Wednesday, May 6, 2015

To Love Again

To Love Again

Featured Songs: “Newborn Friend,” and “If I Could,” by Seal

(A note about these songs: With the first, I could feel Colin’s frame of mind as his desperation drives him to the apathy that precedes the sin. He’s reached a point where he feels like nothing he does makes a difference. There’s a sense of carelessness in this song, an implication of “me” mentality. I love the way it begins with “I wash my faith in dirty water . . . and I play that game just like I should do, but my whole world slips away.” In the second song, you feel the heartbreak of his standing on the outside observing Janna’s pain through her breakdown, and knowing he’s at least partly responsible. But there’s hope in this song. The contrast between the two is fascinating to me. I don’t know what Seal intended when he wrote them; I only know how they inspired me. I actually listened to this whole album over and over and over while I wrote this story.)

I remember very clearly a particular moment as this book was coming together in my head. I’d felt some strong inspiration on having Janna’s problems continuing and causing grief in their marriage, and I was mapping out all of the ways that the long-term effects of abuse could be explored. I was excited to think of how this book would end in regard to Janna’s healing. I wanted her to be the perfect example of how she could be completely reborn emotionally and spiritually and come out of the experience with the strength to live a good and happy life. All of this ended up being incorporated into the book, and I felt good about the results But the other issue was something I had not anticipated in the slightest. I had imagined Colin struggling very much with the challenges. But this book is a prime example of how I often (more often than not) feel like I have very little or no control over the story. I remember the moment like it was yesterday, when it came into my mind that Colin was going to commit adultery. I was shocked! I even felt hurt and perhaps angry. My mind started spinning with how this would hurt Janna and the rest of his family, not to mention himself. Colin was the hero, for crying out loud! He loved Janna, he would do anything for her, they’d been through so much. And I remember literally looking heavenward and saying out loud, “Are you SERIOUS? You really want me to write THAT?” Of course, I didn’t hear any voices. But as I made the project a matter of serious prayer (more so than usual) I knew it was how my Heavenly Father wanted me to create this story. Of course, the results were powerful.

When I reread Colin and Janna’s story for the first time in more than a decade. I was pleasantly surprised by how compelled I felt to keep reading. (It’s always a strange experience because it can sometimes feel like it wasn’t really me who wrote it, even though I know how it’s going to end.) While I was reading I couldn’t help but recall the dozens of letters I’d received expressing appreciation for the validation and tools for healing that were incorporated into this story—mostly from men who had slipped into this same trap and had been struggling to put their lives back together. I found out much later (after a few more books had been published) that my publisher had gotten a lot of flack for this book. Some readers were shocked, appalled, and disgusted. (And so were some of the employees of the company.) I had no idea that my direct approach to sin and the horrid repercussions had caused such an uproar, but it was the beginning of a tirade against my work that ended up being disastrous for me in many ways.

For me, the most gratifying aspects of this story come in the healing and rebirth of both Janna
and Colin, and subsequently their marriage. Ideally, as Latter-day Saints we know that we’re not supposed to commit sin, and we know there will be harsh repercussions. But life often doesn’t turn out like we expect, and sometimes people slip. There would be no need for repentance and Atonement if that were not the case. Sometimes I think people believe (as Lily suggested in the book) that the consequences are only the religious technicalities, and if you weren’t religious, there wouldn’t be consequences. If people can read a book and vicariously see and feel the damage and heartache created by sin, it’s my hope that it might help a few of those readers avoid making the same mistakes.

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