by Joanne Rock
It’s funny that the cover of my new book, Dances Under the Harvest Moon, shows a happy couple twirling in the moonlight. It’s an image I like, of a scene that takes place in the book, but it’s one of those fleeting moments surrounded by lots of angst because that’s the way of romance. Plenty of obstacles to get to our Happily Ever Afters, just like in real life.
But in the case of this story, the dance is all the more of a surprise moment in the story because of the heroine’s battle with a chronic condition she discovers in the course of the story. Heather Finley has a sudden and severe onset of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune illness that differs from the more common osteoarthritis because it’s rooted in the immune system. The arthritis is a symptom of the immune system that attacks joints and, eventually, the body’s organs.
It’s a major setback for my guitar playing heroine with dreams of a music career because her fingers are very much at risk. I know her pain well as I share the disease. And some days, when my fingers are incapacitated, making writing a painful endeavor, the depression of the problem is as painful as the swollen joints.
I’ve wanted to write a heroine with RA for a long time, but didn’t have quite the right story until Dances Under the Harvest Moon. It’s a small facet of the larger tale, actually, but something that resonated for me. And, maybe, it’s something I’ve been wanting to work out through a story. Also, I felt like a book was a way to reach out to readers who suffer chronic illnesses and to touch their lives with some of the hard-won wisdom I’ve gathered over a lot of years.
Because I was diagnosed as a twelve-year-old, I’ve had a long time to think about how to manage life with an autoimmune illness that makes me chronically fatigued and in pain. And to manage the emotional toll that daily pain and fatigue take. As my heroine learns, sometimes dreams need to be tailored to fit your needs. In my case, it turned out to be a great blessing that I wanted to be a writer since a stay-at-home job allows me to take better care of myself. I can nap when I need to, and take days off when I’m just too drained to work.
I also learned how important it is to put a priority on good health. Frequent doctor appointments can be a bother but they keep me on the straight and narrow. I’ve have five surgeries in the last nine years and those have kept me away from the computer for weeks on end, but I am the healthier for it in the long run. The investment in my health will keep me writing stories for many years, and that in turn, makes me happy.
Truly, the biggest battle for me has been to maintain a positive attitude. It’s easy to feel down when dealing with a chronic condition, so I work hard to enjoy the good days. I savor the pain-free hours. I count my blessings. I make plans for the day when my fingers won’t cooperate (hello, dragon-speak!) and try to adapt the things I love to do for a body that doesn’t always cooperate. It helps to be mindful that my obstacles could always be worse. But most of all, I try to dance in the moonlight whenever my feet will let me.
Do you love to dance? Share with me the song most likely to get out on the dance floor—fast or slow—and I’ll give one random poster a copy of my holiday Blaze 2-in-1 with Tawny Weber, Undercover Festivities.
DANCES UNDER THE HARVEST MOON can be purchased in eBook format for/from:
Paperback edition available ONLY from eHarlequin.