Sunday, April 15, 2012

Justice, forgiveness and the Ninth Step

I'm privileged to welcome Barbara Taylor Sissel to my blog today. I read and reviewed her first novel, the Ninth Step, last week and really loved it--the sort of story that creates real characters with real courage and pains, then lets them respond to their own situations without ever lecturing the reader about right choices.


Barbara has written several novels, as you'll see below, and having read one, I'm eager to read them all. But perhaps I should let her tell you about them herself... Over to you Barbara, and thank you for visiting my blog.


Initially, when Sheila offered to host a guest post from me, I thought I would write entirely about The Ninth Step, the first novel I indie published last August. I thought I would tell how I was led to write the story … that it had to do with courage. I gravitate toward stories of real-life courage, where real people stand up in the aftermath of terrible tragedy. They not only stand, they triumph. They even forgive—or not. At the time that The Ninth Step was coming together in my mind, there was a news story about a man who did something awful that left a woman shattered and afraid. But she survived; she rebuilt her life. Then many years later, she heard from him. He asked her forgiveness for the thing he did. That wound he made, the one she spent years trying to heal. She had no idea what to do or even how to think about his request. Eventually she became angry. She couldn’t forgive. She wanted justice. The whole matter was reopened and it bled through a courtroom trial like a freshly inflicted wound. She endured the entire ordeal all over again. It was very brave of her, I think, but I wonder whether it was worth it for her. Did she find peace in the resolution?

It was in that question that I found the heart of story that is told in The Ninth Step.

But really, this issue is an overarching theme of my work … the fact that every crime has a victim and a perpetrator, and either way, there are families involved, parents, siblings, children. Families are the collateral damage of crime. I watched another story unfold recently on one of the crime shows, a woman’s brother was murdered. After his killer was sentenced to death, the woman ran into the street after the killer’s family. “Please tell me why he did this,” she cried. They kept walking. “Please,” she said in a lower voice. “I forgive you,” she finally whispered. It was amazing to me. But then the human spirit is amazing and so very brave.

So this is a lot of what fuels my fiction and it’s the central theme of The Ninth Step, which as I said is what I thought I would write about, and I guess I did! But before I close, I also want to share a piece of wonderful news I got recently. It has to do more with the publishing journey, and it’s really not off the topic of courage. To give a bit of background, as I said before, I published The Ninth Step in August of 2011 and shortly after that, I published The Volunteer and then The Last Innocent Hour. It was exciting, but I really had no idea what to expect. Not much happened at first and when sales grew, it was very gratifying. But in March, the dream of a lifetime came true when I signed with MIRA to publish two books. The first one, Evidence of Life, will come out in April of 2013 and the second in March of 2014. Here’s the thing though, as thrilled as I am, I’m also nervous, a bit scared. I see that venturing down this path will require courage. Granted it’s not quite the same courage that’s required by my characters, the sort it takes to survive horrible calamity, but still, it has me thinking about the changes in our lives, how even those that are as joyful as this one can be unsettling. I felt a lot the same way when I was expecting my first child, a bit unnerved with no idea what sort of mother I’d make. Suppose I was a total failure? It was like sitting at the top of a very tall, twisty slide where you can’t see around the curves, knowing there is no way to go but down. I was a bit scared then, but I couldn’t wait, you know? I feel like that now. Nervous but I can’t wait either! I hope you’ll join me as I blog here about this adventure over the next several months. It would be lovely to imagine a line of readers all ready to go down this slide with me. 

Thank you Barbara. I'm certainly looking forward to learning more of your adventure, as well as reading more of your books.

To find out more about Barbara and her writing, go to 


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