“The grittiest, most uncompromising story I’ve ever read about a mother and daughter. You’ve got to meet Ashley Asher, a teen heroine for our tough times.”—Robert Lipsyte, author of The Contender and recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, American Library Association
Read this interview excerpt for Beth’s insights into the creation of COURAGE IN PATIENCE and the process of recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse:
Question: You went through six years of intensive therapy to help you recover from being abused as a child. A lot of people, young adults and adults alike, find starting therapy a very frightening and uncomfortable experience. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about starting therapy for the first time?
Answer: The six years of therapy I went through were with a clinical psychologist whom I clicked with at the same time that circumstances in my life came together in a way that I had a strong support system in my husband and then-teenage daughters.
I had been in and out of therapy many times since my early twenties, but I never had the support system in place to withstand what I had to do in order to get well: face the truth about my stepfather sexually abusing me and my mother not protecting me. This involved breaking with my family of origin completely—basically, when I insisted on no more playing “Let’s Pretend,” it was made clear to me in a variety of ways that I had done something so wrong (in their eyes) that they wanted nothing to do with me anymore. It was very, very difficult because my mother was an amazing grandmother to my kids, and they lost her in the process.
Recovery from childhood sexual abuse is very, very difficult. My therapist compared it to a barefoot walk from Texas to Alaska and back, with all the weather along the way. I would agree with that assessment; in fact, I used that comparison in my Patience books, Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience. I strongly believe that people who have been sexually abused and are seeking to heal from it and reclaim their lives need the guidance of an experienced mental health professional. If the first therapist (or second, or third) does not seem to be helping, keep going until you find one you click with. Don’t give up, because you are worth the fight to reclaim your life.
Outside of the therapist’s office, you need a strong support system of people who are aware of what you are going through, who will be safe for you to be vulnerable, and will give you emotional shelter when you need it.
And—be prepared to be completely honest with yourself and others in your life. It’s the only way to heal and find out how strong you are.
This week only: 9/19 through 9/23, the COURAGE IN PATIENCE e-book is FREE on Amazon!
Read the book that author Beth Fehlbaum originally wrote as “a therapeutic assignment.” Check out this interview:
How has being a Texan influenced your writing?
Texas—especially rural towns—has a huge influence on my writing. In The Patience Trilogy, Ashley Asher is transplanted from an affluent Dallas suburb to tiny Patience, Texas, and a country town of about 2,000 people.
This mirrors my experience of 2003, when my family moved from a Dallas suburb to a small country town on the edge of East Texas. The pace is slower, the people are often more open and approachable, and, of course, these elements reveal charming eccentricities that make for great storytelling.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Edgy YA fiction chose me. I initially wrote the first draft of Courage in Patience as a therapeutic assignment. I was in recovery for trauma from childhood sexual abuse and learning to manage having Post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the experiences I had from the age of 8.
I was writing poems and short stories as a way of processing my grief and rage, and the only person I showed them to was my psychologist. He suggested that I try writing a novel. It took about four months of stopping/starting and always sending up stuck in asking, “Why?. . .Why did this happen to me?. . .Why did my mother ignore my outcry at age 14?. . .”
Finally, I gave myself permission to imagine the recovery process as someone else’s. That’s when the story began.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The main character, Ashley, experiences a horrific attack at the hands of her stepfather. Throughout the series, she has been unable to remember exactly what happened, because she blacked out. In the last book, Truth in Patience, she is triggered by something and remembers the incident in a visceral way. That was difficult for me to write, but I will say this: the growth and healing I experienced between writing Book 1, Courage in Patience, through Book 2, Hope in Patience, then in Book 3, Truth in Patience, enabled me to be able to address Ashley’s remembering in a way that I could handle it with grace and in a gentle way with myself.
I wrote The Patience Trilogy over the period of six years that it took me to go from a frozen-by-trauma eight year old in my mind to becoming an adult in the way I cope with the world.
What literary character is most like you?
