Hey! Helen Pattskyn is visiting my humble blog!
First off, I want to say a huge thank you to Brynn for having me here today. Like many of us here in North America, I’ve spent the last couple of months shivering, buried in snow up to my eyeballs and generally falling behind in *everything.* My last royalty statement didn’t do much to lift my spirits, either. It’s not the money, I’m thrilled to get paid *anything* for what I write and no one really writes solely for the money, anyway (trust me! The J.K. Rowlings of the world are few and far between.) Sure, the money is nice, but what made me sad was seeing that my third novel, which is in my opinion my best to date, is off to a very slow start. That prompted me to whine at some of my writer-friends (don’t worry, I don’t plan to whine at you guys too, I’ve gotten the worst of it out of my system).
I quickly discovered (not really to any great surprise) that I wasn’t alone. For most of us, our “best books” are often our least-well received—or rather, they’re books that tend to get a lot of praise from critics and readers alike, but not very many people read them. In my case, I know that part of the reason is the topic: HIV. And I suppose I can understand someone seeing a book about an HIV positive character and figuring it would be grimmer than they’re up for, especially in a romance—after all, most of us read romances to feel good, right?
But that’s the thing about HIV—it is serious, but it’s not grim, not the way it was thirty years ago. Men and women—and children and teens—live normal, healthy, long lives with HIV. That doesn’t mean we can start taking it lightly (like I said, it is serious), but it’s time for the rest of us to look at HIV the way we tell people who are living at it to look at the disease. It’s time for us to step up and help stamp out the stigma. That’s probably the core message in my third novel, Hanging by the Moment. The fact that there is still such a huge stigma attached to the disease is what prompted me to start giving some of my time (and 20% of my royalties from the sales of the book) to AIDS Partnership Michigan.
As for my next book, it deals with social issues too: street-level prostitution, self-harm, and an MC who was kicked out of his father’s home at sixteen because he was caught kissing another boy. The project I have planned after that deals with Autism and racial* issues. Needless to say, I don’t do happy-fluffy romance, but I wouldn’t call my books downers, either. I believe in true love and in happy endings. I believe in real life, in bumps in the road, in overcoming difficult situations and coming out the other side stronger for it. I like to think the stories I tell reflect that and that readers come away as happy as the wonderful, sometimes complicated men I like to write about.
Ironically, the same day I was whining to one group of friends about my royalty check, my brother in law posted something to his Facebook wall that I’m going to turn into a plaque for my office wall in the new house:
“You’ve got three choices in life:
Give up, give in, or give it all you’ve got.”
I put my poor characters through hell and make them give it all they’ve got; I can’t expect anything less of myself as a writer or as a human being. And if my writing never appeals to the masses, that’s okay, too. Another plaque destined for my wall is the advice every writer needs to remember:
“Write the story your characters tell you to write.”
In other words, tell their story your way and have faith that the right people will find and enjoy it—which doesn’t discount amazing beta readers and editors, but you get the idea *G*. The only person who can tell the story the right way is the person actually telling it.
*I genuinely dislike the word “race” but I don’t have another word to use. So instead of harping, I’d like to direct anyone who hasn’t heard Edward Olmos talking about “race” to take three minutes to listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSFDrOxWCXY
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Or of course on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/H.B.-Pattskyn/e/B006QVN8DS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1), at Barnes and Noble, and pretty much everywhere else that sells romance novels. (And yes, I did pen one non-fiction book that will come up on Amazon and probably Barnes and Noble as well.)
Thanks so much for dropping by, Helen. I can’t wait to read your book.