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By Jamie Raintree
There’s a funny thing that happens when you set out to write a book: you start out with a character that is seemingly nothing like you in any way, but the more you write, the more your own thoughts, characteristics, and challenges begin to sneak in, revealing themselves like poisonous flowers. Slow and beautiful, but painful if you look too close.
That’s what happened to me as I wrote Dylan, the main character of my debut novel, Perfectly Undone. I thought I was writing about a doctor who had tragically lost her sister as a teenager, two things I thankfully know little about. What I ended up writing was a story about a woman who had high expectations of herself and had forgotten how to enjoy life, two things I was very familiar with. That’s the thing I love about reading—and eventually writing—women’s fiction novels: these characters are us, and through their journeys, we have the opportunity to grow and to allow a new perspective to seep into our lives.
In Perfectly Undone, the perspective I gained, and I hope to share with other women who are striving, giving, hustling, is joy, pleasure, and breathing. It’s a forgotten skill in our current cultural climate, where what you have to show for your work has become more important than the process of the work itself. The what of what you do has become more important than the how. (And even the why, but that’s a whole other topic.)
As a young writer, the number of things I checked off my list becomes more important than whether I felt fulfilled by doing any of them. And through writing Dylan, I learned that the culture wasn’t going to change—not today. If I wanted to do things differently, experience things differently, it was up to me to bring the joy back to my work and my life.
On the other side of epiphany, lies hard work. In this case, ironically. I had to work harder at working less by working mindfully. I had to—and still do—remind myself constantly that happiness doesn’t lie at the end of my goals and checklists—if I ever manage to find that place—it blooms wherever I plant it. No, scratch that. It blooms wherever I give it the space to grow. It’s already there, lying dormant like the wildflowers in winter. All they’re waiting for to return is time.
And, so, I built time into my schedule. Glorious space where expectations did not live—mine or others. Because, make no mistake, while everyone out there is living at breakneck speed, they anticipate that you will, too. It is a rebellious act to slow down, to threaten the status quo. It makes people question themselves and their own expectations, and that is a good thing, because that is how we begin to change the culture. That is how we begin to bring back joy—not only in our own lives, but into the world as a whole.
That isn’t necessarily what I meant to do when I set out to write a novel. It was a goal. A challenge to overcome. An achievement to check off a list. But, in the process of writing the book and discovering a working rhythm that fed me instead of depleted me, I rediscovered my joy. It squeezed up through the cracks, the way nature—and our genuine human nature—tends to do. And, though this evolution, it has become my dearest hope that Dylan’s story will inspire other women to reclaim their own joy. Now, not later.
JAMIE RAINTREE’s captivating debut novel, Perfectly Undone, published October 3, 2017. She is one of the first authors to be published by Harlequin’s new imprint Graydon House.
Set against the backdrop of a beautiful Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel filled with family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in surprising places. After Dr. Dylan Michels turns down a marriage proposal from Cooper, her longtime boyfriend, she is forced to look inward at her picture-perfect life, and begin a difficult journey of self-discovery.
In Jamie’s everyday life, she is now an avid reader and student of life. She always has her nose buried in non-fiction books, learning more about psychology, sociology, health, productivity, spirituality, and personal growth. She’s also well-versed in school drop-offs, sack-lunch-making, and breaking up arguments about who had the princess wand first. In between times, She tries to sneak in some yoga, long walks with the Rocky Mountains as her backdrop, or—on the best days—she hikes right up into them.
She has been married to her husband for eleven years–a man incredible enough to support her dreams while inspiring the characteristics of her heroes at the same time. Jamie works from home while wrangling her two ever-charming young daughters in Colorado.
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