Behind the Scenes of “KEEPING HER SAFE”

Keeping Her Safe TinyReaders are always asking authors where ideas for books, characters, and settings come from, and so I’d like to answer a few of those questions.

I’d like to promise that each week I’ll pick one book at random and give you five pieces of trivia about the book–but I know myself and life too well to make a firm promise like that. Instead, I can say that I will try to serve up some behind-the-scenes goodies on a somewhat regular basis. How’s that?

So here are five things you may not know about Keeping Her Safe.

Life and TimesNumber 1: The plot for the book is actually pulled from my own life. Many years ago, I was involved in an abusive relationship and barely escaped with my life. Younger Daughter was only two at the time. Older Daughter was 14, and much more aware of what was going on. In addition, she’d suffered physical and emotional abuse at the man’s hands, and she’d witnessed me being abused a lot. Not a good situation by any means, but I was under the very believable threat of death if I ever tried to leave. so I toughed it out for far too long.

The whole thing was immensely ugly and frightening, but one day I realized that I had to get my children out of that situation and to safety, and if I died in the attempt, at least I’d tried. For their sakes, I couldn’t not try any longer. It was all terribly risky and terrifying, but with much help from family and the legal system, we finally made it.

At first, I planned to tell Younger Daughter that her father had moved away and I didn’t know where to find him. I tried it once, but even as young as 3 years old, she knew somehow that I was lying, so I decided to tell her the truth when she asked again, as I knew she would. I didn’t tell her the whole truth, of course, for many years. I just gave her as much of the truth as she could handle at the time.

One day, when she was a bit older and we were talking about her biological dad, it occurred to me how lucky I was to have made the choice to tell her the truth. I realized that someday, when she was an adult and I no longer had any control, he could easily show up on her doorstep. If I had lied to her in the beginning, what might have happened then? How much might she have resented me? And with that question, this story was born.

(Note: as it turns out, he didn’t show up on her doorstep, but he did find her using the internet, and the fact that he couldn’t tell her anything about our relationship she didn’t already know has been amazing. The fact that I didn’t lie to her has only made our relationship stronger. It’s tempting to keep family secrets, but I strongly recommend the truth, no matter how painful it is.

Note #2: At the request of my former publisher, Larry Galloway is a toned-down version of the real deal. I could have added even more edge to the new and improved version, but since the book is a romance and the relationship between DJ and Adam is the focus, I decided to let him stay a bit gentler than the real deal. Nobody would be in the mood for romance if I didn’t keep a few chains on him.)

greenhouses_abt._1920's

A shot of the family greenhouses in the 1920s

Number 2: The setting for the book is also pulled from my own life. DJ’s house is modeled after my ex-grandparent-in-laws’ house (not the grandparents of the abuser, but the grandparents of my late-ex-husband). The terraced rose garden really existed and was stunningly beautiful. The only thing I changed was the addition of another room on the main floor. The house really was right next door to the family business, a florist shop and nursery. DJ’s nursery is modeled after the actual nursery. It’s no longer in existence, but it’s where I spent many hours working in my younger days.

Mueller Park smallNumber 3: While working through the details for one scene in the book, I nearly had the police called on me. When I came to the part where DJ’s sister confronts her abuser, I didn’t know what she would say to him. I asked Older Daughter (by that time an adult) if she would help me figure it out, and she agreed, but she couldn’t really answer my questions easily, which made it tough.

At the time, I’d just started doing character “interviews” and that gave me the brilliant idea to try acting out the scene to see what would happen. Older Daughter was game to try, and we enlisted the help of a Male Friend, who agreed to play the part of DJ’s biological father. I decided it would be easier for Older Daughter if we went someplace besides the living room, so we drove up into a nearby canyon and proceeded to act out the scene with tape recorder running in a gazebo overlooking a beautiful mountain stream.

It all worked so well, both Older Daughter and Male Friend got so into their parts, a family who happened to be passing by thought it was real. I became aware of them watching us, turning around and racing back toward their car with the intention of calling the police on us. Luckily, I managed to catch up with them and explain what we were doing, and with Older Daughter and Male Friend backing up my story, we managed to avoid the police call. I’m not sure what might have happened if we hadn’t convinced them we were all okay.

Rose by other nameNumber 4: The hero had to undergo a name change after I wrote the book. All through the writing of the book, the hero was called Noah, but when I finished the book and submitted it to my (then) publisher, I was told I had to change his name because another author (whose book had been turned in earlier than mine and so was already in production)  had a hero named Noah also scheduled to show up on bookshelves that month. One of the things I’d learned about Adam’s family during the writing was that his parents had chosen Biblical names for all of their children. Though I never mentioned this fact in the book, it’s something I knew deep in my bones. I’d already used the name Seth for his younger brother, and had picked out names for other siblings I don’t think I ever mentioned, but Adam was still available, so Noah became Adam.

Flash forward a few years to when I was revising the book for re-release as an indie author. Suddenly, there I was, able to make changes I hadn’t been able to include in the original version of the book, with the heady freedom of being able to call my hero anything I wanted. I seriously considered changing Adam back to Noah, but the poor guy has been Adam for so long now, I didn’t have the heart to make him change his name again, so Adam he remains.

Timeclock smallNumber 5Keeping Her Safe was the first book I wrote as a full-time writer. Before that, I’d been working full-time at the federal court as the judicial assistant for a federal judge. It was a good job, and I enjoyed a lot of things about it, especially the many friends I made over the years, but my dream was always to be a writer, which in my mind meant that I didn’t do anything else.

I had lots of dreams about how my life as a writer would look, but almost none of them were accurate. It was much harder than I thought it would be to make myself sit down and write when I had all those previously used-up hours of the day free. Add to that the difficulty of writing a book that hit so close to home and dredged up a lot of painful memories–and not just for me, but for the whole family–and I will admit this was one of the hardest books I’ve ever tried to write.

So there you have it, a behind-the-scenes look at Keeping Her Safe. Stay tuned for more


photo credit: TimeClock: Thomas Edison NHP via photopin (license)

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