What frightens you, and how does it influence your writing?
There’s nothing bad in that. In fact, I was relatively content. Sure I was lonely for my husband. But there was nothing the matter with my life. I loved my babies, I loved my husband, I had enough to eat and shelter over my head and I was more than willing to be in that place at that time.
But I sat down one day and really took a look at what was happening. Through a series of postings and pregnancies I had allowed my physical therapy license to expire. Without it, I was unemployable in my chosen career. I’d basically gone from self-sufficient to completely dependent upon my husband’s income for everything.
I was, in essence, a Dependent.
It terrified me.
You see, I’m about as independent as they come. I graduated from high school at the top of my class at the age of sixteen. I went to university on a full scholarship, and then paid for my physiotherapy degree by signing up for the Regular Officer Training Plan in the Canadian Armed Forces. I bought my own car, had my own apartment and even opened my own registered savings account before the age of 24.
It’s not that I was against being a stay-at-home mom and military spouse. My kids were adorable and staying home was investing in their future in a different way. I was (and still am) incredibly proud of what I was doing at the time.
But I was against allowing all of my hard work and effort slip away. I was against the message I was presenting to my kids, especially my girls. And most of all, I was petrified that something would happen to my husband and I would be left alone with no career, no military backing and three children to raise on my own.
That day, nine years ago, I sat down and wrote out my fears in fictional form. What would life be like if the kids were grown and I was at home waiting for my husband and, God forbid, he didn’t come back? What would I do? How would I cope?
I wrote twenty pages, then forty. It was just a chapter or two, tentatively called ‘A Man at the Door’. But those two chapters would haunt me for the next seven years as my children grew. I wrote my national board exams and went back to work as a physiotherapist and rediscovered my independence.
The pages still whispered to me as I watched other spouses—friends, neighbours and complete strangers—go through what I feared most…a knock on the door. I watched their sadness and their strength, but still the story was too painful—too frightening—to continue with. I just couldn’t think about it. I cried every time I read those pages, even though they were my own words.
But I knew—deep down—that I had to keep writing. I just had to find the hope beneath the fear and finish the story. I wanted a story that was real. Raw. True. Not sugar coated to make it an easy pill to take, but filled with all of the pain and heartbreak of such a loss. And a story that resounded with the strength of military spouses, and the possibilities beyond the unthinkable. Not an easy task.
That fear finally became a novel in 2012. And that fear was my first book sold to a traditional publisher.
How has my fear influenced my writing career? It was the beginning. Forty pages that became a book…and eventually became a career.
About Brenda Corey Dunne
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