It’s never over
How our issues become our characters’ problems
By Julie Eberhart Painter
In every one of my books, adoption is an issue. It’s part of my life; it is my life, and the many sides: being given away, giving away, and watching our grandchild being given away are woven into our family’s history, and thus, secret baby style, into my romance and mystery novels.
As an adoptee, it has fueled my imagination. Who am I and who were they? It’s fired my passion to examine my written characters’ motives. Such life experiences make for inflammatory prose. The adoption issue creeps into my work like murder into crime novels and love into romances.
The most recently published example is Mortal Coil, now in paperback from Champagne books, May 2009. In Mortal Coil, the main character, Ellen, a nursing home administrator, has a compassionate heart. She and her first husband adopted a child, but didn’t tell the child that she was adopted. This loving omission becomes a problem for Ellen when her husband is killed in a car crash.
Secrets ignite violence. Murders in Ellen’s nursing home strike a match under an unlikely pair who would never have met without the afore-mentioned deceptions and murders.
In June 2010, Champagne releases Tangled Web. A seduction scene drives the plot that leads the reader from 1935 to 1951. It’s my projection for my birth mother, Catherine’s, life as I hope she lived it.
Illegitimacy and adoption were tremendous moral issues during the 30s through the 60s, a time of change in our country’s mores. With war on the horizon and women reaching beyond their domestic roles to find careers and help support their families, Catherine becomes stronger. She learns that the powerful do not always win.
In my unpublished memoir, I describe adoption as being Naked in Their Gene Pool, or in the case of our lost grandchild The Lost legacy. With adoptions, it’s never over. Many adoptees feel like abandoned puppies, searching every car on the road to see if their family has changed its mind and come back for them.
I once told a perfect stranger, "I’m Julie Eberhart Painter; I’m adopted; I come with a disclaimer."
Disarmed by my subconscious honesty, she answered, "I’m Jane and I can’t have children." We both had an issue-issue.
I was only nine months old when I was taken from a succession of foster homes and placed with my adoptive family—permanently. My first word was "home," not Mommy or Daddy. At four-years of age, I remember hiding when people came to the house. I ran from cars passing on the dirt road out front. In 1998, I petitioned the court to get my "story." The non-identifying information stated that at three months of age I was friendly, alert and able to stand up for myself—not fearful.
No, it’s never over. A 95-year old resident in the nursing home where I worked asked me, her volunteer: "Do you think I’ll finally meet my mother?"
Life and fiction are one when you’re adopted. It’s never over.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010