Valentine’s Love ~ Le Poème du Jour ~ le 14 février, 2016

Yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m divorced. And yes, I still love Valentine’s Day! What’s not to love? Chocolate and romance and love poems…and the list goes on! I am a romance novelist, after all. But I suppose the fact that I am up early on Valentine’s Day sending love poems out into the universe means that my heart has healed from the war it’s endured these past few years…it has healed so much that I really do believe in love again. And that is certainly a reason to celebrate. So, today, I have not one, but two little bursts of love to share with you…

This is an excerpt from the poem, “On Your Birthday,” which is featured in my memoir, Meet Me in ParisI’ve tweaked it slightly to go with our Valentine’s theme…

14 fevrier

And…a snippet from a poem titled “The Night We Met” which will be featured in my upcoming poetry collection, I Loved You in Paris.

14 fevrier sphere of light

Wishing you all my love on this beautiful Valentine’s Day!

xoxo

Danielle (aka Juliette Sobanet)

Life After Divorce: Embracing Your Grief As a Sign of Love

Before my divorce, I believed I was an experienced “griever.”

I thought I knew all there was to know about grief: how it feels, how to handle it, and most important, how to survive it. While my life was beautiful in so many ways, I’d experienced quite a bit of heartbreak in my thirty-one years, with the worst loss of all being the unexpected death of a cousin who had been like a brother to me during our childhood.

When I heard the news of his passing, I was only three weeks shy of my college graduation. I had finals to study for, papers to write, and a dance recital to perform. I didn’t care about any of that, though. My cousin was gone. He was gone.

I lay in bed all weekend crying and feeling as if God had punched me in the gut. I’d never before experienced grief in such a violent, visceral way.

It knocked me to my knees–literally–and I feared that it would swallow me whole if I didn’t take control of the situation.

So, ignoring the sage advice of my girlfriends who told me “Let yourself grieve now,” I had a stern talk with my new roommate, Grief. I told him to beat it, at least for the next few weeks until I graduated.

To my surprise, Grief listened.

It wasn’t that I didn’t continue to have meltdowns, but through the tears, I found the strength to take care of business so that I could graduate.

Then, just as my friends said it would, Grief resurfaced.

I carried the grief of losing my cousin with me for several years after his passing, and to this day, I miss him. I always will. But even though the grief was intense, it didn’t capsize my ship. Amid this loss, I was still able to love and find the beauty in life, to feel gratitude and work toward my dreams. I didn’t need to grab the wine bottle or take drugs or numb myself with Xanax.

The fact that I was able to stare Grief in the face and keep moving through life only reinforced a long-held belief I’d had about myself–that I could handle whatever curveballs life threw my way without falling into a lasting depression or needing antidepressants to survive the day.

And then, I got a divorce.

After twelve years with my husband, I knew that the grief over losing our marriage would be immense, but I still believed I was an expert on this grief thing, so I was certain I could withstand the storm.

What I learned rather quickly was that I was not, in any way, prepared for the storm of depression that would ensue over the next two years.

This would be the storm that would finally capsize what I’d always believed was an unsinkable ship–me.

Thankfully, friends and loved ones threw me life vests along the way to keep me from drowning. I sought out my own life vests as well in the form of therapy, yoga, meditation, healers, antidepressants, travel, and the most healing of them all–writing a memoir about my entire experience.

But even with all of those life vests keeping me afloat, I still have not managed to convince Grief to get the hell out of my house.

He’s moved in. Permanently, it seems. And I have no choice but to live with him.

Grief and I have been cohabitating for a couple of years now, and it is only in recent months that I have stopped my desperate pleas asking him to pack his shit and go. Instead, I’ve made a space for him in my home. I even make him a cup of tea at night, and we chat like the old friends we are. Interestingly, taking a friendly approach toward Grief seems to have diffused him quite a bit. Although, when he does storm through me unannounced, I am no longer surprised by his dramatic antics. And I’m no longer angry that he’s still here. Because I’ve realized something.

