Recurring Themes…the heart of a story
More than those bothersome repetitive “justs,” “smiles,” and “looks” we strive to weed out in our editing process, there are core issues and themes that pop up over and over—the deep connection to which we have a harder time letting go.
Since our writing (and our unique writer's voice) is always a reflection of who we are as humans, and informed by our life experiences and world view, this isn’t surprising. The funny part is that it took me years to even notice that all my books, at their heart, had a redemptive quality—a search for forgiveness and a second chance.
In Savage Cinderella, the main character, Brinn, was a kidnap victim who escaped her captor of two years as a child. But fearing the man would find her, believing her parents were dead, and feeling abandoned by the world, she remains hidden and isolated in the mountains of North Georgia for the next eight years, surviving more or less on her own. When she’s discovered by a young nature photographer, they form a connection, and she must decide if taking a risk will lead to a second chance at the life that had been stolen from her.
On Thin Ice tells the story of Penny, a seventeen-year-old figure skater whose mom is dying of cancer. In her efforts to escape the pain and deny this reality, Penny lies about her age to an older boy and the consequences are life changing. Following the death of her mother, Penny finds out a family secret that sends her reeling, and holds a secret of her own that nearly ruins her life. But after losing everything, Penny comes away with a gift of new hope and a second chance to do the right thing.
Heaven is for Heroes is full of redemptive themes, as are every one of my other novels and novellas. I laugh about it as I write this post, because I suspect every story I write will possess that theme in some form. It’s who I am at my core. Someone who believes deeply that no matter our imperfections, errors in judgement, dumb mistakes, and bad choices, there is always an opportunity to do better and be better by choosing that next right action.
Ultimately, that’s what drew me to writing YA lit. I had a message for my seventeen-year-old self, burning in my heart. My stories are about healing the wounded hearts of every teenaged girl facing abuse, trauma, teen pregnancy, eating disorders or addictions. Whatever the problem, there is a solution, and you will find it by taking that next right step. By reaching out to those who care, and asking for help. By doing the hard work of learning and growing. Eventually, you will get to a place where you’ll know who you are and who you want to be. That's the road to happily ever after.
...a message I would have loved to have heard at that tender age when my life was spinning out of control, and a message I have come to fully embrace forty years later.
Having read several of my fellow author's posts this month, and reflecting on my own writing and its recurrent themes, I'm spurred to wonder if the reason we as writers sometimes hit a "dry spell" where we feel we've "written our best work", or feel we're "in a rut" with our stories, is because we're ready to move on to a new theme, a new message, or even a completely different genre. I know I'm not the same person I was fifteen years ago when I began this process. I have certainly evolved as a person, and I've done a lot of work healing from those old wounds of my youth, so why should it be a surprise if I need to find new avenues of self-expression that better reflect who I am today?
Now, all I have to figure out is exactly who I am, and what stories I still need to tell...