Debra Mullins is the author of multiple historical and contemporary paranormal romances. She has been nominated for numerous awards, including the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion (twice), and Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA awards. In 2003 she was the winner of the Golden Leaf Award for Best Historical with her Regency romance, A NECESSARY BRIDE.
Born and raised in the New York/New Jersey area, Debra has been actively writing for over twenty years. Some of her historical back list was recently released as part of the launch of Samhain Publishing’s Retro Romance e-book line, and she continues to write new paranormal and historical romances, available in print and electronic formats. Debra currently lives on the west coast with her family and two eccentric cats, where she still expects it to snow on Christmas and continues her search for Real Pizza. You can find out more about her on her website, Twitter, or Facebook.
Like many writers, aspects of my own life usually make their way into my fiction. I’ve always considered it therapeutic, the way my subconscious processes the world around me. Much of the time I’m unaware of it until after the book is done, usually when I’m explaining the story to someone else. Then I get that “a-ha” moment and realize what I was really writing about.
In my book HEART OF STONE, Darius Montana is an empath descended from Atlantis. He lived most of his life as a healthy man, but then in his mid-twenties, he sustained gunshot wounds to the spine, sending him into a wheelchair. He is still an empath, still powerful in that respect, but he is now a slave to a body that will not always heed his commands. He remembers what it feels like to run, to walk without pain, to not even think twice about being able to climb a couple of steps. But these are things that are beyond him now, and he has had to adjust to a world that, in general, is not designed for those with disabilities.
This truth became evident to me when I was diagnosed with an illness a few years ago, one that sometimes affects my mobility and comes with a list of side effects like bad night vision and lack of balance. I see people ice skating or dancing or even just running, and I realize I can’t do that anymore. When the power company recently had a scheduled, overnight outage to do maintenance, it was an annoyance to all, but a real safety concern to me, who can’t see in the dark. I made due with keeping my cell phone and its flashlight app beside the bed. And just walking through a crowd is always a challenge. I have no balance, so I can’t pivot. I can’t dodge out of the way of the lady plowing right towards me with her eyes on her cell phone. The rest of the world just changes course and goes on their way. I have to plan ahead for many things others take for granted, and sometimes even avoid them.
In my book HEART OF STONE, we find out that Darius had several surgeries on his back, as well as all kinds of physical therapy and also mystical, Atlantean healing rituals that he performs regularly. He swims every day and eats a healthy diet. These things do not cure him, but his condition improves so that he is out of the wheelchair and walking, though it’s with a cane. However, when he overexerts himself, he sometimes has to go back to the wheelchair until he builds his strength up again. Good days and bad days, like many of us with physical challenges.
Darius also struggles with the fact that he is the oldest son and supposed to be a protector for his family. His fiancée left him, not because she was repulsed by his injuries, but because she realized she did not have the internal strength to marry a man with disabilities and live that life every day. It’s not a pretty realization, and as an empath, Darius could feel her conflict. But this left him with doubts about his appeal as man. Could a woman accept a man who is less than physically perfect and be attracted to him in a sexual way?
I’m going to go ahead and say the answer is yes. I’m married to a man who was affected with a genetic form of arthritis in his twenties. We met when we were both in our thirties, before I became ill, but after he had battled his arthritis for some years. This was my first experience with someone who has a disability. Someone who can’t necessarily hop out of bed first thing in the morning and hit the ground running. No, he has to sit up and evaluate what hurts and how much and what doesn’t hurt and what limitations he might have that day and how to manage them. And thank God I did meet him, that he already went through the stages of grief and acceptance you need to traverse in order to live life with a disability, because he was a rock for me when I had to go through it myself.
HEART OF STONE shows you two sides of my own realizations about disabilities—through Darius’s eyes as someone who was always physically capable and suddenly isn’t, and through Faith’s eyes as someone who is not disabled but begins to realize the life hurdles of someone who is. Darius’s physical limitations do not stop him from doing what needs to be done, even if he has to pay for it later. But I think the secret to living a full, satisfying life—with or without physical challenges—is weighing the price of what you want and deciding if you are willing to pay it.