Ashley Asher is basically me as a traumatized child/teen, and her stepmother, Beverly, is me as my adult “teacher self.”
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Chris Crutcher’s commitment to authenticity and truth telling are the reason I am the sort of writer I am. I happened to find his novel, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, on my gone-away-to-college daughter’s bookshelf, and I read it from cover-to-cover in a matter of hours. That book changed my life, because after reading it, I knew there are stories inside of me that might help others.
I love Sherman Alexie for his honesty and no-holds-barred expressions of emotion, and Jennifer Brown’s ability to pull me into story is so keen that I find it difficult to adequately describe it.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I worked so hard to overcome the first 38 years of my life in a highly dysfunctional family and claim my life as my own. Therefore, when I die, I want to leave a legacy of mentally healthy family members who have boundaries in place and are aware of their self-worth.
Ashley Nicole Asher’s life changes forever on the night her mother, Cheryl, meets Charlie Baker. Within a year of her mother’s marriage to Charlie, typical eight-year-old Ashley’s life becomes a nightmare of sexual abuse and emotional neglect. Bundling her body in blankets and sleeping in her closet to try to avoid Charlie’s nighttime assaults, she is driven by rage at age 14 to tell her mother, in spite of the threats Charlie has used to keep Ashley silent. Believing that telling will make Charlie go away, instead it reveals to Ashley where she lies on her mother’s list of priorities.
“We’re just going to move on now,” Cheryl tells Ashley. “Go to your room.”
Ashley’s psyche splinters into shards of glass, and she desperately tries to figure a way out, while at the same time battling numbness and an inability to remember what happened when she blacked out after Charlie tackled her. She knew that when she awoke her clothes were disheveled and the lower half of her body was covered in bright red blood– but she has only a blank spot in the “video” of her memory.
When Ashley’s friend, Lisa, sees a note from Cheryl telling Ashley that Charlie would never “do those things to her,” and insisting that she apologize for accusing him of molesting her, Lisa forces dazed Ashley to make an outcry to her teacher, Mrs. Chapman.
By the end of the day, Ashley’s father, David, who has not seen Ashley since she was three months old, is standing in the offices of Child and Family Services. He brings her home to the small East Texas town of Patience, where he lives with his wife, Beverly, their son, Ben, and works with his brother, Frank.
Through the summer school English class/ Quest for Truth taught by Beverly, an “outside-the-box” high school English teacher whose passion for teaching comes second only to her insistence upon authenticity, Ashley comes to know people who are confronted with challenges they must face head-on. The choices they make will not be easy—but they will be life altering. Will Ashley have the inner-fortitude to survive the journey to recovery and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Will Ashley find her voice, speak up for herself, and break the bondage of her abusive past?
Courage to endure.
Courage to survive.
Courage to overcome.
Tenacious 14-year-old Ashley Asher claws her way back to normalcy after enduring six years of an unimaginable Hell. Uprooted from her negligent and selfish mother, Ashley finds solace in the safety of her father’s home. Building a relationship with her stepmother, she’s finally able to open up and confront the past that haunts her.
With the help of her stepmom, therapist, and a group of troubled adolescents, Ashley battles her demons, struggling to find the normal teenage life she’s always wanted. Can Ashley find the strength and courage to overcome the horrors of her past while fighting for the future she so deserves?
Courage in Patience ebook is just .99, and it includes an excerpt of Hope in Patience!
The Hope in Patience ebook is just $1.99, and–guess what– yes, it includes an excerpt of Truth in Patience, which you can grab up for $3.99!
Click here to purchase on Amazon
I’m so excited to share some fabulous news with you: first, there are some great new reviews posted of THE PATIENCE TRILOGY. Please stop by YA Books Central to have a look–and please don’t be confused by the former edition covers on Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience: the reviews are for their current editions: YA Books Central
As if shiny reviews weren’t enough, I am here to announce that THE PATIENCE TRILOGY ebooks are now available EXCLUSIVELY on Amazon for a GREAT price! Courage in Patience e-book is .99; Hope in Patience e-book is 1.99, and Truth in Patience e-book is 3.99. The thing I’m MOST happy about with this development is that Courage in Patience has an excerpt of Hope in Patience now and Hope in Patience has an excerpt of Truth in Patience!
