As many of you may already know, I have an op-ed in the Boston Globe today, talking about “The Americans” and, more to the point, the aftereffects of rape. I wrote this piece because of a theme that seemed obvious to me – how the trauma of rape can derail a person and change the trajectory of her life. I saw this as the unstated character arc of Elizabeth Jennings, the protagonist of this wonderful TV series. And I know it is true, because it happened to me.
In this op-ed, I talked openly about the emotional repercussions of an assault, and I interviewed Gina Scaramella of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center for confirmation. What I didn’t say was that the series’ handling of the issue is of particular interest to me, because this issue is also at the center of my current fictional WIP. In my book, which I’m still writing, an aging rock star looks back on her life – from the clubs to the major label tours and all – and gradually comes to understand how something that happened to her as a young adult may have put her on the path to fame but now, decades later, has caused her to stall out, personally and creatively.
I’ve been loving working on this book, and I’ve wanted to take it far beyond my own experience. To that end, I’m talking to lots of people like Gina, and also musicians at various levels, including some bona fide rock stars, women who’ve been gracious about sharing their tales of the road. I write to entertain, after all, and letting the reader come backstage with me is part of the fun. Sex and drugs and rock and roll, sure. But also sisterhood and sharing and living a dream of creative fulfillment, as well.
Yes, the rock scene – like so much of the entertainment industry – has a dark side, too. A side that is only now coming to light. And, no, I didn’t set out to write a #MeToo novel, and I like to think this book will be more than that. Yes, the #MeToo movement has been freeing – encouraging many of us to come to terms with intrusions into our lives/bodies/selves that we accepted as normal years before. But this book is more personal than political, with its core being my own rape and my own all-too-slow understanding of how it shaped me in the years since. As well, because this book is so personal – and so big – I am being very careful not to rush it. Although most of my novels these days sell before they’re finished, on proposals or a few chapters, I want to finish this one and polish it and make sure I have it right. (My agent, who is wonderful, is behind me on this.)
Because I work in the crime fiction genre, the book does have a murder in it. But while the mystery aspect does involve solving – or rather, understanding – the murder, the real mystery at its heart is in my protagonist understanding and coming to terms with the trauma she suffered, so many years before. I hope the journey to those final revelations will be entertaining and engaging. I’m also hoping that many women, from many walks of life, will see themselves in the journey my heroine Gal takes, even if they never don her leather pants or pick up a mic to sing. I’ll keep you all informed as the book progresses, because … #MeToo