Exploring Our Fears

Please welcome RITA award-winning author Anna Richland to the Cafe.

Isn’t the end of October a perfect time to explore what keeps us awake at night? Anyone else out there have regular instances of “the spider nightmare”? I’ve lost track of the times I’ve patted down my bed at 4 a.m., just in case, so of course I have to share this photo.

Spider crawling on booksA few days before drafting this post, I had coffee with blogger Nicola O. of Alpha Heroes. During one of those wide-ranging real-life chats that we all want more of, we discussed a blog entry from 2007 in which she’d explored the idea of fear in romance novels. She speculated that, just like the bad things that happen in fairy tales can be a safe way for kids to address real-life fears, in romance, readers want to know that even if their own worst fears come to pass for a character, a happy ending is still possible. Over the rest of the weekend, my thoughts circled back to Nicola’s point enough times that I even talked about it on a walk with a fellow softball mom.

Writers make the thing we fear most for ourselves happen to our characters.

First to Burn coverWhile none of my characters encounter hairy spiders, it was easy to connect what happens to my heroine in First to Burn to my doubts about giving up my own career as an army officer. I wrote that story while not only missing my specific career, one shared by my military heroine, but also missing having any paid work. And there my fear was, poured out on the page, when Theresa thinks: “Twenty minutes ago her future could have been summarized as go-to-therapy-rinse-repeat. Now she had a goal. Even if her research wasn’t the same as a real job, she had a plan.”

I wrote His Road Home at a point when a future as a writer seemed to be attainable, so that fear was (mostly) gone. In His Road Home, the hero steps on an old Soviet land mine in Afghanistan, loses both his legs and incurs a traumatic brain injury that causes language processing and speech problems. Because Rey’s always been a guy with a quick comeback or a smooth line, impaired speech changes his life even more than losing his legs:

When he pointed at his head and tried to say worried, it emerged w-w-wor.

“Work? Word?”

What would he trade for speech? Would he trade both balls? One? Tough call, since he wasn’t confident they worked, despite what urologists promised, but his brain sure as hell wasn’t pulling its weight.

Losing the ability to speak, to make what’s in my head come out my mouth, terrifies me. (Okay, so sometimes my head doesn’t have much influence over what emerges from my mouth, and my head wants to retract or disown some of the things that escape, but that I can live with).

What’s my personal fear splattered on the pages of The Second Lie? Let’s just say, Mr. Richland isn’t going to book us an anniversary cruise. The hero of The Second Lie is an immortal who survived the sinkings of both the Titanic and the Lusitania. After a century of avoiding boats, he has to fight his phobia in order to save the heroine. With hindsight, I also recognize that a heroine who fears people will discover she’s a fraud might be revealing something a bit personal too.

But — and this is the reason why I love to read and write romance — regardless of what scares the heroes and heroines of my books, they find their happy endings! Hopefully this Halloween you too can curl up with a great book and let love conquer fear.

~  ~  ~

His Road Home

Winner of Romance Writers of America’s 2015 RITA Award™ for Best Romance Novella

His Road Home coverSpecial Forces Staff Sergeant Rey Cruz has a comeback for everything, until a traumatic brain injury limits his ability to make spoken words match his thoughts. He has to face the world — and women! — without a voice. No more armor, no more façade, just the new Rey.

Grace Kim isn’t shy, she’s reserved, and that’s okay. She’s comfortable around numbers, and likes the combination of math, biology and field work in her dream job counting fish populations. When she’s linked in a fake engagement to a wounded hero who apparently graduated from her high school, her advanced degree doesn’t prepare her for the changes swamping her life. But she’s more flexible than she thought, and Rey is … intriguing.

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Read_HisRoadHome

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/HisRoadHome_Goodreads

B&N: http://bit.ly/HisRoadHome_BN

Other Store Links: http://bit.ly/HisRoad

~  ~  ~

Anna Richland headshotAnna Richland lives with her quietly funny Canadian husband and two less quiet children in a century-old house in Seattle. Like the heroine of her debut paranormal romantic suspense novel, First to Burn, Anna joined the army to pay tuition, a decision that led to a career spanning four continents. She currently writes both paranormal Immortal Vikings and contemporary romances, including the novella His Road Home, winner of Romance Writers of America’s 2015 RITA Award.

Anna donates a portion of her book proceeds to two charities: the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free accommodations near military hospitals for families of wounded soldiers in the US and Great Britain, and Doctors Without Borders, which delivers emergency medical care in more than sixty crisis zones world-wide. To find out more, visit Anna’s author links:

Anna’s Website: http://www.annarichland.com/

Anna’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnnaRichlandAuthor

Anna’s Goodreads Page: http://bit.ly/GoodreadsAnnaRichland

Anna’s Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/LikeAnnaOnAmazon


Exploring Our Fears — 12 Comments

  1. As I’ve said before, one of the perks of working with our guest authors is discovering new-to-me writers. As soon as I finished working on your post, I started HIS ROAD HOME. Loved, loved, loved it! Thank you!

    • Thanks Samantha! I’m happy to be blogging for the first time in ages (my own blog is woefully neglected).

      I’m glad you enjoyed His Road Home – I’ll admit that even as the author, I’ve read it about thirty times. Every time I have to go to it to get a quote, I end up rereading the whole novella. It’s funny, because I hate to reread my other books.

      Do you ever pick up your own books and reread them? I think that’s one of the most painful things for writers … I did just reread The Second Lie (first time in over a year) because I was trying to decide which Rita Contest category to enter. Happily, I didn’t wince too much – I actually liked my own book, which was a surprise after the agony of getting it finished.

        • You listened to the audio! NOOOOOO! (Insert nails on blackboard).

          I can’t. I tried, I couldn’t even get through the free sample part of the audio of First to Burn – I heard the book in my head as I wrote in a male voice, and they picked a female narrator, so right there, I was out. It sounded to me like Secret Life of Bees crash-landing in my paranormal military romantic suspense, and I was so freaked, so fast.

          But a reliable audiobook reviewer I met at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference last week – Allie Lucas – actually listened to the sample one evening and told me the next day “It’s not as bad as you think.” That was a relief, but I can’t go back and listen.

          And – this might terrify every writer out there – apparently Mr. Richland and his golf buddies listened to part of First to Burn during a long drive down the Oregon coast on a golf trip. I almost get hives thinking about that. I assume they stopped before the first love scene (I hope).

          I’ll have to do a close reread of all of them soon, because I’m going to make a name spreadsheet (tip from ML Buchman at the writing conference – he found himself accidentally using the same names and people thought it was a continuing character). Have you done something like that?

  2. DEFINITELY anyone who hasn’t read His Road Home needs to remedy that ASAP. I like the immortal Vikings books too, but His Road Home is special.

    Anna, it was fascinating to read about your fears influencing your writing and vice versa.

    • Thanks Wendy! I suspect your To Be Read pile is epic, but there are a lot of good books on the Café’s blog… not that you need more, of course.

      I’m currently working on a sequel to His Road Home (having abandoned a partial Immortal Vikings book). Thinking about things my characters feared, and how that relates to me, I realized the fear at the root of this sequel is fear of failure. Oddly (?) hand-in-hand with abandoning a book that I was half-way through writing … hmm. This whole bleed myself all over the page thing, it’s real.

  3. Sorry Samantha for misreading the old blog post – I went back and saw it was Liz Flaherty who had listened to her audio.

    That’s the woman who can come squish the giant September spiders in my laundry room, that’s all I have to say. Brave.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *