Friday, January 14, 2011

What is Family?

The Pens are thrilled to welcome Lorraine Heath today! No one is better qualified to write about family -- she's written the book(s) already!

What is Family?

Family. As I write this following the holidays, family is on my mind quite a bit. My older son decided not to travel from Portland to Dallas during the holiday rush. Considering more than 6,000 flights were cancelled due to weather that was a wise decision. My younger son spent the holidays with his girlfriend’s family. So hubby and I had a very quiet Christmas. We went out for a nice dinner and took in a movie.

Someone I know is fond of saying that family is who you spend the holidays with. I prefer to think of it as family is who you *make* a holiday with. My boys will be here in the middle of January and we’ll unwrap gifts then, eat lots of food, and enjoy each other’s company. That it didn’t happen on Christmas day is inconsequential to me. What matters to me is that we find time to be together when we can and when we are together we make the most of it.

My recent series, London's Greatest Lovers, is about family. A widow—the Duchess of Ainsley—with three strong-minded sons, each determined to be known as London’s greatest lover, is what ties these stories together. The duchess has her own story woven through those of her sons. What I liked about these characters was that while they were from the same family, they were all so very different. They had different strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. But at the core of each of them was a dedication to family. So often in romances, the characters are orphans so the writer doesn’t have to deal with parents, but the duchess and her meddling lover were fun to include. Even the duchess had her faults that were delightful to work with.

I’m thinking about the series now because I just wrote the epilogue for the final book and I brought all the family members back together to give the reader one final peek at how they’re all doing. It’s Christmas. It’s family.

The series I wrote before this one—The Scoundrels of St. James—was also about family, even though none of the characters were related by blood. What tied them together was that they all grew up on the streets and they formed an unbreakable bond. They would lie, cheat, steal, kill, and die for each other. Perhaps not the best attributes for family members, but the lengths they would go to for each other were indicative of their love for each other. As one of the characters told another, “I would gladly follow you into hell and not even bother to ask why we were going.”
It’s that sort of devotion that I love. Not all families have it of course. Not all family members are close. Not all family members are related by blood. Not all families have been with us since we were born.

I’m fortunate to have a family of friends. These ladies are the ones that I share the highs and lows of publishing with. I share with them my good news before I share it with anyone else. It helps that they are all writers and they understand the publishing world. Like my scoundrels, we have a common background and that bonds us.

I recently saw a quote: “Friends are the family we choose.” I think that’s so true.

During my life, I’ve never had a great many friends but those I have are so very precious to me.
As I mentioned earlier, I think family are the ones that we *make* holidays with. The holiday doesn’t have to be on the calendar. It can be a celebration. A retreat. A getting together over a glass of wine and knowing that whines may flow as well and that they are safe. Whether it’s the family of blood or the family of friendships, a safe harbor is provided—a place where you can ride out the storm.

And in the end, perhaps that is the true identifier of family: it is always the safe harbor.

Lorraine Heath, the bestselling author of historical romances, relishes the importance of family in all its forms.


Juliet Blackwell said...

Hello Lorraine, and welcome to the Pens! This is a lovely essay on the true meaning of family. I think without that safe harbor, whether through blood kin or chosen family, we are indeed adrift in the storms of life. Oh! Feeling metaphorical this morning ;-)
Thanks so much for visiting!

Martha Flynn said...

Okay I know I was supposed to have a family takeaway from this BUT I AM SO OBSESSED WITH GETTING THIS SERIES INSTEAD - hello!

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the series, Martha! Scoundrels of St James sounds like way too much fun, too ;-)

Gigi Pandian said...

A family of friends is definitely a wonderful second family to have :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Welcome, Lorraine! I've read your books for years and years. We're honored to have you here.

I love your inclusive vision of family, and your comments on the significance of writing books about families, not just lost souls. Although usually those lost souls are in search of family as much as romance, but that's another post. I love novels with multi-generational families interacting, especially over the course of a series. You know I'm going out to get these last two series of yours asap. :)


Rachael Herron said...

The safe harbor. Yes. Where it's safe and easy to be most truly yourself. Lovely post!

Sophie Littlefield said...

Lorraine, thank you for your beautiful post. It comes at a good time for me, as I am off to a funeral for a beloved family member - and I am cheered, supported and encouraged by my family of choice.

Unknown said...

Lovely post. I absolutely live by the "friends are the family we choose" motto and it is a constant theme in my own work. :) Thank you so much for visiting the Pens!