My new release GIFTCHILD is, at its core, a romance. But it didn’t start out that way.
I first had the idea for the book when I was looking at an adoption website. I was linked by a friend who had just launched a profile there–a friend who had gone through years of infertility and the pain of not knowing when or if she and her husband would ever be able to have a child. She wasn’t the first friend I’d watched go through this, and the number of profiles on the website attested that she was far from alone.
The profiles for prospective adoptive families were lovely on the surface. Some of them already had older children, and some did not. All were trying to put their best selves forward, presenting beaming photos of family celebrations, in the hopes that a birth mom would pick them to adopt her baby.
But despite the best efforts of the families, the profiles didn’t feel happy to me. When I looked through them, all I could see was the pain. Of course they tried to sound hopeful, but behind the hope was a thinly-veiled ache at the trauma they’d been through–the inability to have the children that they so wanted to have. I was familiar with the pain, not personally, but from the experiences of friends. And I thought back to propaganda I’d seen about how wonderful adoption was, and while I believed that was true in a way, it also felt true to me that every single person involved in most adoptions will experience profound pain. The birth mother at separation from her child. The adoptive parent at the uncertainty of ever being able to have a child. The child at separation from his or her biological parent. Adoption may be a wonderful solution, and is certainly a miracle in many cases, but the problems it solves are heart wrenching, and the whole process is far from simple.
I wanted to get at that pain. I wanted to explore it. So I did what I always do when something disturbs me. I put a teenager in it, and wrote a book.
That first draft was about Penny and her sister, who desperately wanted to adopt. In later revisions it became her mother instead, because it was more powerful for Penny to live inside the problem, and a mother-daughter relationship has many more complications than a sibling relationship.
But as I worked through revisions, something happened that never happens to me. I’ve never been the writer whose characters take over and do things I don’t want them to. Quite the opposite–I’m painfully aware that if I want my characters to do something, I have to motivate them all on my own. But this time, one character overstepped the role that I’d originally intended for him.
Rodney wanted the story to be about him.
Here’s the thing about birth fathers–they are so often overlooked, both socially and legally. Clearly not every birth father cares and is involved, but perhaps more of them are than are often given credit. Here I was doing the same thing–I needed Rodney to provide the child for my book, but the more I wrote about him, the more his relationship with Penny became the story.
And so, I had to rewrite it again, putting my high concept idea into the background, and letting Penny and Rodney be the core of the novel. I’m so very glad I did. Rodney and Penny’s romance story is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. It exists, like its concept, in a messy space, full of hurt, but also of love and hope.
I hope that you’ll share it with them.