This intense grief I’ve experienced is a sign of great love.

If I hadn’t loved my husband with my entire being, I wouldn’t have felt such immense pain over the loss of our marriage. Yes, that love changed and shifted in the final years. Yes, there were problems we couldn’t repair that led to the end.

But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t love each other. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still send him love and wish him only happiness and joy, because I do. That is unconditional love, after all.

With any loss we experience throughout our lives, we must always remember that suffering is universal. Grief is a part of the human experience. To deny or suffocate our grief is to deny our humanness. Instead, we must embrace our grief as a sign that love was shared, and perhaps, if we’re feeling really friendly, invite him over for a cup of tea.

To take a quote on grief and love from my own true story, Meet Me in Paris:

“Where there is great love, there is also potential for great pain.

Because I have hurt so deeply, I know that I have also loved deeply.

And since love is the bedrock of my journey–of our journeys–I know my particular journey has been worthwhile. Worth every tear I’ve shed, every meltdown I’ve had, and every dose of Wellbutrin I’ve taken.

Love is worth it.

I know that now, and so I don’t curse the journey. Not a single moment of it.”

*This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Love is the emblem of eternity quote_winter scene

The Next Time

I am one of the first of my friends to get a divorce. At only thirty-one-years-old, I told my husband I needed to leave our marriage in order to be happy again. I fell in love with him when I was nineteen, and when we said our vows four years later, I believed with all my heart that we would be married forever. As I learned, signing a marriage certificate doesn’t guarantee marital bliss or personal happiness, or anything really except that if you ever do want to leave this marriage, you will have to go through a painful legal process to do so.

I’ve learned that there is a guarantee in divorce, however, and that guarantee is that it will hurt. It will be harder than you ever could have imagined, and just when you think you’re rounding a corner, a Divorce Landmine will go off–seeing your ex’s new wedding photo, for example–and you are right back where you were when the whole thing began–crying in bed with the covers over your head, a heating pad pressed to your chest, and feeling like you need someone–anyone–to just hold you while you cry.

It’s been over two years since the initial split from my marriage, and while I am truly happy most days now, those landmines still go off, and because I loved him so deeply, the pain is still unbearable when it strikes. This morning, after seeing the aforementioned photograph on social media, I almost stopped a stranger on the street who was washing his truck to ask him to hug me.

I’m serious.

I just needed a hug. I had cried alone in bed all morning, and I needed someone to physically put their arms around me and let me cry.  I needed someone to tell me it’s okay to feel like total and complete shit and to not do anything to try to make it go away except to hold the space for me to feel that shit so that it could pass through me.

I am the only child of two parents who love me deeply, but who are not emotionally or physically present for me. This has been the case for some time now, so I’ve developed a tough skin. I’ve had to, in order to survive on my own. My husband was my family for many years, and now that is gone too.

So I have my friends. And I am blessed to have some of the most caring, loving friends in the world. But since I don’t have blood relatives who will provide that refuge I have so desperately needed amid the ever tumultuous storm of divorce, I have taken most of it on by myself because I don’t want to burden these dear friends. I have laid on my bathroom floor sobbing and contemplating ways to end my life without calling a friend to ask for help. I have spent countless hours, days–months even–suffering, and not asking my friends to stop their lives for me, because I know they are busy. They have careers and husbands and children and fun to be had.

Who wants to stop all of that to come lie with me on the bathroom floor while I cry?

The reality is that while I have the most amazing friends in the world, they are not a husband. They are not a mother or a father. They have their own families to deal with every day, and their own problems. Even if I did call them every time I plummeted into a deep depression, many would not drop what they’d scheduled that day to come help. Maybe they could, maybe they couldn’t, but either way, it’s likely that they don’t realize how serious depression can be, and even more likely that I have not made it clear how serious my own depression can be when it hits.

This is the job of family, to drop everything when one of their kin is suffering. To give them a place to live, sleep, eat, and cry until they can enter the real world again. I don’t have a family who can provide that storm shelter for me, so I must make my own.

