I am very fortunate that single motherhood befell me at a time when that didn’t mean my ruin and my child’s doom. It did mean a lot of hardship for my daughter, and some stress for me, but I was in good health, had access to good medical care, had good earning capability, and–most important of all–had and have the love of a wonderful family to support me.
So, a-mothering I did go and I have never regretted it.
Every week in the courtroom, I see other single moms who aren’t as lucky. Maybe they’re too young to have developed any earning capability, maybe they don’t have loving family, maybe they have mental illness and low cognitive functioning and a history of trauma… I represent their children, but I also feel for those moms.
This is part of what motivated me to write Charlotte Windham’s character for A Rogue of Her Own, though I won’t spoil the specifics. Charlotte cares too, and at time when her concern sets her apart from her peers in an inconvenient way.
In the same courtroom, I see Dads fallen on hard times. They didn’t control their tempers, or their drinking, when control was imperative. They are serving time. They are behind on child support payments, or they simply remained distant from their own children because of conflict with Mom. Every one of these guys would say they love their kids, and I believe them.
When it comes time to visit those children, though, the local Department of Social Services has no after hours visitation facilities. Working parents must visit during working hours… This can be impossible. As low-wage workers just starting a new job, with no leave, no seniority, no money for transportation, cutting out work a few hours every week to ‘see the kids’ can mean losing the job.
Losing the job can mean going back to jail, losing the apartment, losing the chance to ever parent those children. Missing visits ALSO means losing the chance to ever parent those children. What’s a parent to do?
And this conundrum too, informed my developed of Lucas Sherbourne. He’s so convinced that his responsibility as Charlotte’s husband is to be a financial mover and shaker, somebody who brings prosperity to the whole valley so Charlotte’s ducal family won’t look down on her for marrying him. He really is a sweet guy, but his version of partnering Charlotte–and her version of partnering Shebourne–needs about 343 pages of work.
I don’t always get such meaty themes to give my books substance. Some books are mostly for fun, others have gone a little too dark (looking at you, Michael and Brenna). A Rogue of Her Own is by no means a dark tale–not at all. But the books where I know what my theme is, what values conflict is keeping my characters apart, tend to be the easier books to write, and the ones the readers both like and remember.
So I hope you enjoy A Rogue of Her Own (comes out Tuesday), because authoring this story was very satisfying. To one commenter, I’ll send an audio version of Charlotte and Sherbourne’s story. If you were going to write a novel, what theme or conundrum would you want to explore? What social question might your characters view from conflicting perspectives?