Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day
Do you have a theme that runs through your writing? I didn’t think I had. Recently I explained my four books, two published and two about to be, to a writing group. To my surprise, I found I was describing a thematic thread common to all. Prior to these four, I had written five other books that did not work to my satisfaction. They never made it to the query process because I never felt they were whole, nothing describable, just not right. It seems, once a theme appeared in my writing, I was able to complete the stories successfully.
 I wrote The Prince of Keegan Bay (Champagne Books) on a whim, for NANOWRIMO. When you write a novel in a month, you do not spend a lot of time working on themes, plot or character development. You write the story in your head as it spews out day after unedited day. In the end, I found I liked my characters, the plot, the setting and so I spent three months editing it and sent it off to a competition where it won a first prize for humor. I call it a humorous thriller.
The theme in the book is about a young widow who sacrifices herself in order to save her baby’s life. The baby is threatened with death before it reaches six months old because it is a crown prince of a Middle Eastern country. A group of senior citizens help protect the baby from the terrorists. The baby is the focal point of the story. In this case, his loving mother is willing to accept death in order to save him. Fortunately, the story does not end that way.
The next accepted book, Elena – the Girl with the Piano (Double Edge Press) features a young girl who, with her family walks through the front lines of Leningrad during WWII into the arms of the Germans. Elena’s mother, a former nursery school teacher in the Soviet Union, resents her responsibilities for Elena. During their good years, grandparents and a housekeeper took care of the girl. Once the stress of dealing with the enemy takes hold, Elena’s mother turns on her. Elena is left to survive by her own devices.
Then I wrote The Reluctant Daughters (Double Edge Press – to be released August 2013) where I wove together three generations of women and complications with parenthood. The protagonist, Elizabeth Ackert is raped and gives birth to a daughter. Her father, being wealthy, arranges for her to travel to Europe. She marries an invalid who is happy to have her as a wife and accept her daughter. Unfortunately, he dies leaving Elizabeth with an unwanted child. She sends the girl off to boarding schools in Switzerland. The daughter, Mary Ellen, also is a survivor who marries young, has two daughters, Barbara and Lillian, by two different men and winds up in opium dens instead of caring for her girls. Grandmother Elizabeth, now the head of a lumber empire in the age of railroads, takes on the care of the two young girls. Because of her own daughter’s lack of discipline, Barbara and Lillian live a Spartan life until Barbara realizes her grandmother is ill and goes in search of their mother. There are many plot twists and turns in this one. Grandmother starts the action by deciding to destroy the man who fathered Mary Ellen, a man who is running for president in 1900.
The current work is Silent Autumn, a futuristic story set in 2179, when the population in the former United States is down to ten percent of its 2079 levels. A young woman, Taylor, overhears two leaders planning to remove the leader of the Western Territories and is caught, then rescued by Max, one of the president’s security guards. As the two of them travel toward the west in order to warn their leader, they come across a group of people in the western Pennsylvania mountains. A girl has an infant, unwanted by the community, which she palms off onto Taylor and Max, swearing them to care for the baby. She then commits suicide. Unfamiliar with any form of childcare, the couple take the baby with them on their journey. Taylor becomes close to the infant, learning to care for it and recognizing all that was stolen from her when she, following government doctrine, gave birth to two children in her teens. The two children, like all children in The North, were conceived through artificial insemination and taken from her immediately following birth. All children are raised in nurseries and schools to ensure they are well cared for, protected and educated without undue influence of parents. The more attached Taylor becomes to Acorn, the less she wants to risk her life to save unknown people in The Western Territories. Max begins to share her feelings.
These stories surprised me when I recognized the theme—the mother-daughter relationship in many guises. On further thought, I realize that I am still working on unresolved issues with my own mother. She gave birth to me, not wanting a second child. She abandoned me in the hospital, but was forced by her family to take me home, refusing to name me because she hoped I would die. My aunt and my father named me. Thereafter followed a life of constant humiliation, rebuke and abuse. I survived and had my own three daughters and then inherited three more when I married for the second time. When Mother’s Day comes around, I am a little surprised but always glow with pleasure when they send cards and gifts. While I still cannot remember what it feels like to be a loved and cherished child, I know that I managed to provide those feelings to my girls, each of whom I adore. Somehow I had expressed these conflicting emotions in varied stories.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and daughters out there.

Veronica Helen Hart (Ronnie) is a member of Sisters in Crime, The Florida Writers Association (Board of Directors and Regional Director), and The Ormond Writers League. She has participated in NANOWRIMO regularly since 2003, but The Prince of Keegan Bay (2008) was the first book she believed capable of being published. Web page: (remember to put the extra h in the middle.)


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Beautiful, Ronnie and very true. We write our issues as themes.