But when my depression hits, I don’t want to get out of bed. I have no desire to eat or drink. I immediately lose weight. I am freezing cold, no matter how hot it may be outside, and I have to bundle up in sweats and press a heating pad to my chest and lie in bed until it passes.  And my chest hurts–my heart physically feels like it’s breaking. I cry so hard that my eyes are red and puffy and bloodshot, and the circles underneath are epic. I don’t feel physically capable of standing up or getting out of bed or getting dressed and trying to look or act presentable. And as such, I don’t want to leave the house and go see anyone.

In these times, I need someone to come to my house, walk up the stairs, sit on my bed and just hold me. That is all I need. My friends innocently will ask me to come out for a drink, take a beach walk, or go for a run. They only want to help. But if I took a selfie of the mess that I am when this happens and sent it to them, first they would gasp in horror, and then they would understand that I can’t do any of those things when I feel so awful. I don’t want to be in public when I feel this way, and many times, I physically could not force my body to go anywhere or do anything in this state. My life force is zapped.

Although these depressive episodes are much less frequent now, they have been happening for over two years, and I’ve rarely had anyone–a family member, friend, anyone–just come to my house and sit with me through it.

I typically don’t directly ask for someone to do this. So, the fault is mainly my own. I am embarrassed to cry this hard in front of my friends. The only person I ever felt comfortable being this much of a mess in front of was my husband. And in truth, he did come to my rescue a few times after we split, but that had to end of course, so that we could both move on with our lives.

I know I must learn to let my guard down more and be vulnerable in front of my friends, because these episodes are serious. Anyone who has been divorced, or who has lost someone they loved, or who has been depressed will know what I am talking about.

And for those who don’t understand this deep pain, I used to be one of you. I never used to understand depression. Despite all of the heartache I had experienced in my life, I was, for the most part, positive and happy and looking on the bright side! I didn’t understand people who could be sad over and over again about the same problem! Get over it already!

I am still a positive, happy person for the most part, but divorce has taken me to the dark side, and since I am one of the first of my friends to go through this, I think that many of my dear friends don’t comprehend the depths of it, which is not their fault.

So, today, I have written a poem for those who have someone in their life who is going through a divorce, who is depressed, and who needs your help. You may not be sure what to do for your depressed, divorced friend, but I hope this poem will help you understand us divorced messes a little better, and to know what you can do to help.

The Next Time

  The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the dearest person in her life, the person she has loved for sunrises and sunsets, for starry nights and stormy skies, and every moment in between…Act as if she has just told you that this person has died…

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the dearest person in her life, the person who has loved her at her best and at her worst, who has held her up and torn her down, who has been her everything for too many days to count…Act as if she has just told you that this person has died…

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the relationship she thought would last forever, the relationship that sustained her, filled her up, tore her down…Act as if she has just told you that this relationship has died…

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that she is about to enter the most intense grieving period of her life, and that a part of her has died too…

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that she will need your support more than she will ever admit, and even if she smiles and says she is okay, please know that underneath that smile, your friend is suffering, your friend is drowning in loss, your friend needs your help…

Because she is grieving a death

A death she may have chosen

A death he may have chosen

But it is a death, nonetheless.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that it may take years for her to feel better, it may take years for her to feel joy every day. Know that she will be so tired of this grief that she will try to hide it, but it is still there…

And she needs your help.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that depression may set in, and depression is a beast, it’s a killer. And when she reaches out to you, you must go to her. Drop your plans, get in the car or hop on a plane…

And go.

Go again, and again, and again, because she needs you, even if she doesn’t want to admit it.

Because there are days when she doesn’t want to live, even if she doesn’t want to admit it.

And because one day, you will lose someone you loved more than you loved yourself, whether through a divorce, a death, or both…

And you will need her too.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

The best thing you can do is hold a space for her to grieve, without telling her why her life is so fabulous and why she should feel good.

The best thing you can do is hold her and let her cry until the storm passes.

