I just signed a contract with Dreamspinner for my psychological drama, Billy’s Bones! For those who haven’t been following my progress on that novel, here’s the “blurb” I sent in my cover letter:
Kevin Derocher was just thirty-two when he walked into Tom’s office, newly married, a baby on the way, and the collar of his red flannel shirt pulled up in an attempt to hide the bruises around his throat caused by hanging himself in his garage. After this initial encounter, therapist Tom Langois is convinced he’ll never see Kevin again, until the man turns up three years later to make repairs on Tom’s new house.
The two men become fast friends and Tom begins to suspect that Kevin may be interested in more than just friendship. But Kevin is haunted by something from his distant childhood—something so terrible that he’s blocked it from his mind. Not only do these suppressed memories make it impossible for Kevin to get close to anyone without panicking and lashing out, sometimes violently, but as they begin to surface, it becomes apparent that Kevin may hold the key to the disappearance of a boy from his neighborhood twenty-five years ago.
The picture on the left is what I pictured Kevin looking like. Tom looks like this guy:
So this week I decided to go back and re-read the novel. I’d already had a conversation with my mother, who is a psychologist with experience treating PTSD, and I learned that I’d handled several things incorrectly in the therapy scenes. Or you might say I had Tom and Susan doing things the way they used to be done, and psychology has learned a thing or two since then. For example, it’s no longer considered essential (by many therapists) to pressure the client to remember suppressed memories. That can cause them more trauma than simply leaving things alone. And giving someone something to relax him, such as Valium, before experiencing a possible trigger in a controlled setting isn’t as good an idea as I’d thought. It can do additional harm by distorting the memories further. (Some therapists don’t believe in repressed memories, but my mother has worked with enough cases to take them seriously.)
So I sent Mom the specific scenes in question to get some feedback on how to make them more realistic. Hopefully, since the novel is already contracted, we’re just talking about tweaking things a little. In the future, I’ll remember: always check with Mom!
In re-reading the novel, I’m still finding it engrossing. But Tom is seeming a bit more like an asshole than I remembered. My beta readers didn’t seem to hate him, so maybe I’m just seeing him from a bad angle at the moment. But I may try to make him a bit less pushy in edits.
Of course, the really frustrating thing about re-reading a novel after it’s been submitted, but before the first edits come in from the editors is that the typos and mistakes I find, I can’t correct.
How on earth did I not notice that I’d failed to capitalize one sentence?