After last weeks post about the Cold Day Dawning character of Antoni, I’ve been asked by a couple of people to elaborate on my own PTSD experience which informed Antoni’s character development. Happy too.
Trigger warning – some reader might want to skip what follows.
I won’t go into huge detail because I don’t want to reignite the situation, but about 11-12 years ago, I encountered someone who bore a grudge against me. After a short period that involved threats and menacing phone calls, this person broke into my office, emptied two cans of petrol over my desk and chair and set fire to it. Long story short, this person was arrested within a few days, admitted to the whole thing, and went to jail.
Although it was a shock at the time, it didn’t seem to bother me too much in the beginning. I was made to go for counselling by my employers, but it did nothing for me (not least because the counsellor spent most of the sessions telling me about her holidays – but that’s another story.) It was a few months later that I started to feel the impact. Nightmares. I was angry a lot of time. I didn’t trust the people I encountered at work. I withdrew and didn’t want to go out. I became security obsessed. It all culminated in some suicidal thoughts, which is when I finally asked for professional help. Getting help was only the beginning of a long recovery process and although I’ve processed it, I still get triggered occasionally.
When this person was first released from prison, they went on to commit an even more serious violent offence against someone else, which brought a lot of my anxiety back. They went to prison on an even longer sentence, but when they escaped from custody a couple of years ago, I wasn’t allowed to go into work until they were apprehended.
They are next due for release in two years time.
So that’s basically it. Although I’ve never written about what happened directly, I can see that it’s influenced a lot of the stories and characters I have created. My first novel Closer by Morning is very dark. I wrote it as I was still recovering, and I think it reflects the troubled place I was in at the time. I was certainly able to draw on those difficult times to write about what Antoni goes through in the aftermath of Deep Waters and during Cold Day Dawning. I don’t think PTSD defines me or my books. I write romance stories, but I’ve had a life long love of thrillers and horror which have always been huge influences. I think I’ve been able to harness the PTSD experience and process it in a positive and cathartic way.
If anyone is going through that kind of thing now, I can only offer my best wishes. There’s a lot of help available but it’s not always the right help, or the help you need at the time, but it’s better to reach out and tell someone. As I said above, recovery is a long process, it takes years, but for me acknowledging something was wrong and talking about it, was a great beginning.
So, on a happier note, the reviews for Cold Day Dawning are fantastic. I’m delighted that the book is being so well received. Last week I sent the final book in the series to my publisher, and they have fixed the release date already. Jagged Ends (Jagged Shores 5) will be out on 30th April next year. I can’t say too much about it yet. It’s another standalone romance, but if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I can promise the return of some favourite characters before the series reached an end.