When I began writing my Noble Dreams series, I admit I started as a lark. As a horse crazy girl who grew into a crazy horse lady (just ask my four spoiled horses), I longed to continue reading the stories I loved, only now that I was in my forty-somethings (and heck, even when I was in my thirty-something years), reading about high school and college, dealing with boyfriends and dances and dates…all of that felt rather far away. Instead, I longed to read about women my age who had to balance a husband, sometimes ones who weren’t that supportive, jobs and careers, along with the fact that they still wanted to compete and oh, who had great friends at the barn. Truth be told, I fell in love with Noble Dreams. I still am. Though this month I’ve started book seven in the series, the daily word count flies from my fingers, because though I don’t ride and don’t show, I can place myself back in the barn, in the lives of characters whom I’d love to meet in real life, and who feel like good friends.
However, the traits of my own that I put into books goes beyond my horse craziness and touches on the advocacy work I do for those with chronic illness and disabilities. I have fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that’s acerbated by stress. Add to that a healthy dose of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and cPTSD, both from childhood and adult traumas, not to mention the medical PTSD that I have as a longtime caregiver for my now passed mom and my own medical history, well, I’m not ashamed to admit that there are days I feel like a hot mess. Especially on a day like today when it’s hot and humid out, so the “hot” part is true at any rate.
My rural music-based fantasy books all feature main characters who more or less have things in common with me. Whether it’s a simple love of horses like Oliva in Of Songs & Horns, or a serious introvertedness of Tory in Hidden and Tonic Chords, or an outright disability as Rose in the book I am finishing now, who has MS, I place a bit of myself in each of these stories. And that’s before we talk about the animal companions, who because this is fantasy, happen to talk back.
To me, living in the Ozarks, my health, my music (though I play just for me right now), and the natural surroundings all play an integral role in my life. If I translate that through a world where magic is real and animals talk, well, that’s just because it’s a world I’d like to live in too. After all, I’ve carried my Musimagium world with me for over ten years now in one form or another. It’s just in the last year or so that I’ve published it.
I write characters like myself for a big reason: representation. Though I joke about urban fantasy books with the midriff bearing chick on the cover with a sword or knife, the truth is people like me, people who deal with chronic illness, physical or mental, often don’t appear in fiction where there are bad guys to be destroyed and lives to be saved. If someone reads my books and says “hey, I could do this too”, then my work as an author is done.
Until then, I’ll keep hugging my horses and writing about characters like me.