The best thing you can do is be there for her

Always and forever

No matter what.

*A modified version of this piece was published on The Huffington Post on 11/2/15.

The role of a writer quote

The Journey I Never Expected To Take

As a writer, I am obsessed with journeys. Sure, I love a good fictitious romp–I’ve been making up stories since I was young enough to string a sentence together. But it is in recent years–the years where I said goodbye to my marriage and started anew, anti-depressants in one hand, wine in the other–that I’ve become enamored with true stories written by real people. As I mentioned in my last post, these are the stories that have comforted me in my most difficult moments post divorce. These are the stories that have told me: Someone else has been where you are, and they made it out alive. These are the stories that have encouraged me to keep going.

I started this blog as a way to stop hiding behind my fiction, as a way to tell the true story of what happens when a romance novelist loses her happily ever after, and as a way to reach out to others who may be going through what I’m going through, and to let them know they are not alone.

At the New Year, when I wrote my last post, 37 Extraordinary Dreams ~ One Extraordinary YearI had it in my head that I needed to go do something extraordinary!, use it as a way to work through my grief, and write about it along the way. Much like Cheryl Strayed does in Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, I wanted to go somewhere exciting or do something huge to, once and for all, shed my wretched divorce baggage and move on with my life. But instead of coming up with one big journey to take, I came up with thirty-seven!

I have been hard at work on making many of my dreams a reality–I’ve spent two weeks in France (out of the four I promised myself), I’ve seen my books on the shelves of bookstores, I finished my screenplay, I’ve been dancing as much as my busy schedule will allow, and I can almost do the splits again!

What I didn’t realize when I made this list, though, is that I have already been on an extraordinary journey, one that is worthy of writing about. One that I hope will inspire others. One that I desperately want to tell.

So, logically, being the devious novelist that I am, I decided to hide all of that juiciness in a novel! See #15 on my list:

15. Write and publish my next novel: The Places That Were Ours

Oh, yes, The Places That Were Ours was going to be a novel based loosely…ahem…on the most intense, heartbreaking, passionate years of my life. I figured that if I can’t tie up my own love stories into neat little bows of happily ever after, at least I know my characters can!

So, I wrote the prologue and the first fifty pages, and I pitched the book to my agent and to my publisher as fiction. I went so far as to place my protagonist in a coma so that even she wouldn’t have to face her demons.

Talk about hiding behind my art.

But each time I opened up the document, I couldn’t write past the first few chapters. Something essential was missing. Something monumental…

Ahh, that pesky little thing I have been going to such lengths to avoid: The Truth.

And then, before I could take this book any further, my publisher turned it down. I wasn’t too distraught, though, because I knew somewhere deep down that I didn’t want to write this novel. I didn’t want to hide behind my characters’ questionable choices, their hidden desires, their passionate love affairs, their sweet triumphs and most embarrassing catastrophes.

I wanted to write about my own.

But as it often goes in life, I had to hit rock bottom before I could find the courage to do the thing I really wanted to do. And so, when my next major writing rejection came, I finally, finally, said–and please do excuse my French–fuck it. 

If this is the only story that is surging through my veins, keeping me up at night, begging to  bleed its ink onto the pages, then just write the damn story.

If the only thing that truly matters to me anymore is being purely, unabashedly, unapologetically me, then just write the damn story.

Otherwise, what am I doing here?

As a writer, it’s not my job to write fluff. It’s not my job to keep people happy. It’s my job to tell a story. A damn good story. And so, for better or for worse, wedded as I am to my craft, I have decided to write the story in my heart.

The story that is mine.

The story that is ours.

The Truth.

