Another Light Missing…

When Courtney Summers’ latest, All The Rage, was announced, there were people who actually said, “Well, why do we need another book about rape?  Didn’t Speak cover it?”

While the simplest answer should be obvious — “Surprise, we can have multiple books on a topic!” — there are many reasons why authors will continue to explore difficult subjects like rape culture and domestic violence.  Maybe, as with Summers, they have a new approach that further reveals the darkness in society.  Or maybe it’s because there is no indication that the number of sexual assaults is on a dramatic decline.

When I wrote Change of Season, it was for many reasons, but one of them was to pay tribute to a beautiful soul, a woman whose life ended far too soon.   A light missing from the sky.  The missing teens of Change of Season are written as a sort of kaleidoscopic spin on the many ways a young woman can end up like her.  Autumn herself is yet another.

Recently, we lost another light.  The story of Desiree Gallagher has haunted me since my sister, a friend of hers, shared it with me.  A kind young woman pursuing her academic dreams, she met a man, as so many people do every weekend.  That meeting would end with her plunging off his balcony, battered and beaten beyond recognition.  Miraculously surviving, Desiree was left blind, robbed of short-term memory and unable to walk.

Two years later, Desiree is no longer with us.  But her wish to help other women by sharing her story has brought me here, to share it with you.

I wish hers was the only story to tell, that it was an anomaly, that the world is a safe and beautiful place for women.  But hearing a story like hers can move another to be careful.  Hearing it may inspire another to choose a future career that helps survivors of violence.  Another may find strength to leave a bad relationship, or help her spot the signs a friend may be in danger.  Still others may sit back and think, “Enough is enough.  How can we, as a society, better protect each other?”

Each ripple in the stream matters.  Each carries a promise with it.

This is why authors are still exploring these topics.  Because the status quo is still a world where abuse, rape and violence happen.  Because each new ripple may just be the one that makes a change.  Because our collective words may just be the promise that gets someone through today, this hour, even just a minute.

Each book is a lit candle, in memory of the reader who knows its truth personally.  It’s how we keep the lights from going out altogether.

On Autumn Brody And Mental Health

At one point in Change of Season, Professor St. James gives Autumn some advice:  “Write what you know, and write when you need to let go.

This is a variation of advice writers have heard time and time again.  At times, it’s almost annoying.  Many of us write to heal, to share hard lessons learned along the way.  Maybe we choose to write of divorce because we ourselves are children of divorce.  Maybe we want others to feel less alone in the turmoil of life.  Even Courtney Summers noted in discussing her protagonist in Cracked Up To Be that she was channeling a bit of her own experiences with depression.

A recurring theme in many of my stories is mental health:  the ways we handle — or don’t handle — trauma and varying conditions, and how we survive to then thrive.  With one in five people around you being impacted by mental illness, there is a huge group of people out there seeking compassion and support.

In fact, you’re looking at one of them.

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