Six years ago, my mother died of alcoholism. Her drinking was a negative factor in almost every day of my life for over three decades, and when she died, while I mourned her deeply, I also felt relief that her struggle was finally over. And in the years since, I’ve felt a sense of freedom that I’d never known before – freedom from the constant worry that came from fending off her alcohol-fueled rages, or trying to clean up after her various alcohol-created disasters.
I never thought I’d include alcoholism in my books. But creating characters is a funny business. I imagine their pasts, their families, their careers, their likes and dislikes. By the time I type the first word of my book I can see my hero and heroine so clearly. And yet they still surprise me, and that certainly happened in More Than a Rancher. A couple characters started making choices I didn’t expect, and before I knew it, there was the alcoholism!
So then my dilemma became– how to handle alcoholism gently, so it didn’t overshadow the romance, so it didn’t turn my book into a downer? I decided to imagine what I would have wished for my mom. Given the fact of her alcoholism, how do I wish her story had ended?
Unexpectedly, my book turned into a bit of therapy for me. I got to picture another ending for my mother, where she healed, and gained insight and wisdom. Where she learned how to take care of herself and rely on her community and rebuild her life.
I don’t know why alcoholism showed up in this book. At some point, when you love an unrecovered alcoholic, you lose your hope. You stop believing they’ll get better, you give up on wishing it could be different, and you just figure out a way to grimly survive their turmoil. Maybe my heart has healed enough from the years of crushing despair that I can once again wish it had been different. Or maybe, after a six-year rest, I am just finally ready to think about it all a little more.
So I’m sending More Than a Rancher out into the world with fingers crossed that I’ve managed to balance the somber presence of alcoholism with the joy, romance, chemistry and humor that my hero and heroine share. It is a romance, after all, so there’s a guaranteed happily ever after. And if I did my job right, the joy of that is what readers will come away with in the end!
Wishing you health and happiness,