By Lynn Slaughter
I was in my early thirties, racked with guilt over my desire to leave my first husband. In one of our first sessions, the therapist I’d started seeing asked me, “What do you want?”
I was taken aback. When it came to my own life choices, I could not recall anyone ever asking me that. I’d grown up with an autocratic father who was sure he knew what was best for all three of his daughters and had distinctive life scripts laid out for each of us. At twenty-one and just out of college, I married a man my father joked was the son-in law he’d personally picked out for me. Except it wasn’t really that funny, because my young husband and I were not particularly well suited.
But I was a pleaser, and for a long time, I tried hard to please my father, my husband, and even my in-laws until I just couldn’t do it anymore. Of course, the one I ended up letting down was myself, until I finally did the work of figuring out who I was and wanted to be, apart from the prescriptions of others for my life.
Not surprisingly, the challenges of growing up has been a theme running through my work as a novelist. In LEISHA’S SONG, for example, seventeen-year-old Leisha has never really questioned the script her grandfather has laid out for her life. He wants her to use her academic gifts to become a physician. But on scholarship at a prestigious New England boarding school, Leisha falls in love with classical singing and dreams of pursuing music rather than medicine. And when her beloved vocal teacher goes missing, she’s determined to find her, despite her grandfather’s orders to leave the investigation alone.
Then there’s Cody, the sensitive cellist who insists on helping Leisha look for her teacher. Their attraction is undeniable, but Leisha knows her grandfather would never approve. He blames her mother’s demise on a white man she became involved with at the night club where she was singing and has repeatedly warned Leisha to stay away from white boys.
Leisha has always basked in her grandfather’s approval of all of her academic accomplishments. She loves him. He’s the only parent she’s ever had, but now she finds herself at a crossroads. She can no longer be the person her grandfather wants her to be. Asserting herself is hard and painful, but in order to grow and mature, it’s something she must do.
In MISSED CUE, my protagonist, Caitlin O’Connor, is much older than Leisha. She’s a crackerjack homicide detective in her late thirties. But she too has some growing up to do when it comes to her personal life. She invariably gets involved with married men and finally goes into therapy to figure out why. To get healthier, she must do the uncomfortable work of taking a hard look at her childhood and the mixed messages she got from her late police chief father whom she’d idolized.
Growing up can be complicated for women. Many of us are socialized to be pleasers. And whether due to nature, nurture, or some combination thereof, we often are empathetic, and tuned into the needs and feelings of others. We value our relationships and tend to them carefully. Caring for and about others tends to be one of our strengths as women. The danger is not attending to our own needs and feelings.
To be truly grown up and empowered in our own lives, we have to figure out who we are and want to become, what we need and value, and whom we want to love.
None of that is necessarily easy. But it is necessary.
Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, and her husband’s cooking. Music has always made her want to move, and she ended up becoming a professional dancer and dance educator. When injury meant it was time to find a new dream, she earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her previous young adult novels include: ‘Deadly Setup’, which was a Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards silver medalist, a Chanticleer International Awards finalist, and an Imadjinn Award finalist; ‘Leisha’s Song’, an Agatha nominee, Moonbeam bronze medalist, Imadjinn Award winner, and Silver Falchion Award winner; ‘It Should Have Been You’, a Silver Falchion finalist; and ‘While I Danced’, an EPIC finalist. The proud mother of two sons and grandmother of five, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is at work on her next novel and is an active member and former president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She loves hearing from readers and hopes you’ll visit her website, https://lynnslaughter.com.
Lynn Slaughter’s ‘Missed Cue’ (Aug 8, 2023, Melange Books) finds Lieutenant Caitlin O’Connor in a theatrical mess when a prima ballerina fails to awaken during the final act of Romeo and Juliet. With multiple suspects, infidelity, and a twisted plot of romantic entanglements while also dealing with Caitlin’s personal love life, Missed Cue is a fast-paced Agatha Christie-style mystery that twists and turns to the final act.