The idea of writing as therapy isn’t new, nor is the idea of writing as exorcism. Writing is generally cheaper than hiring a therapist, easier than hiring a priest and doesn’t fill the house with the smell of incense (usually). It’s all fun and games until someone’s head swivels around backwards.
My writing has helped to quiet the ghosts of the past in several ways. After my mom had a devastating stroke, I wrote an as-yet unpublished novel about the experience, based on an off-handed comment a family member made that suggested an ideal—if illegal—solution to the quality of care issues she was encountering. I didn’t act on the suggestion, which was made tongue-in-cheek, but I did write about it, envisioning how things might have turned out differently. I’m still debating what to do with that book, but I remember how quickly the book wrote, and how unusual it was to be typing as I cried (fortunately I’m a touch typist). That book may or may not make it to print, but it was cathartic for me to write it. The novel didn’t have a happy ending, and neither did real life, but having written a version of what could have happened in advance; I was somewhat better prepared for what did happen. So it served its purpose.
My relationship with my dad was, shall we say, complicated. It did not occur to me until this year that in all four of my series, the main character also has a complicated paternal relationship. I swear I didn’t do that on purpose. I wasn’t even aware that I had done it until I suddenly saw the pattern. I am now working to consciously create different patterns for future characters. I guess I have issues.
My dad was a hoarder, and my husband and I had to deal with his collections when dad went into a nursing home. Some stuff was valuable and some was not; sorting through the mountain of stuff to determine what to keep and what to pitch took over a year. Not surprisingly, a fair number of the more unusual pieces and some of the settings made their way into my Deadly Curiosities series of short stories (and the upcoming novel). My husband is my first editor and beta reader. He read the drafts and shook his head and said, “I see you’re still working through it.”
When my dad passed away, I was the executor, so handling his estate and the remaining collections fell to me, on top of publishing deadlines and other work. Writing the books and short stories became my little port of sanity in a stormy ocean of legalities and paperwork. It’s taken most of a year to resolve everything, during which writing has become my rabbit hole where I can escape.
There are probably other ghosts that either haunt my writing unacknowledged or that have been exorcised, but if so, they’ve agreed not to break the dishes and I’ve agreed not to call the exorcist (or Ghostbusters). I suspect that most writers’ brains could keep a good paranormal investigation team busy for a long time. Coincidentally, I’ve never met a successful writer, artist, comedian or musician who had an idyllic childhood, and I suspect the two are inversely related. Dysfunctional families are the gift that keeps on giving.
Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.