** GIVEAWAY CLOSED **
I love Barbara Claypole White’s novels. Mental illness is very close to my reality and Barbara is able to deal with this human condition in her novels without sounding like a “downer.” It’s all about real life, and she creates so many incredible compelling characters facing challenges and adversity, but in such a humane manner. They don’t draw attention to themselves, but rather go about life as anyone would and does. Her new novel, THE PROMISE OF US (LakeUnionPublishing) once again, does not disappoint.
Metal artist, Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.
But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?
To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.
Family secrets, lies and insurmountable challenges. All the elements from another bestseller from bestselling author, Barbara Claypole White.
About Barbara Claypole White
Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family. The Promise Between Us, a story of redemption, sacrifice, and OCD, has a publication date of January 16th, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com, or follow her on Facebook.
I got to meet Barbara in October at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association retreat – what a delightful woman. I could have chatted over a cuppa for hours, but alas …..
We were able to recently ask her some questions about writing and what she hopes readers get from her unique stories.
CINDY: You say you write “Hopeful family dramas with a healthy dose of mental illness.” Please elaborate.
BARBARA: My original tagline was “love stories about damaged people,” because I wanted to create darkly tortured romantic heroes. (My favorite hero ever is Mr. Rochester.) All of my novels contain a romantic element, but by the third one, THE PERFECT SON, it was obvious I was writing about the impact of invisible disabilities on families. Mental illness is hardly a sexy topic, so I decided to create a new tagline that combined my quirky voice with my favorite theme: hope. Happy endings aren’t a given when you live in the trenches with mental illness, as my family does, but clinging to the belief that bad days end makes a difference. You’ve got to have hope. Truckloads and truckloads of hope.
CINDY: Your families are in some sort of “crisis” (or perhaps, experiencing real life), your thoughts on the family unit.
BARBARA: I create ordinary men and women who need extraordinary courage to make it through their mundane, everyday lives. Then I throw lots of bad stuff their way and see what happens. High maintenance families have high divorce rates; they struggle to keep the structure, routine, and balance that allows them to function within the parameters of special needs. And yet life is about the unexpected, the uncertain, the unpredictable. The true test for any family is whether loved ones pull together or apart in a crisis. My family has always been an emotionally supportive team. I love that about us, and I find it inspiring.
CINDY: Do you have to suffer from some form of mental illness to write about it? Your research.
BARBARA: My fiction grew organically out of my first hero, James Nealy. James came from my darkest fear as a mother: What if, when my young son grew up, no one could see beyond his anxious and obsessive behavior (OCD) to love him for the incredible person he is? I wanted to create a romantic hero who battled OCD; I did. I owe James everything. He pushed me to go deeper and darker and to keep finding inspiration in my own life. For example, when an aging family member was trapped in psychotic episodes, I had a story idea that became THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR; my desire to write about ADHD and Tourette’s—THE PERFECT SON—came from a friend who was diagnosed with both at an early age; and even though I’ve always been fascinated by bipolar disorder, it wasn’t until two people close to me were diagnosed that I started researching ECHOES OF FAMILY. However, I’m not someone who believes you can only ‘write what you know,’ which means the answer to your question is no.
The key to any good story is research, and the foundation for my characters comes from one-on-one interviews I conduct with people who are living the experiences I want to write about. As a history major, I’m a research nut, so I also read memoirs and nonfiction around my subject, research online, fact check with mental health professionals, etc. Then I put that research aside to find the character behind the label. As my son used to say, “I am not my disorder.” I want readers to see my characters as richer than a diagnosis of mental illness. Faulty brain chemistry is only part of someone’s mental make-up: personality, education, religion, genetics, upbringing, economic status, and life experiences all play their roles.
CINDY: What do you hope your readers take away/learn/experience by reading your novels?
BARBARA: I’m passionate about chipping away at the stereotypes, stigma, and shame of mental illness, especially anxiety disorders. I hope that THE PROMISE BETWEEN US makes a small difference in how people approach and understand anxiety and OCD. OCD is a chronic, potentially fatal illness that demands constant management in the same way as diabetes. No one makes jokes about diabetes; people joke about ‘being OCD’ all the time. There’s no cure for OCD. An allergy to life, it creates irrational fear in the absence of true threat, and you work hard to reprocess the unwanted, intrusive thoughts that can cripple you. Take it from someone who lives with this monster 24/7: it’s not about the anal reorganization of your sock drawer.
But the bottom line? I want to entertain. I hope my readers turn the last page and think, “I really enjoyed hanging out with those characters. I wonder what happens to them next?” When each of my novels ends, a new story is beginning. My characters have been tested, they’ve grown, and they’re ready to tackle more of life’s speed bumps—in their own, deeply flawed ways. For me, it’s all about my characters. I love them and hope my readers do, too.
CINDY: Thank you so much for your time.
Barbara’s new novel, THE PROMISE BETWEEN US and all of her novels are available in a store near you and on-line. Just check the bottom links
Thanks to Barbara, TLC Book Tours and Lake Union Publishing we’re able to giveaway one copy of THE PROMISE BETWEEN US. Just tell us your experience with mental illness. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck!
Thank you again to BARBARA CLAYPOLE WHITE for generously sharing her time.