I never intended to traverse the world of domestic violence, be that in a fictional one or in the real world. My character made a passing reference to his sister’s former abusive relationship and now she’d moved on. That was all.
But this sister, her name is Julia, she had a story to tell. And it is a fascinating story to listen to. But that was all it was supposed to be; A fictional character, a fictional story.
As a novelist you write what you know and what you don’t know you research. The further into Julia’s secret world I have walked, the more people I have had to meet, the more stories I have had to read, and the more real domestic violence has become for me.
Again, as a contemporary romance author I’m used to waking up in the middle of the night. I’m used to voices screaming in my head, couples arguing, love rivals bickering as one tries to overthrow the other. My Blackberry is beside my bed so I can ‘write it down’. What I’m not used to is the sinister dreams.
They’re not really nightmares. But they are disturbing.
About 8 weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night after the following dream. It was so vivid I wrote it down.There’s a group of friends in a supermarket. The main female (I do not know how she is) overreacts to her best friend’s boyfriend’s playful gesture. As the dream continued I learned she knew her best friend because they have both been victims of what I do not know. Except, her friend has little understanding or compassion for the main female because she does not go tearing everyone a new one at the flick of a switch.
In the dream the main female was supported by someone I assume was her boyfriend. He revealed the person who did that to the main female was not anonymous. It was someone she knew and trusted. The thing was she ran away from the group and my attention followed her so I never found out who or what they were talking about.
But there is a third man in the dream. Someone she knew and trusted as much as she did the other men in her life now and as she stands by her car waiting he asked her if she was okay. She broke down. She can’t do this. She can’t live in the real world anymore.
I woke up.
In the last 3 to 4 months my writing has taken a darker, edgier turn. But I love the challenge of tackling these themes in a modern contemporary romance style. My characters might be fiction, and their stories I have made up, but somewhere out there someone lives this life for real. Delving into those lives, trying to put a voice to subjects that at first I tried to dismiss as out of sight out of mind, its upturned my psyche. I do not enjoy dreaming I’m being smothered with a pillow!
So it makes me wonder… How do horror novelist sleep at night?