I hate conflict. I hate getting into disagreements with my husband. I don’t like having a spat with a friend. As a parent, I hated the constant conflict resolution that was needed when my two kids didn’t get along.
As a teacher, I sure didn’t enjoy being the one who had to break up the many tiffs between pubescent girls. And as a Grandma? Well, let’s just say that conflict’s not in the grandma cards.
So when I began writing fiction, I knew that conflict is a main ingredient to a good story. To write good, compelling fiction, I had to have compelling conflict that would hold the reader’s attention. But how was I going to address the very thing that tempted me to run? I had to settle that question—and quick!
Although conflict is often present in almost every day of our lives, we may overlook or ignore it. When confronted with conflict, I tend to self-talk, fret, stew, worry, and struggle with sleepless nights. But those ways of dealing with conflict won’t make a good story.
Conflict is uncomfortable, and most conflict just plain hurts. But that’s what keeps readers reading. Like you and me, readers want to know how others deal with conflict, how characters try and fail and try again and finally succeed.
Because it’s hard for me to invent conflict when I want to avoid it, I had to be aware of this weakness. So when doing rewrites and editing, I often have to add an element of conflict or deepen it.
In Sara’s Surprise, there’s a lot of conflict going on—conflict I drew on from personal experience.
Have you ever been harassed by an employer? I have, and it’s pretty traumatizing. In this “Me Too” movement, lots of women are speaking up about their trials and tribulations in the workplace, so I decided to explore the topic.
In Sara’s Surprise, Sara struggles to work as a pastry chef, navigating abuse and harassment by her volatile French boss, as was all-too common in 1873. Women had no recourse and often feared they’d be blamed and dismissed from their jobs, so they kept silent. Back then, women were often devalued and unappreciated, under-paid and treated poorly. And men took advantage of the cultural norms of the day.
As a single mom in the early 1990s, I was treated poorly, too. And I regret that I was afraid to speak up and expose the nasty man who threatened, teased, and tormented me. As a leader in the organization, that should never have occurred, but it did. Thankfully, today’s climate is more open to reporting such abuse.
Sara’s Surprise explores this problem from several angles. But in the midst of Sara’s trials, she falls in love and learns a lot about the art of baking French pastries. And the lovely Christmas surprise will delight you this holiday season. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy the story.
Susan G. Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.