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Authors are Tough on Their Characters!

I don’t know exactly when nor why I chose to saddle the heroine of When Winds Howl with my cancer. I wasn’t being sadistic, nor was I looking for pity. After all, I’d survived stage four melanoma, the cancer which attacked my liver, adrenal glands, ribs, and arm and leg bones. I don’t have a death sentence hanging over me; side effects of immunotherapy had diminished so I live a fairly normal life.

Most important, my PET scans have shown no cancer for a year.


So why did I make my main character sick?


My reasons for giving Maggie my burden:

1.  She’s only 32. I’m decades older. I wanted to know how a young person, in her formative years, handled the disease. For instance, would she put her dreams on hold while she battled the disease? Would she sideline a new romantic relationship? Would her attitudes about people and life change?


2.  I began to write the novel when I was suffering painful side effects from immunotherapy. Smoothies became my main food source because swallowing was painful; rashes were raging all over my body; I had bouts of fatigue and brain fog. Writing about Maggie’s troubles served as a distraction for me, but also helped me regard my maladies with some objectivity because I viewed them from Maggie’s perspective as well as my own.


I asked myself how a 32 year-old would handle the same symptoms. Unlike the retired me, Maggie had to keep working and even consider a career change. I had so many friends and family cheering me on, but Maggie didn’t. Her parents had died at sea and she’d been too busy with school and her new law practice to build a support group in her little town. Also dissimilar: Maggie’s cancer interrupted two careers I’ve never experienced-barrister and ship captain.


3.  Maggie is not me, but saddling her with cancer helped me deal with my own illness. By nature, I’m competitive, so Maggie’s brave moves pushed me to higher levels of courage; her doggedness inspired me to keep writing as well as deep-dive into the world of fiction marketing.

I think she’d be proud of my efforts. I know I’m impressed with Maggie. Here’s hoping you’ll find hope in both of our journeys.


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