Tag Archives: PTSD

“Billy’s Bones” is touching a lot of readers

BillysBones_FessendenI almost titled this post, “Billy’s Bones could be my breakout novel,” because it very well may be.  A breakout novel is a novel that finally draws enough attention to put an author’s name on the radar.  Generally, subsequent novels sell much better as a result, because now readers have heard of the author.

That may be what Billy’s Bones is for me.  It spent over a week in the top ten of the Gay Romance list on Amazon, peaking at #7, and remained in the top 20 for almost two weeks.  The reader reviews and professional reviews have been amazing!  Sales have been astronomical, in comparison to any of my previous novels (and sales picked up for them over the past weeks, too).  And I’m still on the Dreamspinner bestsellers list!

What this will mean in the future, I don’t know.  If I’m lucky, my next novel will be successful as well.  Though it will be a little while before I attempt to tackle anything this dark again.  My next novel is a romance between two roommates in college.

But really, what’s more important than sales (yes, really) is that I’ve received numerous reviews and emails in which people have told me how much the book touched them.  Many have survived abuse themselves and the novel helped them — or at least didn’t disturb them — by dealing with the issue sensitively.  I couldn’t ask for greater praise.  My fear as I worked on the novel and all the way up until the day of its release was that it would be traumatic for some readers and come across as insensitive and  wildly inaccurate in its depiction of PTSD.

There have been, in fact, some readers who marked the book as something they know they can’t read.  After reading other reviews, they’ve concluded that the subject matter is too unpleasant for them to deal with in the context of their own pasts.  I understand that and sympathize.  I would never want somebody to be further traumatized by something I’ve written.

There have been a number of comments in reviews about the level of research that went into the novel.  Certainly I did read up on the subject of PTSD and watch videos of survivors discussing flashbacks and other experiences, but I was also lucky enough to know a number of therapists, including my mother, who specialized in treating clients with PTSD.  She and others read over the therapy scenes in the novel to make sure I wasn’t doing anything too horrendous.  She did point out that pushing someone to recall repressed memories wasn’t always a good idea.  In some cases, it’s better to leave it alone.  But of course, in the novel, it becomes necessary for Kevin to remember what happened, since he is the only witness.

As a final note, I would like to point out that, although I did have some experiences in my childhood which came into play while writing this novel, no one in my family was ever abusive to me or my brother.

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“Billy’s Bones” has been contracted!

KevinI 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:

TomWe’re looking at a release date sometime in late July or maybe early August!

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?

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Filed under Drama, gay, Psychological Drama, Romance, Writing