The focus is, of course, domestic violence – but the prevalent arc of October Snow is the aftermath of DV: it’s the story of what becomes of one battered mother after she escapes her abusive marriage.
The main character, Josie Kane, never saw justice for what she and her two sons lived through; as a result, she carries a deep-seated rage. As her best friends, Maxine and Samantha, become aware of the fact that Josie is in some serious emotional trouble, they try to help – and in doing so, must confront their own issues.
You write about spousal abuse. I know how prevalent it is, but do you have any facts and figures?
One in four women – that we know of – will be targets of DV.
(As most incidents are never reported, you get the idea.)
85%-90% of targets are women.
Less than 20% of victims reporting an injury from DV sought medical treatment following the injury.
In 70%-80% of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the male physically abused the woman before the murder.
(And just to give an idea of the court’s biases against women: The average prison sentence for males who kill their intimate partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are sentenced, on average, to 15 years.)
Approximately 20% of the annual 1,500,000 (not a typo) targets of domestic violence obtain civil protection orders.
50% of the orders obtained by women against intimate partners who physically assaulted them were violated.
More than two-thirds of the restraining orders against intimate partners who raped or stalked their target were violated.
Statistically, in the day that has passed since I received your questions, four women have been murdered at the hands of their partner.
Are your characters based on real people?
Yes. The main character, Josie. But I’ve gotten into a little trouble with someone who’s apparently convinced that I based one of the characters on either her, or on someone she knows – I’m not sure which. She left a scathing review about me on Amazon. Not my novel – she actually complimented October Snow: her negative review was about me, personally. I decided to leave it there, because what better endorsement can you ask for, than someone who seems for all the world to hate you – yet says your work has “definite merit”?
How long did it take you to write it?
What was the hardest part?
I wasn’t about to water down the reality of a DV target’s life while she’s with the abuser, or while she’s trying to survive the Family Court system – or the struggles she experiences in the aftermath. I wanted to be true to the issue, and the truth is ugly. So I didn’t sleep well or eat well, especially during one part of the story.
I can’t reveal that segment of the novel here, because it would give away the twist. (You know the part I’m talking about, I’m sure, because you’ve read October Snow.) I can tell you that this one relatively short sequence took me over two days to write, had me begging headache meds from my neighbor, and exists now in its original form in the novel – exactly as I typed it. I really don’t want to read it again. Ever.
The novel would easily lend itself to a sequel or more. Are you planning to continue the story?
Yes. I had briefly considered a sequel just after publishing, but I thought my desire to continue the story was just my own reluctance to let go of the characters. So I initially decided against it, and started a new novel.
Then readers began asking me to continue October Snow. I can’t tell you how good that felt, how truly humbling it is that they would want more of the story. I ran the plot past my editor, because she’s (sometimes, painfully) honest with me, and she loved it – so I’m hoping to complete the sequel in early 2014. I’ll be writing it at the same time that I’m working on the other project, which at the moment is titled Ventriloquist.
What has been the feedback from readers?
There are a couple of themes that are running through the reviews and comments. The one that I’m most grateful for is that October Snow provides new perspectives on not only DV, but on the Family Court system, the Father’s Rights movement, Parental Alienation Syndrome, and the fact that battered women – if they manage to escape – are not offered the help they need to get their lives together again.
Another thing I’m hearing is that the characters are staying with the readers – that these people became very real to them. And I’ve been told to advise the readers to have a box of tissues close by for the last few chapters.
You deal with a subject that is often not acknowledged by family members. What can be done to help get this deeply serious relationship issue the publicity it needs for women to come forth and talk about it?
The first thing we need to do is call it what it is: a crime. The male who’s beating, stalking, threatening, and terrorizing the woman is a criminal.
Then we need to make it safe for a battered woman to tell the truth. By that, I’m referring to battered mothers. Children often become a weapon that the abuser will use to control his target – and if she manages to leave, the Family Court will usually help him continue to use the children to keep hurting her.
A battered mother has two “choices”: Option 1. Leave the abuser, and then be forced to turn her kids over to him, unsupervised, on a regular basis. If the children are terrified of him, she can be accused of alienating them from their father (“Parental Alienation Syndrome”). In other words, if the kids are scared to be alone with the guy who terrorized them and brutalized their mother, the court can decide that it has to be because she brainwashed them into being afraid of him. Once accused of PAS, she can, and usually does, lose custody. (Another stat: abusive males are the most likely to seek custody, and they win it 70% of the time.)
Option 2: She can stay with the abuser, so her children are protected. But if she does so, she has to make sure that no one finds out about the violence in her home. If it’s discovered that she’s “allowing” such behavior, she can go up on Failure to Protect.
Overall, the court system has done an excellent job of forcing battered mothers into hiding.
Every time I hear the questions, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” or “Why did she go back?” I want to hand the person a laundry list of the reasons (and a twenty-minute lecture). I haven’t even touched upon the financial coercion, the cultural ignorance, the absence of meaningful help or services, the money-making machine that the FC system has become, or my main area of interest: the unique issues and pressures that Christian women confront in this situation.
Do you feel there is discrimination against women who speak up on the issue?
I think “discrimination” is too mild a word. “Contempt” may be more accurate. When you consider the nightmare existences that battered women secretly endure, while they manage to conduct their lives and care for their loved ones, they are nothing less than heroic. I honor them for their courage – and I hope that someday soon, it’s the batterer who is regarded with contempt.
Great questions. Many thanks, Dianne.