Rita Potter discusses writing her debut novel, Broken not Shattered.
What I’m about to say might sound silly, but it’s true. I never thought of my writing as being heavy or depressive. One might ask how that could be, since my debut novel is about domestic violence, and my follow-up work is apocalyptic.
My education is in social work, and I am an eternal optimist. I see hope, redemption, and a way to a better life even in the most dire of circumstances. Since I believe wholeheartedly in the resilience of the human spirit, I wrote a book about domestic violence, and never considered it to be anything short of uplifting.
I think back to a time many years ago when I became aware of my differing viewpoint of the world. I saw the musical, Rent, for the first time with three friends. I remember bounding out of the theater feeling heartened and alive, only to notice my friends trudging behind. Their faces were grim, and they looked as if they carried the weight of the world on their shoulders.
I was shocked. How could they not have been inspired? When I asked, they pointed out the play was about drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and even death. After a brief pause my response was, “Yeah but, despite all that they were still singing, dancing, living and loving. What could be a more powerful tribute to living life to the fullest?” To this day, I still feel a warmth in my chest when I hear the refrain, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.”
I find the most interesting people to be those who face the biggest obstacles, and not only manage to survive but thrive. I am especially drawn to those who walk through fire to battle their psychological “demons”. I believe we all have these demons lurking inside us. While some people try to ignore their existence, it is the courageous who stand toe to toe with them and won’t back down.
I don’t allow my characters the luxury of denial or hiding from that which scares them most. During my time in the GCLS Writing Academy, my favorite quote is from Vladmir Nabokov: “The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.” I tend to take it one step further and bring out a flamethrower and a few grenades.
The reader might wonder why I’ve chosen the topic of domestic violence. Like most of my stories, it started with a “what if” question, but this one was more personal.
I wrote a version of the epilogue to Broken not Shattered over twenty years ago, after a conversation with my best friend. In one sitting, she told me the story of her past, something she’d never shared with anyone. It was full of horrific abuse. I can still remember her words when she’d finished. “I feel lighter than I have in years. Maybe ever.”
She may have felt lighter, but I was haunted. The images played in a loop in my head and invaded my dreams. Being a writer, I tend to deal with my emotions through words, so I sat down with a notebook and began writing. I set out to release my feelings, not to capture her story. In fact, I was careful not to put any of the details of her life into Broken not Shattered.
My friend lost her battle with cancer nearly thirteen years ago, but she still lives on in my heart and in my story. In writing this novel, I was cognizant of how I’d felt hearing the gruesome details of her abuse and was careful to spare the reader those same feelings. I relied heavily on fade to black when it came to scenes of violence choosing instead to focus on the emotional aftermath of it.
My subject matter might sound heavy to some readers, but I urge you to give my books a chance. Even though there are moments of darkness and despair, there is much more light and hope. In the end, when my characters arrive at HEA (Happily Ever After), they will have earned it.
Rita Potter has spent most of her life trying to figure out what makes people tick. To that end, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and an MA in Sociology. Her favorite pastime is crawling around inside peoples’ brains. Her loved ones are grateful that she now has characters whose minds she can explore, so maybe she’ll stay out of theirs.
Rita’s writing reflects her belief that in some way we are all damaged and must conquer our demons in order to create a fulfilling life. Being an eternal optimist, she maintains that the human spirit is remarkably resilient and can overcome even the most challenging obstacles. That optimism is the wellspring of her life goal- to provide encouragement and support to help people thrive.
In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors. She is especially drawn to the water, which is ironic since she lives in the middle of a corn field. Her first love has always been reading, which has spurred her writing. She rides a Harley Davidson and has an unnatural obsession with fantasy football. More than anything she detests small talk but can ramble on for hours given a topic that interests her.
She lives in a small town in Illinois with her wife, Terra, and their cat, Chumley, who actually runs the household. Rita is a member of American Mensa and the Golden Crown Literary Society. She is currently a student of the GCLS Writing Academy 2021.