AND, keep watching because beginning Monday of next week, I’ll have more exciting news to share with you!
How Writing Another Person’s Journey to Recovery
Helped Me Turn Toward the Sun
It’s been six years since I completed writing the first draft of the last book in The Patience Trilogy, a series about fifteen year old Ashley, who has been removed from her mother and stepfather’s home because her stepfather has been sexually abusing the girl since she was nine.
Over the course of the previous six years, 2004-2010, I was in therapy, working on recovering from the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my stepfather. Writing The Patience Trilogy—looking at the experience of recovery as an observer and not solely as a person mostly crippled by pain the first couple of years—was incredibly healing. I wrote all three books: Courage, Hope, and Truth, through the course of getting well.
I had to learn to manage the myriad of disorders I have as a result of what I endured at my stepfather’s hands, and the deliberate indifference practiced by my mother. To this day, she refuses to know the depth of what happened to me. And because she refuses to know it, we do not have a relationship. I will not accept “crumbs” from anyone or be treated as if my life does not matter. The first 38 years of my life were spent doing that. No more.
I was suicidal the first year or so of therapy. I thought the grief would destroy me. I suffered through PTSD flashbacks so severe that I ended up in the emergency room, my body wracked with spasms when I remembered incidents my mind had blocked until I could handle them.
Over many, many hard-won months, then years, of healing, the fog of pain lifted as my therapist reparented me. My husband, daughters, and I grew even stronger in our love for one another. We were made whole by living in the Light of Truth, even when getting to “whole” was an excruciating journey for all of us.
My husband and therapist’s tough determination and love, coupled with the fierce love I have for my children that kept me tethered to Earth, are why I survived the journey to recovery.
I know that I’m one of the lucky ones.
On August 10, 2010—the day of my last therapy session, I knew without a doubt that I had emerged from a six-year “gestation” period to become the person I am today.
I am so very, very unlike the terrified woman-child who entered therapy on November 4, 2004, and I am surely unrecognizable as the broken soul in early 2005 who had to white-knuckle it past every bridge column I approached in my car, because I knew I would slam my car full-speed into it if I did not picture my children in my mind constantly.
At some point over the course of a journey my therapist compared to a barefoot journey from Texas to Alaska and back, I no longer cared why my mother refuses to recognize the depth of damage that occurred on her watch. I was, and am, so surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and accept me as I am, that I no longer need the answer to the question of “Why did this happen to me?”
Because there is no answer that could ever justify it. There is never justification for a child to be sexually abused.
Although my publishing career hit a bit of a bump when my first two publishers went out of business, and Truth in Patience is only being released now (April 19, 2016, actually), I was given the gift of the unique opportunity to rewrite all three books from the perspective of who I am now: a pretty-much-healed person.
I think I needed to be as healed as I am before the last book in the Trilogy, Truth in Patience, could see the light of day. The main character, Ashley, comes so far from where she was in the first book, Courage in Patience, and she continues to grow stronger through Book 2, Hope in Patience. But in Truth in Patience, she is like a flower opening to the sun.
And I know exactly how that feels.
The Patience Trilogy: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the story of a fifteen-year-old girl’s rocky path to recovery from a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. I was inspired to write them by the therapist I worked with for six years as I fought to recover from a traumatic childhood with the same experiences.
I had been writing short stories and poems and sharing them with my doctor, and one day he suggested that I try writing a novel. I was struggling mightily to pull myself out of my grief, rage, and sense of disbelief at the fact that my mother turned her back on me–and it took about four months of stopping and starting, always ending up in the same place: asking “Why did this happen to me?!” and of course finding no answer.
I imagined what it would have been like if I had made an outcry when I was a teenager instead of keeping the secret for years until I broke, unable to manage my life any longer. (A better way to put it is this: I was batsh*t crazy, honey.)
