Sandra Ruttan is the editor-in-chief of Spinetingler Magazine and blogs regularly at Do Some Damage. Her published books also include WHAT BURNS WITHIN, THE FRAILTY OF FLESH and LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS, and two of her titles have been translated into Japanese. For more information visit her website: www.sandraruttan.com
HAPPY REUNIONS?by Sandra Ruttan
Several months ago, I took an enormous risk. Many have heard about the girl who solved her own abduction more than twenty years after the fact, and was reunited with her biological parents. And most of us have heard of Oprah’s dramatic discovery of a sibling she never knew existed, and their eventual reunion.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is how risky these types of reunions are. Children who search for birth parents after adoption sometimes find people who want nothing to do with them. The initial rejection is followed by new hurt, and these are wounds that will never heal by reconnecting, getting answers to long-asked questions.
My husband is a bit of an anomaly. He always knew his dad was out there, somewhere, and his mother made sure he never got the chance to meet him or know him while he was growing up.
But Brian never considered finding his dad. It wasn’t that his mother had more than filled the gap; they have a horrible relationship, and she’s far more interested in the children she had with her second husband. Brian was discarded much the same way her first husband was, to the extent that she doesn’t even bother with her only grandchildren. It’s only been in the past year that they’ve even realized that she’s “technically” their grandmother.
Me, I’m far too curious. Unlike Brian, I had a hard time letting the issue of finding his real dad drop.
So I asked some questions.
Realized Brian’s great aunt hadn’t told me the truth.
Started to wonder what else he’d been told over the years wasn’t accurate.
And found Brian’s biological dad. On Facebook.
And not just his dad. His brother and sister, too.
Best of all, most of his immediate family lived within driving distance. It wasn’t long before emails turned into phone calls, and phone calls turned into a face to face meeting. And for the first time in their young lives, the kids actually got to meet their grandparents.
And Brian got to meet his dad.
But in those moments leading up to the reunion, there were a lot of nerves at work in us. What would these people really be like? You can think you’ve covered your bases, asked all the right questions, but we were early in our relationship. There was so much we didn’t know.
I’ve heard other stories where the outcomes haven’t been great, they’ve been pretty much a letdown.
But for us, it was the exact opposite. Our experience discovering Brian’s family has been fantastic. We’ve been at ease from early on. The kids have quickly accumulated a stockpile of grandparent memories – picking peaches, going for walks in the mountains and seeing bears, swimming, playing games, watching movies, drawing, Christmas celebrations… and his parents and brother were at our wedding.
And for the first time in his life, just a few weeks ago, Brian got to spend his birthday with his dad and mom (we’ve banned ‘step’) for the first time.
As you can probably imagine, it’s been a pretty emotional experience.
One that got me thinking, about writing and reading, and characters. Yes, my mind is a bit odd and makes interesting leaps, and this might be one of those times.
I couldn’t help thinking what a gift it was to discover we clicked so effortlessly with Brian’s family and really enjoy talking to them and spending time with them.
And I couldn’t help thinking that if they’d been alcoholics or bad-tempered, or holding on to angst and anger over the past that the growth of our relationship probably wouldn’t have been so smooth.
Which is when I started to wonder about so many characters I read and even write about in crime fiction. The reality is, a lot of these characters aren’t people I’d want to hang out with. I completely understand, as a writer, the interest in delving into the psyche through your writing.
But what about the nice guys? Doesn’t anyone want to spend time with the kind of guy they could bring home to their mother? I mean, that’s not Rebus. Or Reacher. Or Thorne, or countless others I could name.
Back when I was starting my first mystery manuscript, I didn’t want to write characters who swore with every other word, who drank to excess, who were so weak they had dependencies to help them avoid their issues, and they jumped into bed with every available partner they encountered throughout the pages.
I wanted to create two people I could imagine living next door. Two people I’d actually want to have live next door.
Meet Tymen Farraday and Lara Kelly. I threw the conventional procedure out the window as well, paired a detective with a reporter, and the focus was on two people trying to hold on to their principles and values in a town filled with and controlled by people who were corrupt. Two people trying to sort out their doubts and initial distrust of each other as they stepped into a case unlike anything they could have imagined when it all began.
SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES was always – always – about the characters first. I really, really liked them, and hoped to develop a series.
Things went sideways after the book was initially published, and I won’t bore you with the details, but it is only now, four years later, that I can tell you a sequel is in the works. SC is back in my hands, and is now – or a limited time – available on Kindle for 99 cents.
For me, this is really exciting, because as much as all my characters have a special place in my heart, these are two characters I’ve been waiting for a long time to bring back. And they’re two characters that – just like my in-laws – are a pleasure to spend time with.
I hope you’ll give them a chance to grow in your heart, and that you’ll agree.