Writing a character with OCD
First of all, thanks for having me! As the release date for Coveted closes in, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about how I initially wrote the book. Coveted is the story of Natalya Stravinsky, a werewolf with interesting hoarding tendencies. All of her hoarding stems from the fact that she has an obsessive compulsive disorder.
At first, the idea of writing a character with OCD seemed a difficult challenge. How do I get into the head of someone who obsesses about certain things? I’d done my academic research on OCD and learned about the symptoms, the medications, and more. But living in the head of a hoarder is another thing entirely. I’m also a fan of the show Hoarders on A & E. It shows the lives of hoarders and the difficulties they face to control their compulsions and try to live normal lives. I wanted Natalya to be three-dimensional and be more than just a werewolf. She was a woman with real-life problems that millions of people faced. She could hoard cute holiday trinkets and all, but there had to be consequences for her actions, and she needed a valid reason to do what she does.
After a lot of thought and research, I found it was easy for me to slide into Natalya’s head. Natalya is a clean freak and obsesses over things which most people let go. To understand how she sees the world, I basically gave into my own pet peeves. What things drove me nuts at home or outside of it? They start out small, but then they are easy to amplify. Have you ever been irked about the things left on the kitchen counter by family members? What about dirty clothes they didn’t put away? How about the bathroom? (Don’t even get me started. I have sons and they leave behind stuff to clean up. That’s all I’m saying.) If I was concerned about germs, I’d dwell on keeping things the way I want them to be. That’s how Natalya is and that’s how I came to understand her. To see the world through her eyes, I had to take what bothered me and amp it up to the nth degree. And it actually wasn’t that hard. Take this scene for example. Natalya has a guest in her home. (Can you see the problems coming already?)
Several hours later, my work day ended. I arrived home and breathed a sigh of relief as I entered the foyer: my house was just as I had left it. That was until I entered my kitchen to find Julia Child baking her heart out in my once-clean kitchen.This excerpt is definitely a great example of how Nat sees the things that some people brush off. Most folks would brush it off and enjoy a piece of cake. Natalya likes things clean and in their place. After coming home to a baking spree she definitely didn’t find that.
“Hey, Nat! You like my cakes? I baked two of them for the dinner tonight.”
I gaped as my blood boiled in my veins. Remain calm. Don’t look at the flour all over the floor. But then the spilled pineapple on the counters drew my attention. Ignore that, too. I tried to close my eyes against the evidence, but I couldn’t: the soiled spoons, filthy bowls, and broken eggs left in the carton.
Her eyes widened when she saw my face. “Don’t worry about the mess. I’ll clean it up before we leave.” Aggie showed off her masterpieces, which she’d placed in my plastic cake containers. Most likely a moist pineapple upside-down cake from the smell. I tried to convert the straight line of my lips into a smile, I really did.
“If you had a gun right now, you’d shoot me.” She tried to laugh, but it came out as a croak.
“Clean. Now.” I whispered the words, but even though I’d tried to speak gently, my friend scrambled to pick up the mess.
So, do you have any pet peeves that you can't shake? That you refuse to shake?
Mine is one that I really need to let go. I hate to wait for people in my household to do things. Especially the house is a mess and I can clean it faster and get it done right then and there. I want the dishes done. I want the floor cleaned. I want the counters wiped off. But I have children and I need to let them do chores as well. I just gotta let it go and not be super mom. Gee, Natalya and I aren’t alike at all. :P
Ballantine Books, April 24, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
SOMETIMES WHAT YOU COVET IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP.
For werewolf Natalya Stravinsky, the supernatural is nothing extraordinary. What does seem strange is that she’s stuck in her hometown of South Toms River, New Jersey, the outcast of her pack, selling antiques to finicky magical creatures. Restless and recovering from her split with gorgeous ex-boyfriend, Thorn, Nat finds comfort in an unusual place: her obsessively collected stash of holiday trinkets. But complications pile up faster than her ornaments when Thorn returns home—and the two discover that the spark between them remains intense.
Before Nat can sort out their relationship, she must face a more immediate and dangerous problem. Her pack is under attack from the savage Long Island werewolves—and Nat is their first target in a turf war. Toss in a handsome wizard vying for her affection, a therapy group for the anxious and enchanted, and the South Toms River pack leader ready to throw her to the wolves, and it’s enough to give anybody a panic attack. With the stakes as high as the full moon, Nat must summon all of her strength to save her pack and, ultimately, herself.
Why paranormal? Well, every time she thinks about writing something straight forward she gets caught in the what-if exercise. What if her hero was a werewolf or if her heroine was a nymph? How far could she go down the rabbit hole and not sound crazy? (Yet still be somewhat believable?)
Writing is one of her first loves, besides web development. She is a die hard geek who earned her undergraduate degree in Math from Iowa State University. (She even almost finished a degree in Russian Studies.)
As far as memberships, she’s a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), in particular the Missouri RWA and Young Adult RWA.
She currently lives in Missouri with her husband and children (the Den of Evil).