And so, it is with excitement, a little bit of trepidation, and mostly joy that I announce my next book:

Meet Me in Paris

One Romance Novelist’s Quest to Write Her Own Happily Ever After

What does a romance novelist do when she loses her own happily ever after? Take a lover and travel to Paris, obviously. Or at least this is what Juliette Sobanet did upon making the bold, heart-wrenching decision to divorce the man she had loved since she was a teenager. This is the story of the passionate love affair that ensued during the most devastating year of Sobanet’s life and how her star-crossed romance in the City of Light ultimately led to her undoing. Meet Me in Paris is a raw, powerful take on divorce and the daring choices that followed such a monumental loss from the pen of a writer who’d always believed in happy endings.

I’m close to 100 pages along this wild journey, and I’m loving it. As for a release date, I don’t know yet. But I do know that I am finally, truly, following my heart.

To take a quote from my favorite truth teller…

Anais Nin Fever of Creation Quote

 

It’s Time to Change the Data Plan

A few weeks back, I called Verizon because somehow my cellphone data was skyrocketing, and I needed to get it under control. The woman who answered was extremely helpful and walked me through a process of deleting apps I don’t use and turning off all sorts of miscellaneous programs on my phone that were taking up unnecessary space. She told me that should do the job.

At the end of the call, she stopped me before I hung up and said, “Remember, YOU are in charge. At any point, you can log in to Verizon.com, browse the various plans, and choose a data plan that works for you. YOU are in the driver’s seat.”

It wasn’t until later in the day that I realized her message had absolutely nothing to do with my data plan, and everything to do with my life.

Earlier that week, I ran into my ex-husband at Starbucks. The circumstances that led to us both being at that exact Starbucks at the same time were totally bizarre and ridiculous and certainly led me to believe that our run-in was some sort Universe intervention.

I was so happy to see him. I miss him. More than I’ve ever missed anyone in my life. He was kind, the way he always is, and we chatted for a few minutes, but he had to go. It was clear that he didn’t want to stay and talk like we’re old best friends, because, well, I divorced him. I wouldn’t want to stay and talk all night with me either if I were him.

I went home that night, cried in my car (do all divorced people do this??), and over the next two days, I found myself in one of those all-consuming depressive spirals. You know those ones where you question all your decisions, wonder why you did something that you felt was right at the time, but now feels so wrong.

On Day 2 of this tiring, but oh-so-familiar experience, one of my roommates gave me some advice. He asked me to list one or two things that when I do them, make me totally and completely happy.

“Easy,” I said. “Dance and yoga. But mainly dance.”

I am always on Cloud Nine during and after a dance class. It is a natural anti-depressant for me, and it takes me to another world. One that is far away from divorce and regret and guilt and all of those icky feelings. Dance empowers me. Makes me remember who I am. Where I want to go. How blessed I am to have the gift of dance in my life since I was a little girl. And how amazing my life truly is.

So my roommate told me to make a commitment to go to dance class or do yoga every single day, no matter what, and to know that the rest will come naturally. He told me to stop stressing about work and writing and missed writing days because of depression. Just dance. Just do yoga. Everything will be okay.

Did I mention I have the best roommates ever?

That night, I started to perk up. I got out my journal and made what I call “The Freedom List.” I wrote down every single thing I couldn’t do when I was in my marriage (or perhaps chose not to do because of the marriage), that I could now make a reality.

Travel to France anytime I want! Take dance class every night! Have my girlfriends over for wine and chocolate and gossip any night of the week! Watch romantic comedies all night long! Go anywhere I want whenever I want without checking in with anyone! And, there were many more…

The next day, I shook off the blues, got my ass out of the house to write at my favorite cafe, and I signed up for one month of unlimited dance at my favorite studio.

Last week was my first week back at the barre. I took five classes–a contemporary dance class, three ballet classes, and a jazz class. My muscles were sore, and I felt happy again. It was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time.

Yes, this is me taking a selfie on my first day back at the studio. The teacher didn’t show that day, so I gave myself a ballet class. Couldn’t have been happier!

Running into my ex was the perfect reminder that it was time to change my data plan. I clearly still have a lot of healing to do, and only I can take action toward feeling better and living the life of my dreams.

Like the wise woman at Verizon told me, I am in charge. I am in the driver’s seat. I can log in to Danielle.com at any time and change my plan.

