Friday the latest installment in my So Inked series released from Ellora’s Cave. I’m beyond excited about this book. The Harder He Falls was a labor of love and a very personal journey for me.
When I wrote Under His Skin, I expected it to be a stand-alone book. Just something I wrote in a burst of inspiration with a cast of characters I would never revisit, so I drew a lot from my life, using experiences and things to make the characters more vivid. I wound up giving life to a set of women people wanted to read about. I’d backed myself into a corner, and as intimidating as it would be to write these books, I knew I wanted to.
The Harder He Falls is the story of Kellie, one of the co-owners of the So Inked tattoo shop. She’s a unique cookie in the jar, and a lot of people gravitated toward her in Under His Skin. She’s half-Korean, comes from a home where she was raised predominately by her grandmother, and has now become the caregiver to her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s.
I got a few questions about why I’d include something like that in my story.
My only answer was: Because I’ve experienced the heartbreaking reality of a family member with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that impacts the way a person remembers things. In advanced cases, a person’s body can forget what it’s supposed to do. And the terrifying reality is that there’s not a lot we know about fighting or curing it.
When I wrote Kellie, I never expected to or wanted to write a book about her. That was a tough road that was better left in the realm of secondary characters. But that clearly didn’t happen!
The writing of The Harder He Falls was touching and hard and difficult and for the first time in my life I cried several times during the writing of this book. I haven’t talked about this part of the book in the promotional material, and it’s only referenced vaguely in the blurb, but the heroine’s journey with her grandmother is a big part of who she is. And that journey resonates with me.
I never really got to know either of my grandfather’s. My dad’s father passed away when I was fairly young, and my mother’s father has had Alzheimer’s since around the time I was born. I’m currently 28 and he succumbed to his body when I was 20. So for 20 years my family and I lived with the reality of having a grandfather, father and husband who didn’t know us.
There wasn’t a day in my grandfather’s life when he knew my name.
As a child it was difficult to connect with him, to understand why he said things so many times in a row and could never remember that I was related to him. Growing older, I saw and experienced the slow deterioration of his quality of life and ability to care for himself.
Eventually my family had to make the hard choice to put him into a 24/7 care facility because he no longer knew any of us, including his wife. Everyone who loved him, knew him for years was gone from his memory. It was and still continues to be a difficult decision our family lives with. I was both old enough and young enough that I was around for the decisions, but didn’t carry the weight of making them. But I felt it. He never had the chance to know me, but I knew him. And I’d grown to love him for all his quirks.
As hard as all of that was to live through, I’ll fully admit I folded that into Kellie’s experiences with her grandmother. You don’t see a lot of the nitty-gritty in romance. We want to escape, and I know some people won’t like that Kellie has to figure out what to do for her grandmother through the course of the story, but that was the journey she needed to make through the book. Alzheimer’s is tough. It’s ugly. And so is life.
This isn’t a warm and fuzzy blog, and for that I’m sorry. I knew I wasn’t going to talk about the Alzheimer’s portion of the book widely, but I figured taking a day on my blog wasn’t a bad idea. It’s a facet of reality, and fiction imitates life, so I hope you’ll forgive me for it.