Every heroine I write has something in common with me. No, I don’t kick ass like Selena McCaffrey. I haven’t risked prison to kidnap my nieces and nephew like Emilie Bishop. I’ve never been on the run for my life like Miri Duncan. But we all share the same values, the same interests, etc. We could all be great friends.
Macy Howard, in my current book, Copper Lake Confidential, has inherited a grand fortune — not the thing we have in common. (Though if anyone’s looking for an heir, I’m available.) We’re both Southern girls, and we both had the good fortune to be at-home moms.
Where we’re really alike is that we both have anxiety disorder. Panic attacks. Macy’s is more dramatic: she discovered her husband was a serial killer, became a widow, and suffered a miscarriage all in a short time. Severe depression put her in a psychiatric hospital, but the depression’s gone. The anxiety isn’t.
Mine is duller. I had my first panic attack in college, on my way to class for a major exam. I was prepared; I knew the material thoroughly, but some part of my brain apparently didn’t agree. Ten minutes, it was gone, I took up a makeup exam and scored high.
Nothing for eight years, then they crept back out from under their ugly dark rocks. I was run off the road in rush-hour traffic in San Diego, totaling my car and my confidence. It was months before I could drive on the freeway again.
This time it was thirteen years before they returned. Frantic activity helped me maintain some measure of control, but after a relentlessly miserable month, I admitted defeat and talked to my doctor. The medication took time, but within a few weeks I was better. In fact, I started feeling so good that I quit the meds.
I learned my lesson.
Of my eighty or so heroines, Macy is the first to have anxiety attacks. A lot of the time, when hearing an author talk about various experiences, people will say, “Oh, you should write about that.” Yeah, you think, I’ve been there, done that, can do it justice. Sometimes, though, you can be too familiar with a subject. Sometimes it’s not cathartic or empathetic; it’s just hard.
That said, I’m glad I wrote Macy’s story. I’m glad her medication works as well for her as it does for me. I’m glad she’s got her happily-ever-after with Stephen.
And I’m still available if anyone needs to pass on a few million dollars.