So, what’s in your data plan these days? Is it time for a change?

Soul

How Does It Feel?

So, I’m going to be honest. Totally, bluntly, I’m-a-few-glasses-of-wine-deep honest (which for me means two glasses, and no more, but if you know me, you know that’s enough to get me talking).

I started this blog in June because I was at a standstill with my writing. My divorce was final, I was devastated, and I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write anything except what was actually happening to me.

And so, Confessions of a Romance Novelist was born.

I wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to be like the writers I so admire, the ones who are brave enough to write about their real lives. Those are the writers who have helped me through my roughest times. To know that someone else has felt the way I feel, has grieved the way I am grieving, has experienced a loss so deep they can hardly breathe…and yet they have the strength to keep going, and to write about it no less, is my greatest inspiration. I wanted to give that gift to others…and to myself.

Plus, they say truth is stranger than fiction, right? Well, in my case, I believe it has been. On so many fronts. And so, I wanted to tell my story. I already reveal it in pieces in my novels, of course. But I wanted to tell my true story. The whole story.

And then, something happened. (Doesn’t it always?). I started dating someone. A nice guy. A normal guy. A handsome, sweet guy. And I really, really liked him. Early on in the relationship, I thought, okay…maybe I can be normal too. Maybe I can do this relationship thing again. But dear God, if I’m broadcasting all of my depressive divorce thoughts and wild writer ideas on this blog, he will find out, and he will probably break up with me (or at the very least be secretly horrified). And his family! What if his family sees this?!

I have to take this blog down.

So I did.

And I tried. I tried to fit into the mold. All of his friends were getting married. His family wanted to meet me. But only a few short months later, I knew I couldn’t do it. I was still having full-on meltdowns over my divorce. Missing my husband and wondering if I had made the right decision in leaving him. Wondering if I had permanently and forever screwed up my life.

Oh, and I was still pining (and mourning) over the extremely unavailable guy I fell in love with immediately following my divorce. A guy who was still in love with me too, but like any tragic, ill-timed love story, we couldn’t be together. And probably never would be.

How Romeo & Juliet of us. I certainly picked the right pen name…but I digress.

On top of all of that, I was still losing weight. I was still pretending to be happy. I’m really good at that–the pretending to be happy skill. Many of my friends and acquaintances think I’m handling this divorce thing extraordinarily well because I’m always smiling! Always fabulous! Always pulling it together! But dear God, if they had only seen me in those moments alone in the shower, or in the car, or downing Xanax, or alone in bed at night gripping the pillow like the earth may actually collapse beneath me at any minute…

It wasn’t pretty. It was downright terrifying.

There were many a day when the only reason I got out of bed, the only reason I didn’t do something stupid was because of my giant, adorable cats who required that I get my depressed ass up and feed them.

Yup, there, I said it. That’s the truth. My cats saved my life.

I have never grieved as hard or as intensely as I have this past year. And that is not to say that I haven’t been through some shit. I mean, we all have, right? But losing a husband, a partner, the man I spent twelve years with–even though I was the one who chose to leave–was, and still is, the most monumental loss of my life.

And so, back to that sweet new boyfriend I’d met. I had to break up with him. None of this was fair to him. He deserved someone who was ready for everything he had to give.  And that wasn’t me.

So, I ended it.

Right around that time, I talked to my ex-husband* again. (*Side note: I hate calling him my “ex.” It sounds so impersonal, so full of hate. And I have nothing but love for this man. Despite the fact that I was the one who chose to leave. So in this blog, let’s call him my first soul mate. Because I still believe that is the role he has played in my life.) So….around this time, I was talking to my first soul mate again, and we were confused. We missed each other. We weren’t sure what to do next. I knew one thing, though. I knew that all this back and forth between men was not helping my writing.

And I knew that none of these men were paying my bills.

I needed to write again.

So I suggested to my first soul mate that we take two months off from being in touch. Just to have some space to breathe. He agreed.

