Why Domestic Suspense is like a Reality TV-Mash-Up by Laura McNeill
Laura McNeill, author of the just released Center of Gravity, on why you should opt for reading domestic suspense….instead of watching the latest episode of the Kardashians.
It’s summer, the time for languishing by the pool, trips to the beach or lake, or spending a few hours in the backyard with your next favorite book. You might reach for the latest Regency romance, a new rom-com, or if you like mixing the salty with the sweet (for me, it’s pretzels and M&Ms) you just might need some drama or domestic suspense.
Domestic suspense, à la Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, is much like a story pulled from the headlines—or a reality TV show taking place in your own hometown. Last summer, an acquaintance of mine posted a letter on Facebook to her soon-to-be ex-husband, detailing his exploits with his new lover and admonishing him for leaving their family. The very next week, a friend of a friend doused her ex-husband’s new girlfriend with sweet tea at a local restaurant, with her child and half of our small city looking on. Hello, Real Housewives of Mobile, Alabama.
While taking a little revenge often seems a good idea at the time, the backlash usually comes back ten-fold. I thought about this carefully as I wrote Center of Gravity, which draws on my own experiences, as well as that of friends and family. Center of Gravity is a glimpse inside an imploding marriage, but it’s also a look at how women can and should try to act when their lives are falling apart.
No one’s perfect, and I drew my strong, but flawed heroine, Ava Carson that way. She doesn’t want to believe her husband is capable of evil, she makes mistakes, and she harbors regret. Ava attempts to cope as best she can, without allowing her life to become the next Big Brother or Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Here’s a look at a few of the themes Center of Gravity touches on, the reality TV shows to match, and what to expect if your own life spins out of control.
- Abnormal is the new normal – Hell’s Kitchen – If you’re in the midst of a breakup, or like Ava, your husband’s filed for divorce and custody of the kids, like it or not, there’s a brand new playing field. Expect that your life will now be as calm and cool as Gordon Ramsey’s temper, peppered with cussing, tears, stress, and more than a few sleepless nights. Put your battle gear on, expect turbulence, and hang on tight.
- Find new allies – Survivor: Outwit, Outlast, Outplay. You might as well have been dropped on a desert island with meager supplies, facing constant competition and the threat of elimination. It’s up to you to find your tribe: a good lawyer and a solid support system. Expect the unexpected as well, sometimes, even your family and best friends run for cover in the face of drama.
- Stay strong – Fear Factor – Remember this show? Contestants ate African cave-dwelling spiders, lay in a pit of rats, and drank “wormtinis” to progress to the next round. Though there’s no $50,000 prize, you’re likely to run an emotional, mental, and physical gauntlet, facing many of your deepest fears. When you’re on the tightrope, don’t look down. Breathe and focus on the end goal.
- It won’t last forever – In the middle of a breakup, your life might seem like The Amazing Race, without the million-dollar prize purse or a partner. Like The Race, you’ll start off sans map or GPS, and then face a seemingly endless series of roadblocks, U-turns, speed bumps, and detours. Know, though, there is a finish line, and you will get your life back.
- It’s an opportunity – Think Shark Tank and The Apprentice. Though it won’t seem like it at the time, big change is a second chance; it’s an opportunity to become the entrepreneur of your own life, though not without challenges, rejection, or hardship. This is a time to ask yourself: What you want the rest of your life to look like? Do you want to go back to school? Change careers? Write a book? Travel? Dream big and put those plans into motion.
If at all possible, don’t fall into the reality-TV mash-up trap. Don’t freak out in front of your kids, key your ex-husband’s truck, or say things you’ll regret. Don’t post on Facebook or text your ex incessantly. You’ll only make things worse for yourself.
Be professional in all communication and face-to-face dealings. Then, go to the gym, take yoga classes, meditate, or get a massage. Better yet, when it’s all over, grab a new novel, go sit in the back yard hammock, and pass the pretzels and M&Ms.
After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura McNeill moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to write full-time. Her novels, known for their endearingly flawed characters, illuminate the real life struggles that touch us all. A native of Upstate New York, she now lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her two growing boys. Find her on Twitter @LaurenClark_Bks.
Learn more about Center of Gravity here.
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