hear from the Queen of Angst herself, Amy Lane. She will talk about her writing and why she keeps going back to those broken heroes.

So, more than a lecture on what trauma is, although I will give definitions and such! 🙂 I hope this is more of a conversation starter. These authors have been quite generous to share some insight, and I hope to hear some more thoughts about this topic, and maybe get some recommendations on other books that approach this topic well.

Also, I will be listing some resources during the posts, of books on trauma that I have read over the years which I think are incredibly informative, and could be of use for those who write these kinds of heroes. And finally, I will list other novels that I have loved over the years and I think broach these subjects well.

Ok, that is all for me today! Come back Monday for my chat with Megan Erickson and C.S. Poe about writing heroes who have come back with from war emotionally wounded.

Happy Friday All.

Cheers and happy Reading!

Laura