Friday, November 1, 2013

Reader email

Warning: SEVEN YEARS SPOILER

Every so often, I receive an email that makes me sit back, finding it hard to concentrate. I've always taken care of how I write any "traumatic" event in my books. I deal with it as realistically as I can, and as true to the character as I can, without it detracting from the main story. I'm always cognizant that there are readers who might have gone through something similar. But each layer of of the story enriches the characters, gives them direction, and shows where they came from. So they become necessary evils to the story.

At the end of the day, it's urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and I want readers to come away from the story feeling entertained. Today I received an email that brought tears to my eyes. It's no the first time that's happened with readers, but I wanted to share this email because I'm hoping that it will inspire someone out there to change their life. Whether it's something you're going through or have gone through, or maybe someone you know.

The message below contains spoilers to SEVEN YEARS, so if you haven't read the book and don't want to see any spoilers, then come back. I wanted to take just a moment to get serious, because I've learned that sometimes the smallest things we think don't matter, actually do. So maybe posting this will matter to someone.

Upon her request, I have changed the names. Thank you "Sarah" for sharing your story or survival and hope and allowing me to give you a voice.
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Dannika,

  I am almost done reading "Seven Years" for the second time.  Your craft in writing (not to mention steamy covers) is superb.  ...You make the reader care about the characters.  They come alive.  I have a special place in my heart for Alexia.  You see, I was that abused woman in her apartment.

  A long time ago when I was 22, my ex-boyfriend tried to kill me and almost succeeded.  He strangled me twice, nearly killing me the second time.  My best friend was in the next room, heard the struggle the first time and with the help of another friend peeled him off.  As she held me, comforting me, he lunged a second time and wrapped his hands around my throat.  That time I lost consciousness.  My friend tells me my tongue and eventually my face turned black.  Again, they pulled him off me and this time they managed to get him out of the room.  The police showed up and removed him from our apartment. 

  John was a big guy with large muscles and I was a tiny 5'2" 125lb waitress.  I went to the police, swore out a complaint, they photographed my eye where I had hemorrhaging and my neck that had a perfect set of hand sized bruises with lines of broken blood vessels from the space between his fingers.  I also obtained a protective order.  Later, when he was tried, he received a six month suspended sentence, $100 fine and six months of probation. 

  I am telling you all of this because it happened in 1984 and your book, so beautifully written, triggered me.  Therapy then and a couple years ago has helped me be a well adjusted mama to three great kids.  But, your writing brought up stuff I had forgotten.  If you did not write this based on your own experience or of someone close to you, I will eat my shoe.  Thank you for capturing in living color what it means to fight for your life.  Thank you for showing Alexia's irrational reaction to Austin's wolf when she remembered.  Thank you for this line in reference to her heeled neck: "the emotional ones left behind became fingerprints that would never wash away."  That is such a poetic way to describe the PTSD I still have when just the right set of events combine. 

  You truly are a rising star in the writing world.  And, thank you for giving voice to abused women, including me.  

Sincerely,
"Sarah"

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Author's note:

Lexi's story in SEVEN YEARS is not specifically one of abuse, but of someone who survived Breakup Violence. Sometimes there are no signs of abuse in the relationship, but an individual can snap after the separation.  I didn't write Seven Years with any intention of it being a heavy read, in fact, it's a fun read with a lot of humor. But every story I write touches on at least one serious issue, and I try to handle it with care.

I wanted to share Sarah's story so we can remember how some of the events we read about in books are someone's real life story. Maybe even yours. Please use the Internet as a source of information and talk to someone. There are a number of websites that give the warning signs of someone in an abusive relationship, or may offer you help numbers to get you out of one. Women like Sarah are an inspiration because they are survivors, not victims. They have gone on to raise families and give back, so remember there is always hope. Never feel like you are alone. People like Sarah's friends who were there to help are heroes. I commend her for having the courage to talk about what happened to her, and not just that, but her followup email that touched on the positive things she took out of her experience.

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_help_treatment_prevention.htm
http://womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/get-help-for-violence/how-to-help-a-friend-who-is-being-abused.cfm
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

5 comments:

  1. As aways Dannika has touched one or more of us with her writting. You are one of the best I have read in a long while, I do believe that it was you who has brought me back to reading again ( and writting again ) Thank you ever so much.
    Sarah I am so glad that 7 Years has brought to you some love and laughter sorry for the bad memories that to came with this. But know that you are never alone. We are always with you not in the physical form maybe but we are always there by your side holding and whipering in your ear to breath and know that you are loved. Let no one take the love of life from your eyes.

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  2. I have never been through a situation like this where my life was endangered, and Sarah I am very thankful your friends were there and you are still here with us. I am always amazed at how differently we all read books, and how different things mean different things to everyone. For example, I had a baby and was left by my husband, I was in love and made excuses for him, and just when I thought I would never have to deal with him again he showed back up, so I identified with Lynn so much and her experience brought back some of those experiences too.

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  3. Yes Dannika, you do touch on sensitive issues, and I have asked in the past if you wrote from experience. But the delicate way in which you write of some traumatic events are actually very helpful in the end. I suffer from PTSD from abuse and sometimes it is hard to read, but the strength you give your characters lends strength to me and hopefully others. We are strong, we have survived, but sometimes we must remember that it's not just about surviving, but thriving! Keep up the excellent writing and story telling. You do a great job at it and on certain levels, it helps the healing process.

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    1. Wendy, I think sometimes stories and books can inspire readers to realize how courageous they are and can be. But the people with real character are the ones reading the books, not the ones in them. :)

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