One month later, I was out at a wine bar with one of my close girlfriends. I told her that I felt like I was in a holding pattern. Waiting until the two month “waiting period” was over, so I could see what might happen next. What if he had changed? What if the perspectives we had both gained over this past year had made it possible to try things again?

So, I asked her, “Do you think I should wait another month before moving forward? Before dating? Before trying to meet anyone new?”

She answered with a clear and firm, “No.”

She said more than that, of course, and everything she said made sense. Logically, my response was, “Let’s order a pizza.”

We headed to the counter, and while we were ordering pizza, I met a guy…

But that’s a story for another night because this girl needs to go to bed so she can write books in the morning. After all, even that guy isn’t paying the bills.

I am. And I need to sleep. Then I need to write.

Don’t you just love a cliff hanger?

I will, however, quickly explain why I titled this post “How Does It Feel?”

While drinking wine and eating a box of Trader Joe’s organic Mac & Cheese (at least it’s organic, right?), I was watching “Le Week-End,” a Paris-based film–being the obsessive Francophile I am, I love any and all Paris movies–and in this particular Paris film, the song “Like a Rolling Stone” by the Rolling Stones came on.

The chorus hit me…

“How does It Feel

How does it feel

To be without a home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone”

Losing my husband has felt like losing my home. I am rebuilding it. Day by day. And it is here that I will write about what that feels like. The only promise I will make is that I will tell the truth.

Hemingway said that “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

And so, that is what I will do…

Hemingway quote

The Woman Behind the Novels

Behind every novelist, there is a real person who has experienced love, loss, heartbreak, and euphoria. As writers, it is our job, our purpose, to live life so that our readers will discover truth on our pages and see themselves in our characters. Even amid the fictional and fantastical circumstances we throw our characters into, such as time travel, murder mysteries, and the oh-so-elusive happily ever after, our characters need to be real, flawed, and human just like the authors who create them (unless, of course, our characters are vampires, but even Edward’s sparkling, pale skin and sharp teeth didn’t stop him from falling in love with Bella).

I have always been in total awe of authors who write both fiction and memoirs, finding the strength to bare their true stories on the page for everyone to see, after the world already knows them as a novelist, an entertainer. Some of my greatest writing inspiration comes from Anais Nin’s Henry and June, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. To me, what these women have done is an incredible feat and took an enormous amount of courage.

There is simply so much power to be found in a true story.

I never believed I had the courage to tell my own. It’s so much easier (and more fun, I might add) to hide behind a pen name, to become her, the glamorous Juliette who writes romance novels by the beach, travels to France on a whim, experiences romance at every turn, and hasn’t a care in the world. I mean, doesn’t that just sound lovely?

While I do write romance novels, live near the beach, and travel to France whenever I can, I am also a real person who has just emerged (well, to be honest, who is still emerging) from one of the most difficult years of my life.

“But, Juliette, you’ve looked so happy on Facebook and Twitter!” you say. “You’ve been traveling, going out with friends, and smiling as if nothing could stop you.”

Yes, I have been smiling and traveling and having some wonderful times, for which I am truly thankful.

But behind Juliette, there’s me: Danielle. A thirty-two-year-old woman who has experienced quite a lot in this crazy journey of life: true love, extreme loss, joy, and disappointment. A beautiful marriage, a heartbreaking divorce, hilarious dating debacles, incredible friendships, and most recently, the death of one of those dear friends.

It’s been quite an interesting experience writing my characters’ happily ever afters while losing what I thought was my own, and now starting from scratch and building an entirely new life. It’s scary, exhilarating, and exhausting all at the same time. The silver lining is that all of these experiences–the good and the bad–are providing an obscene amount of material for my novels…but there are days when I want to sit down at my computer and write the truth.

So, as I continue to tie my characters’ lives and loves up into perfect little French bows, I will be here, attempting to create my own, messier version of happily ever after, and sharing the funny, sad, and purely ridiculous tales with you along the way.DSCN3310