Sunday, May 1, 2016

Round and Round the Maypole-the Perpetual Problem of Keeping Secrets by Rolynn Anderson

Happy May Day, my friends.  Today, the basket I have for you isn't full of treats, it's full of secrets.

Recently my visit on a friend’s blog invited me to explain five secrets about me that few people know.  Our novels’ heroes and heroines wouldn’t find the assignment an easy one, because it’s their secrets (often unbeknownst to them) that tend to get them into trouble.  My hero in my new novel, CEZANNE’S GHOST was accidentally responsible for a man losing his eyesight.  Ever since the incident, he’s isolated himself from conflict, in specific, and people, in general.

We all have secrets, some of them not even clear to us because they are buried deeply and come in flashes of confusing images.  Never one to let such sleeping dogs lie (in the same way we authors force our characters to ‘man up’) I plotted with my sister to answer a series of questions about our upbringing. 

The questions are bold and probing, so if you’re in the habit of putting your characters through more angst than you are willing to take, this legacy survey might not interest you.  Seriously, this is heavy stuff.  Here’s a sample of the easy questions-it’s a long, involved study! (I’ve tried to find the origin of this survey, but can’t.  Sorry):
1. The best qualities of my mother were:
2. The best qualities of my father were:
3. The worst qualities of my mother were:
4. The worst qualities of my father were:
5. What I loved most about my mother:
6. What I loved most about my father:    
7. My mother showed her love for me by:
8. My father showed his love for me by:
9. When I was afraid, my mother/father would:
10. When my family celebrated an event (Christmas, an achievement, etc.), we would:
11. I often felt most secure when my mother/father would:
12. My favorite memories of me and my family were:

My hypothesis going into the project was my sister’s answers would be 180 degrees different from mine.  She is my older sister by one year, but I turned out to be the rebel while she remained the stolid home-loving sort.  She’s mother of the year; great cook; lover of hearth and home.  Three wonderful kids.

Me?  No kids, by choice.  Edgy teacher, out-of-the-box high school principal.  Now heavy into writing, I have a third full-blown career while my sister relishes her grandmother role.

Back to the questions and answers.  My sister and I shared afterward.  No prior discussion or consultation.  The similarities?  Striking! Her views and the secrets she held over all these years, matched mine.

We’re convinced the experience brought us closer, but I don’t assume that would be true in every family.  Our three brothers have been invited to answer the questions, but none of them have taken on the challenge.

My conclusion: All families have secrets, flaws and foibles.  It feels freeing to look at them, regard them as shared experiences and move past them, trying not to pass on the quirky, unproductive behavior to our children.  No family is perfect, but sharing the strengths as well as the faults of a family helped my sister and I move on and improve.  We wish we’d taken the survey sooner, however, and hope the nieces, nephews and grandkids take our advice to analyze their upbringings so they are better prepared to be parents if they choose that route.

At the very least, the questions might help you get to the crux of the issues your hero/heroine have about their mothers and fathers as well as the problems they have with choosing mates and parenting.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the whole survey (author unknown) e-mail me at

Meanwhile, I’m hoping FEAR LAND is on a course to get judged by InD’Tale.  You can help bring my story to their attention by voting for my book….May 1, today, is the Last Day to Vote!  Subscribe and log in to  Scroll to the Suspense category and vote for FEAR LAND! 

THANKS!  Rolynn


Leah St. James said...

What a fascinating (and terrifying) idea, Rolynn. I'm not sure I'm brave enough to do it! Interesting how your answers came out so close to your sister's, and how your brothers have declined to participate. I could see my men declining as well! Thanks for letting us know about this.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Interesting questions, Rolynn. One's I had difficulty reading since my mother was both mentally and physically abusive. I can certainly see how they play into a character's psyche since family history has certainly played into mine.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Very interesting. I mentally half-answered while reading. A couple of the questions stumped me. I'd have to dig deep.

Jannine Gallant said...

Interesting. Even more so would be imagining what my girls would say about me!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff, Rolynn. I have one brother, 7 years older than I, and worlds apart in outlook despite the fact we're reasonably close and see each other several times throughout the year. I doubt our answers would be in sync, though!

Alison Henderson said...

Your post was very timely for me, Rolynn, beacause my mother and younger sister visited last month. One night, after a few glasses of wine, my sister made a very emotional reference to a traumatizing event that must have occurred when I was away at college. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she had clearly been dragging that baggage around for at least forty years. She and my mother seemed to make peace over it (finally), so I was glad for her. I'm still in the dark, but it's her secret to share if, and when she's ready.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Leah, terrifying is right. We have a tendency to avoid such stuff, thinking that dredging will hurt rather than hinder, but...

Vonnie, I hear you. You're the heroine in your story, moving past that abuse. Yay!

Brenda, one of the things that bothered me when I took the survey was I couldn't remember details. I'm an Army brat, so some of my younger years are a confusion of places/images.

Alison's comment is right on. At least my sister and I could see be sure we weren't nuts...and carrying around some of that baggage isn't good for the soul!

Andi, I have two brothers 10 or so years younger...sometimes it seems as if they grew up in a completely different family!

Janinne, I don't have kids, but my sister gave the study to her three kids. It's interesting why we are reluctant to examine our if by doing so we might ruin something sacred? I don't know.

Margo Hoornstra said...

That is interesting. I'm with Jannine. What in the world would my kids have to say? Thanks for the enlightenment.

Diane Burton said...

Good survey, Rolynn. Not sure I want to dig down that deep. Some things are best left alone. Now, I have no trouble doing this with my characters! In fact, I'm going to do it with a WIP that's giving me fits.

Alicia Dean said...

Wow, what an interesting survey. I have five siblings, so it would be really interesting to see what we came up with. :)