Then I imagined a girl, Ashley, who had never known her biological father, and I created a situation in which the girl is removed from her abusive home and placed with this man. The only impression Ashley has of him is the horror stories she’s heard from her mother about his violent temper and alcoholism.
Ashley was unaware that her father, David, stopped drinking the day Ashley’s mother left him when Ashley was three months old, and that he carried great shame within himself for abdicating his duty as her father. When he finds out that his ex-wife’s husband is sexually abusing his daughter, he steps up and meets Ashley then brings her home to Patience, Texas.
That’s when Ashley’s path to recovery begins.
People are often surprised when they read The Patience Trilogy and find a lot of humor in the pages. I know, I know: how could I even think of anything funny related to Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)?
There is nothing funny about CSA, to be sure, but humans are funny creatures, and I populated fictional Patience, Texas with eccentric characters for comic relief.
There’s Billy Ray Sublett, Ashley’s classmate Dub’s stepfather, who has a racing lawnmower named “Bubba’s Dream.”
Kevin Cooper, another of Ashley’s classmates, is a mountain of a boy with a baby face, thinning blonde hair, a heart of gold (especially when it comes to his girlfriend, Roxanne Blake), but not a whole lot going on upstairs. That’s why Roxanne’s ready to kill him in Truth in Patience, when he whips out his wallet and shows everyone the condom he carries “just in case” when dating and relationships are the topic in Human Ecology class.
- C. Williamson, newly moved to Patience in Hope in Patience, has a mom who recently acquired a Bejeweler machine, which she uses, to K.C.’s horror, to create a sequined diaper on K.C.’s classic Nirvana t-shirt depicting the Nevermind album cover that features a nude baby boy in a swimming pool. Mrs. Williamson thinks the rainbow symbols K.C. collects are related to her loving her My Little Pony doll when she was little. But then, again, she also thinks that if she subs at the high school enough and keeps an eye on her daughter, K.C. won’t “keep” being gay.
Marvella Brown, the Patience High School secretary, can’t stand Mr. Walden, the principal, so whenever he does something especially repugnant or boneheaded, Marvella calls her friend, a newspaper reporter, and gets the story splashed on the front page.
Ashley’s best friend, Zaquoiah “Z.Z.” Freeman, is five-and-a-half feet of solid rock. Her beaded braids sound like rattlers when she’s especially put out with Pam Littlejohn, who acts as if she’s the only girl on their track team able to win. Pam will be lucky if Z.Z. doesn’t knock her upside the head, unless someone else does it first.
Ashley’s stepbrother, Ben, wears Christmas boxers all year round, and he and his cousin, Steven, conspire with Steven’s dad, Frank, to blow a toilet skyward with Fourth of July fireworks.
Finally, Ashley may be a mess, and she may have a long way to go, but she’s equipped with a dry sense of humor and perseverance that won’t quit. She’s not a sad sack, and the people in her life wouldn’t allow her to be one if she was so inclined. Ashley’s got a sharp sense of humor about her mental problems, for example, she wonders, when completing a school assignment about self-identity, if she can just list her disorders instead of personality traits that make her who she is. (Those of you with disorders are hearing a rim-shot (ba-dum-bum!) just about now. Hopefully.)
These are just some of the characters inhabiting Patience, Texas. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do, and find yourself laughing out loud at them the way I did when I wrote their stories.
Hope you didn’t have too much trouble finding me here. This is what happens when I get too busy & forget to renew my domain on bethfehlbaumbooks.com: somebody snaked it out from under me and everything is g-o-n-e.
So, welcome to bethfehlbaumbooks.INFO…see what I did there? Mm-hmm.
Have a look around; under “My Books,” you’ll find excerpts of Big Fat Disaster & The Patience Trilogy: Courage, Hope, & Truth.
So check it out! I’ve spent a ton of time and uttered a lot of profanity while building this site, so I hope you like what you find!