Laura Drake: A Book Saved My Life
Trigger warning for mentions of domestic violence. If you are in an abusive situation, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Our theme this month of writer thankfulness, and I have more to be thankful for than most. I'm thankful for books. Because one saved my life.
When people ask me why I started writing, I lie. I tell them that I had an idea that wouldn’t let me go. And that’s true, as far as it goes. But the reason it wouldn’t let me go is the real story. See, I write about my own demons. I think on some level, we all do, don’t we?
I’m not going to bore you with all the backstory, but suffice it to say that my decisions ended me at nineteen, with a guy I’d known a total of ten days before I said ‘I do,’ living in a log cabin in the Back of Beyond, Michigan. We had one car, which he took to work each day. I wasn’t allowed to work—a woman's job was in the home. The mailbox was a mile walk away, and town was ten. We didn’t have a phone.
There were other cabins within a mile of ours, but they were summer homes; there no neighbors in autumn. We had electricity, but no money for propane. No worries. We cut wood to keep us warm for the coming winter. But no propane meant no gas for the stove, range, or washer and dryer. So I learned to cook everything in an electric Dutch oven.
Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. The cabin was beside a river, and it was autumn. I fished, and picked wild huckleberries for pies. Fires at night were warm, and romantic.
But then he started hitting me.
I thought it was my fault. After all, I knew almost nothing domestic. He even had to teach me to cook. I made mistakes, I screwed up. I learned as fast as I could, trying to make him happy, and proud. It didn’t work. He still got mad. No, furious - and I’d end up with bruises. But he was so sorry afterward that I believed him, that it wouldn’t happen again. I believed it because he believed it.
But as time went on, and I got better at that life, he didn’t change. The home I grew up in was falling apart, and I didn’t want to admit I’d made a mistake, so I never told them. I had nothing to do all day but clean and think. Believe me; you could have eaten off any surface in that cabin. But my thoughts just cycled in an endless loop.
Most of the time, things were fine. I was even happy. The anger wasn’t always there. But the potential always was, hanging like static electricity in the air. I stayed alert, always. I lost weight.
The highlight of my week was going to town on the weekend to do laundry, because I could go to the library. I was always a reader, and now it sustained me – taking me away in my mind. I could only take out seven books at a time, so I’d choose the heftiest tomes I could find, so I’d have lots to read during the week.
That’s how I came upon Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged gave me the answer that I had missed, in all those hours of thinking. It never occurred to me that I was the answer. It was a beginning.
People who know me now can’t picture me in this past. That’s because that naïve powerless girl wasn’t me. The more years I live, the more I uncover who ‘me’ is.
I never forgot the power that book opened in me.
That’s the real reason I started writing. If something in one of my stories gives one person a glimmer of an answer they seek, I’ll have paid forward what Ayn Rand gave me, all those years ago.
About the Author...
Laura Drake's first novel, The Sweet Spot, was a double-finalist and then won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She's since published 11 more novels. She is a founding member of Women's Fiction Writers Assn, Writers in the Storm blog, as well as a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing the West.
Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways or serious cowboy crush. She gave up a corporate CFO gig to write full time. She realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.