Friday, October 4, 2013

Revisiting the past

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

I'm sure I'm not the only person out there who's haunted by events in her past.

When I was young, my mother suffered from a life-threatening illness.  The three of us were farmed out with relatives, friends, and neighbors at various times, and we never knew when it was going to happen. We'd come home from school to find Mom had been wisked off in an ambulance and we'd be sleeping someplace else that night--and maybe for weeks at a time. My dad worked rotating "tricks" and couldn't take care of us.  That left me with fierce fears of abandonment that I struggled with into adulthood. Stories my older brother made up at night to help us fall asleep were a great comfort to my younger brother and me, and I've often wondered if it's one of the reasons I became a storyteller myself.

Readers are fascinated with my character Jeff Resnick's past.  Hey, I am, too.  As I was writing the first four books, I tried to understand why he did some of the (rather odd) things he did.  I was very unsure of myself as a storyteller, and a number of published writers in my local writing group were generous with their critiques.  One of them really stood out.  While reading Cheated by Death, I was asked, "How long has this man had an eating disorder?"

A what?

And then she went on to point out several areas in the book where clearly Jeff's relationship with food is at odds.  It was then I realized it was a thread through the previous books as well--something I hadn't even noticed. 

The idea fascinated me, and I wrote a short story to explore the issue.  I wrote short stories to explore other areas of his past, too.  I've told a number of readers about the stories, and they've encouraged me to publish them.

The stories are not mysteries.  They're about a boy struggling to grow up, and the very rocky relationship he has with his older brother. They help explain why the two were estranged for eighteen years, and hopefully contain the seeds of their fierce friendship to come.

Recently a reader asked me what was up with Tricia Miles of my Booktown series, and was she anorexic?  No, Tricia does not often indulge in fatty foods and is serious about exercise for a much different reason.  While it's a trait of anorexics to strive to be perfect, and that has been what Tricia struggles with, you'll notice she has no trouble eating a meal prepared by her sister.  When it comes to food, Tricia just hates to cook.

The Jeff stories are nowhere near ready to publish, and I have no idea when (or if) they'll be available, but delving into the past that haunts these men is a fascinating journey.

What about your past haunts you?