Thank you for joining us for another edition of BEHIND THE AUTHOR! Today, Debra Holland is joining us. She is not only a fabulous romance author but also a psychotherapist and grief counselor!
In my other life, I’m a psychotherapist and corporate crisis and grief counselor. From the time I was a young teen, my grandmother inadvertently influenced both my decision to be a counselor and to be a writer.
My grandmother and I were very close, and I spent a lot of time with her. I was fascinated by her stories of growing up on a big estate in Germany, running wild, and having lots of adventures. I knew I wanted to write her stories when I grew up.
She subscribed to The Ladies Home Journal magazine, and I loved to read it. I was particularly interested in a long running article called, “Can this marriage be saved?” I was intrigued by the counselor’s role in bringing a husband and wife back together and knew I wanted to do the same thing someday.
In college and graduate school, although I took some writing classes, I focused on earning my master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and a Ph.D in counseling psychology. It wasn’t until I’d finished my Ph.D. and state licensing exams, and then recovered for about a year, that I turned to writing. Of course, I started with my grandmother’s stories. But by that time in her life, she’d forgotten a lot of the details I needed to write a book. So I took about six of her adventures and wrote them down.
Later, when I started writing the Montana Sky Series, I wove some of my grandmother’s stories into the books. In Starry Montana Sky the children get into the same trouble my grandmother did. And in Montana Sky Christmas, I have a child, Marta, (whom I named for my grandmother) and gave her some of the same homesick emotions I knew my grandmother had at a point in her young life.
I write books set in the 1880s and 1890s—a time when mortality was a much more prevalent part of life than it is now. It was normal to lose one or more children, for women to die in childbirth, and for accidents and illnesses (which today are treatable) to kill people. Death was commonplace. (The idea that “it isn’t right or normal for parents to outlive their children” is a modern concept.)
Losses and mourning impact and change people, and to realistically write about the old West (or in the case of my fantasy romance trilogy) a medieval type world, then death and its contrast to life must also be present.
As a psychotherapist and corporate crisis/grief counselor, and the author of The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, I’ve counseled hundreds of grieving individuals—not just with bereavement, but other losses that accompany tragedy. Their stories, their emotions, and sometimes their very words, are part of me and can’t help but seep into my writing.
Yet because I write romance and happy endings, I want my stories to give people hope—to convey the message that we can lose people we love and will forever miss, life can take unexpected directions, and still we can eventually be at peace, love again, and even be happy.
When my books first became popular and my income increased to the point I was making more from my writing than from my psychotherapy practice, I cut back my practice to one day a week. After being a counselor for twenty-five years, I’d had a couple of difficult clients that made me feel burned out. Working less and focusing on writing rekindled my love of counseling.
But at first, I struggled with guilt. I firmly believe I’m meant to be a healer in this lifetime, yet I was channeling my time and energy into writing fiction, instead of helping others. Then I received an email from a woman who told me that my books helped her cope with the death of her only son. I thought she meant The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving. But she meant my Montana Sky books!
I was deeply moved by her message, not only that I’d helped her, but because I felt her words were a sign to me that I was doing the right thing. I’m so very grateful to be able to have both careers.
Debra is giving away a signed print copy of The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving to one reader. To enter just leave a comment of this post; is there a fictional book that has helped you cope with life's hardships? Or just leave a question or comment for Debra! And then fill out the rafflecopter below. Good luck!
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