Guest Post–Kim Williams-Justesen

Some of you may recall the name from past interviews and book reviews.  Kim’s book, The Deepest Blue, is set to launch, so she stopped by to tell us a little about the backstory.

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The Story Behind the Story

One of the most common questions any writer gets is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The most common answer to that question for most writers is, “Everywhere.”

That’s really not a copout answer. A lot of the writers I know, myself included, were the kinds of kids who were looking out the window wondering what would happen if dinosaurs suddenly interrupted their math class. They were the kinds of kids who got together with friends and came up with inventive ways to turn the slide into an underwater escape hatch or the short-cut that led to the medieval castle.

My newest novel, The Deepest Blue, was actually inspired by real events experienced by my own kids. Their bravery and determination to do something they knew was right for them proved to be an amazing source for a story.

When my oldest daughter M was 10, her biological dad married his second wife. I had remarried several years before, so she was used to having a step-parent in her life. Her new step-mom had two daughters, so she also got two sisters, and a few years later, a new brother. By the time she was 15, though, her relationship with her step-mom and her dad had gone from difficult, to strained, to almost intolerable. It was classic fairytale material. There were different rules for her when she visited the house than the rules for her step-sisters. For example, while her two step-sisters could eat anything they wanted, enjoy a can of soda, and play video games, M was told she could not have soda and was only allowed fruits and vegetables as snacks. The message, though never spoken, was clear: we think your weight is a problem and, therefore, you are restricted to choices we think are appropriate.

Let’s be clear here – M was not overweight. She was built differently than her step-sisters, but she was by no means obese. Her self-esteem plummeted, and she was constantly being unfavorably compared to the sister who was her age. After several episodes of being told how she didn’t measure up, M came to her step-dad, my husband, and asked if he would adopt her. It was entirely her idea, but we pursued it, and ultimately, despite the loud protests and accusations of my ex-husband and his wife, the adoption went through.

It was around this time that my husband’s ex-wife had a second baby. My step-son, almost 13 at that time, was delighted to have a new baby sister, and he wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. While we had had issues with his biological mom in the past due to a mental health condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder, she seemed to have leveled off and become more stable.

Fast forward a few years. My step-son, R, was almost 16 years old. His biological mom was so busy with a toddler that she often contacted him and said he couldn’t visit for the weekend because she just couldn’t handle two kids. R was struggling with school and making poor choices about friends, and we wanted to keep his mother in the loop and ask for her support. When she came to pick him up for a visit, my husband and I asked if we could talk to her about R’s situation. Rather unexpectedly, she launched into a verbal assault on the two of us, but also on R. The following visit, R indicated that his mom had been verbally abusive and had accused him of trying to steal from her. A few months later, she had stopped calling him at all.

It was shortly after the new year, when his mom hadn’t even sent him a Christmas card, that R asked if I would adopt him. I don’t think I spent more than 1/100th of a second to consider it before I said, “Yes!”

It took nine months of hassling with his biological mom, but eventually, our court date arrived, and I became R’s legal mom.

Both of these experiences led to the creation of The Deepest Blue. While not exactly the story of my kids’ experiences, I did draw upon their strength, their courage, and their belief in doing what was best for them. I drew from actual events, but made the main character, Mike, his own person with his own, unique issues.

Every book is close to my heart, but this one came from my heart in a way I’d never experienced before. I’m as proud of Mike as I am of my kids, and I hope readers will come away from this story feeling empowered in their own way.

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The Deepest Blue launches in a few days, so be sure to get your copy.  I’m not just saying that because Kim is the Louise to my Thelma, or the chocolate to my tequila (you can ask, but I’m not sure you want to know).  It’s a fantastic story, and you’ll be glad you read it.

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2 comments on “Guest Post–Kim Williams-Justesen

  1. Louise – er- Erin! I am so grateful for your support, your friendship, and your willingness to let me drive dangerously close to cliff edges. You are a brave woman indeed!

    Like

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