Posted in Life, Mental health, Other stories, Writing

Pumpkin Spice Latte, With Love

In the spirit of fairness and equal treatment of characters, and also because this is the blog of a writer, I feel like I should mention that I have written another book.

By accident.

I was having a case of severe editing blues combined with a global pandemic and while I tried several stay at home hobbies, including fiddling, baking and gaming, it has to be said, my talents in all these areas are sufficient for casual amusement but they will never throw high eyes.

Also, the American recipe for cinnamon rolls is a work of madness. Pure madness. I gain weight every time I think back to it.

They were good though. They even looked the part.

I still think I write them better than I bake them.

‘Pumpkin Spice Latte, with love’ was a fall writing project. The start-up idea was both brilliant and lazy. Readers of Mesmer, my Historical Fantasy (which, these days, disguises as drama on Tapas, don’t ask why). Or do ask. I have a contact form, you are allowed to question me.

Anyway. Let’s try that again. Readers of Mesmer shipped two of my characters who were in the deep canon reality of my head, just friends. Because I like friendships, and there was a lack of sexuality match, which I tend to take serious.

But because I play with my characters like puppets in a doll house, I had already invented a contemporary version of them, and then I thought, let’s give those poor readers in lockdown and myself some SUGAR.

I built in a safety net, by changing the setting, the background, the details enough so that the story would work as a standalone for people who have never read Mesmer. Had I known I would pen down 96k words for this ‘short’ story, I would have consulted a security manager for the entire operation. Because as it stands, people will see the link between both realms. That might be charming, or stupid.

Let’s go with charming.

Pumpkin Spice Late, with love is a roommate romance set in 2020. Behold my writer genius: you can’t be separated by lockdown when you live together.

Another safety measurement and I have needed it beyond my wildest fears. Alex and Ben live in Belgium, for the sole reason that writing about the pandemic from any location other than my own would have been too hard for me. Mentally. And this is not a joke. I made them students for the same reason. A bit of distance between me and them. Groaning about Covid-19 not cooperating with my plot has brought both that, and a window beyond my own situation.

The challenge was to write some cosy and some wholesome into a traumatizing year. I watched my kid’s lives change from one day to another. Lost the family that was their village, because when all is said and done, there is only so much attention a 4 year old can give a granny waving on a telephone screen. Home school, Work from home, COVID-19 emergency plan 5000 in my job in social welfare. We are far from done.

We are also far from worst off, and the only way is forward.

I’m proud of the jar of biscuits that this story became. I’m proud of the romance, because I think it’s the most wholesome relationship I have ever written. I also got a lot of practice working with just one POV. Ben is a joy to write. He’s based on a side character from Mesmer that resembles my spouse a lot. So I got go wild on that still available comparison. I tend to draw inspiration from people around me all the time, and that’s become problematic. I barely remember parties at this point.

2020 was an attack on our collective mental health (apart from being devastating for all the lives lost). I showed Alex struggling with both the changes in his life, his past and the pandemic. And that is something not even the best relationship can fix.

Pet peeve of mine. No relationship is strong enough to replace them all. Kind of relevant too, in a world of lock-downs.

So that’s what, in the end, ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte, with love’ became all about.

A deep dive into the mental health problems I suffered as a late teen to half my twenties. Give or take. My mind is not always in a good place. The world is not a good place. But I guess I’ve learned how to nurse my thoughts back to safety when they spiral. And that has been a great help this past year. I still don’t feel I can help others much when they struggle, which is very frustrating.

Relationships can endure (and they suffer, oh they do, when your mind comes crashing down). Therapy can help. Therapists can suck. Medication can bring relief, and that doesn’t have to be life-long commitment. You won’t bounce back, but you can move forward. Step by step

Rénée Goscinny once wrote about his starving years as an artist freshly moved to New York: In hindsight you say, this life experience strengthened me, made me who I am. But I would have rather seen others strengthen themselves in my stead.

And I relate. You lose happy time, and you never get it back. You lose time to shine, and when a human’s spotlight dies, it isn’t replaced. I still prefer to see life as a journey. Who knows where the roads would have led me without crashing. I would not be here, in this moment.

I like it here. I was one hell of a happy human when Covid-19 struck. I still feel better than I did back then. (And that testifies more to where I have been than to where I am today).  I don’t know where the future will lead, but I’ve preserved my past journey in Alex’s story.

So that’s been done. And I’m ready to move forward again, to the next story that enchants my heart.

(except for that damn epilogue, that I can’t write because who knows when my Belgian characters will be able to have their family reunion. Let’s keep faith that they will, just like me. Story-wise May or June would fit me best. But, hey, don’t hold back on that vaccine program on my behalf. I’ll adapt my schedule, for once.)