The number one question I am asked about the Family by Choice series is “When will it be over?” Or “Is this book the last one?”
I struggle a lot with this. The self-conscious writer in me wonders if this is an indication that readers want it to end. Maybe they want to know how much longer they have to suffer with these characters. Maybe they are tired of reading and want a break. Maybe they are losing interest?
Sometimes I wonder if it’s because of the drama the characters are put through. Maybe some want closure and the understanding that one way or another, it’s over. Ending the series would certainly do that.
I also think it might be because some of you actually feel so connected to the family that the thought of losing that is worrisome. I like to think that’s true, but my arrogance is not quite that strong.
I’ll be honest. I have come close to ending the story more than once. At one point it was because I was going to kill off a main character, and I don’t mean Julie. She was never going to die.
I say this now because much of what has evolved into the 15 books has been a work in progress, like life, with twists and turns and sometimes a flat out stop. I know we read to escape the sadness and struggles of life. I know I write for that reason as well. I know we want to be transported to far off places and read about how life could be
I also know that I write real people, not fantasy. I write real situations, where life is hard and sad and at times, unbearable. It’s how I see things sometimes. It’s not right or wrong, it simply is.
I also know that there are moments of absolute perfection. There are days that live with you forever and they are the memories that pull us through the dark and scary moments. The joy and the love and the passion sustain us through the pain and loss.
I began this series as therapy. I went through a terrible loss in my life and out of that loss, Family by Choice was born. Writing these characters has been life changing for me. Being able to tell a story that people read and enjoy is beyond my wildest dreams. To see it on the big screen would be a crowning achievement. I know these characters better than I know myself, and maybe more so because each of them is a part of me. I might not want to admit it, but there is even a little of Janet and Chris inside of me- Josh too.
I think I still need to write. I feel like these characters are people and therefore their story continues. I don’t know that I believe in a simple “And they lived happily ever after” but I also realize all things come to an end, and perhaps their time is up.
I think what’s hardest for me is letting go of something that has been my comfort zone for so long. When I’m lying in bed and the thundering silence gets to me, I think of Tommy and Brittany and I brainstorm their story. What are their fears and what do they lay up at night thinking about? When I sit in my classroom and see a struggling teenager, I picture Julie and what her life might have looked like going through what she did. I have students who have lost parents. I see Julie in their faces and I see her struggle through them.
I wake up and have tingling and numbness in my hands and I put that into Stephanie. I let some of my fears and struggles with having MS come out through her and I show the support that I wish was out there for everyone through Jack and how he loves her. I don’t dwell on my disease and I try to make sure she doesn’t either, but we aren’t perfect, and sometimes it comes out in ways it shouldn’t.
I look at Bill and I see so many people who really had shitty upbringings. I see the kids in my class who I know go home to places that are hard and sad and abusive and yet they come back every day and try to see the good in everyone. I see Bill in their faces and I hope they one day know that their lives are not determined by their situations. The choices we make dictate the lives we lead, and although those choices are hard, they are there. I hope I am able to instill that in them. They are not only the product of their environment. They are the product of their heart.
I think of Mike and I see someone who has been destroyed by a life he thought he should lead. I see everyone who goes along with something because they feel like they may never do any better. It’s harder to walk away and admit you made a mistake than it is to stay in a terrible situation. It’s even harder when you harbor so much guilt over circumstances out of your control. I write Mike to know that we always have a choice, and it’s never too late to find happiness.
I write Jade because she is all of us. She is the insecure teen who was teased. She is the beautiful woman who never sees her worth. She is the abandoned child who blames herself. She is never good enough, thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough or worth enough. How wonderful it has been to write her story and watch her blossom into a confident and amazing woman. She gives me hope. She inspires me. She is someone I aspire to be.
The children. I never meant to write the children. I don’t think I’m very good at it and I worry I am using every cliché in the book. I hesitated to bring them into the story, but now that I have, I can’t think of the couples without them.
Sabrina and Tessa are a mini Jack and Stephanie. David and Josie are feisty and independent children, just like their parents, but they are loving and kind people. Bee flirts, but she knows who has her back. I see David and Bee as going on many adventures over the years, causing both sets of parents to grow a few more grey hairs. Will they end up together? Who knows. I need to see more of who they are before I can even guess. One thing I know for sure- they will be there for each other, always.
Tessa is a unique character for me. She started off as a boy, the baby Stephanie lost after she was shot. I didn’t intend to give them another child, but somehow, Tessa came to be. She is just like her mother and resembles her namesake, too. She is sensitive and private and fiercely loyal to those she loves, much like her mother and Uncle Tommy. She has struggled with a few things but does so with a smile and a kiss. She is going to help keep her sister in line, but I see the rebellious years for Tessa that nobody will see coming. I can’t wait.
Josie is a mini Julie. She is struggling to find where she belongs. She is clingy and much of that comes from the loss she feels that she can’t understand. Being one of a set of triplets that were never born is something that will always be with Josie, but not in a way she can verbalize. She will be a little more connected, a little more attached and little more needy. It’s something Julie and Bill will embrace and handle together.
Naomi is the character I have the most trouble writing. I think I want her to be strong and independent, but I also want her to be a representation of Tommy and Brittany. She has been an unlikely character from the beginning, her medical issues defying all logic. She has also been the best of her parents and she has given them both a renewed idea of what their life should look like. She is truly a miracle and miracles should be cherished for as long as we have them.
Tramp- what can I say- he is my dog and his love and commitment to his family and to Naomi is a testament to how important I feel animals are to us. My family wouldn’t be complete without our own “Tramp”.
I guess what I’m saying is that I live these characters every day, and even if I stop writing their story, it won’t stop me from seeing them in all I do. Is book 15 the last one? No. Is book 16? Perhaps. There are things that still need to happen. Jade and Elizabeth are pregnant. Mike and Jade are in trouble. The final chapter in Brittany’s saga needs to be closed. The last of the bad guys need to be punished.
And sometimes, despite all we do, life happens the way it was meant to. Sometimes good- sometimes bad.
I can’t thank you all enough for reading my novels and I hope you continue. I would also love some feedback.
Do you have specific questions? Thoughts? Suggestions? I’m always around.
-Robin (me) and Moochie or “Tramp”