When the ideas started forming for Husband in Hiding, I knew I wanted a detective’s husband meddling into her case and being sent into Witness Protection. I didn’t have any plans about her character initially, other than her—like any wife facing that—being frustrated by his cunning and unafraid to show it!
Before I wrote it, I composed a love story, which partially makes up my upcoming novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You. After I finished the first draft, I wasn’t satisfied with it. Once I read it, I realized it didn’t feature anything unique and came off as mundane. I put a lot of emotion into it, but there was little that truly identified it as a Karina Bartow original. Anyone could’ve authored it.
I did some soul searching and realized, at that point in my writing journey, I needed to draw off something that, though I don’t like it, shapes who I am—my disability. I never wanted to be defined by my disability, but I would be lying if I claimed that it doesn’t play a big role in much of my personality. It’s molded the qualities that attract me to a person, my determination to surpass others’ expectations, and regrettably, a lot of my pet peeves and insecurities.
That’s when I decided to make Minka deaf. Through her, I could convey what it’s like to pursue a life many don’t think someone with a handicap can have. Like me, she doesn’t allow her limitations to dictate her goals, but at the same time, she can’t ignore them completely. Her past experiences have formed her qualities and view of the world.
In my first draft, I featured that, but because I didn’t want the whole book to center on handicaps, I didn’t back up what made her develop certain quirks. I mentioned her disdain of Camille’s fascination into her deafness and her hesitance about meeting Wes’s friends, but I gave little insight into the background of those hang-ups. Once I started working with an editor, though, she helped me realize that I needed to reveal more of Minka’s struggles with society. Thus, I added instances where the outside world—sometimes rudely—reacted to her disability, instead of getting to know her as a person.
It wasn’t difficult creating such situations, since I often meet with them myself. I don’t go about my day thinking about my disability, but many times, others bluntly remind me of it with rather unkind remarks. I want my readers to be entertained by Husband in Hiding, but I also hope this work of fiction can draw attention to a non-fictional stigma in society. Whether one is disabled at birth or sometime thereafter, that’s only one event in their lifetime, and it shouldn’t be the only one he or she is known for. The person he is before and/or after that needs to be what matters.