Being an a$$hole is an addiction. The key to overcoming it is admitting you have a problem. In the case of Doug Winston, this requires a review of his entire life and all of his choices which brought him to where he is now.
As IF YOU DARE opens, Doug has had seven months to try to figure out where he went wrong. In the final chapters of IF YOU KNEW, (Book One of the Red Bud, Iowa Series set to release Spring 2019) where we first meet Doug, he has engineered a smear campaign against former adult film actress Devonny Campbell (IF YOU KNEW’s heroine) in order to further his own agenda to win a mayoral campaign. His entire plan blows up in his face. Everyone in town turns against him, including his lover and love of his life, Emmaline Sanchez. He becomes mayor only by default, not because of his popularity among the Red Bud citizenry. His wife has left him. His teenage son barely speaks to him. Doug essentially has lost everything he ever cared about and he desperately needs to figure out why and change so he can win Emmaline back.
Emmaline is the one who pointed out to Doug that he’s turned into his father. A fact he immediately denied. But as part of his self-examination, he begins to see that she was right, and what she said was true.
Doug’s father Kane (who becomes the villain in IF YOU DARE) is a self-serving a$$hole who has manipulated Doug his entire life. But, of course, as a child, Doug never realized this. He loved his father and wanted to earn his father’s love, respect and approval. Don’t all children want that? Many of us are well into adulthood before we realize it will never happen for us. That no matter what we do, our parents are going to withhold what we want most.
Doug (who’s 40ish) finally begins to understand how his father’s influence has affected him. How it forced him to break Emmaline’s heart the first time and marry someone he didn’t love. Which in turn led to Doug’s anger and frustration and rage, which he took out on everyone, including his son, Miles. And what did Miles want? You guessed it. His father’s love, approval and respect. And when he thinks he’s figured out how to get it, his plan backfires.
Doug’s life is a mess,
but he’s determined that Emmaline will give him a third chance if he can convince her he’s changed. He’s been trying to do just that for the last seven months and now, when she’s just given birth to their child, he knows the time is right. He arrives at the hospital to beg her to forgive him, only to learn that Emmaline has died.
And shit just keeps raining down on Doug’s head.
He’s got custody of his newborn daughter which he’s ill-equipped to handle. His son wants nothing to do with him. Emmaline’s sister shows up at his door and blames him for her death. The daughter Doug never knew about because Emmaline gave her up for adoption without telling him arrives, bringing her own anger and abandonment issues. And just when Doug thinks he might be able to create harmony out of chaos, he discovers his father is not only a major a$$hole, he’s a criminal as well. After all the many wrong choices Doug has made, he’s now going to have to make the right one, and bring the father he revered for most of his life to justice. Because if he doesn’t, the family he’s created will never be safe.
I didn’t want to write this book. When my editor suggested giving Doug his own story, my initial response was, “But I don’t like Doug. He’s an a$$hole.” No, what I actually said, via email was, “I hadn’t thought of doing a book w/Doug as the hero. Mostly cuz I don’t like him very much.” Which my editor said was a good thing. Wouldn’t it be great if I could challenge myself and turn him into a hero? Redeem him?
Then it was all I could think about, of course, because
a good editor is like your mother. Almost always right.
So if you’re an a$$hole, or an addict, or both, you, like Doug, won’t change until you hit rock bottom. Until you look around and see that you’re the one who’s responsible for the choices that got you there. When you realize you’ve got nowhere to go but up. Until you decide you don’t like the life you’ve created and that you want, and maybe even deserve, something better. That’s when you decide to change. To try something different. To figure out who you are, and what you want, and how you can get it.
That’s the challenge of redeeming an (fictional) a$$hole. It’s also lot of fun.