Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Guest Post: Writing PTSD in Romantic Fiction by J.P Barnaby

I am excited to have J.P Barnaby on POR once again. She is here talking about her soon to be released book Aaron (gorgeous cover). So say hello and make her feel welcome.

Writing PTSD in Romantic Fiction

One of the foundational rules for a novelist is write what you know. For example, in the novel Aaron, Aaron and Spencer go to school for computer programming because I write software for a living. I can write the technical aspects of their project with authority. I’ve even explored the Twitter API using the .Net development environment. Another aspect of Aaron that I can write with experience is PTSD resulting from sexual trauma. I nearly said “unfortunately”, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. We all have life experiences, good and bad, that make us who we are. If I’d skipped from age seven to age ten, I’d be a completely different person. Maybe I would be happier, but maybe I wouldn’t. I do know that I would not have the strength and resilience that I’ve found since that time.

As I write this post for the upcoming book tour, Aaron is sitting on the Coming Soon shelf at Dreamspinner Press. I’m sure there will be reviewers who tell me that Aaron’s character is melodramatic and overdone, but there will be others, those who live with that monster in their head as I do, who will understand. This book, just like my previous title A House of Cards is written for them. It’s written for the people who need to know that, eventually, it will get better. The nightmares will become less frequent. The memories that pop into your head without warning will start to lose their intensity. Eventually, you’ll figure out that where the blame actually lies. One day, you’ll forgive yourself and then, you can truly start to live.

Aaron is a more extreme example given the physical torture and psychological damage stemming from Juliette’s death, but it’s his story, not mine. Two years ago, that broken boy crawled into my heart and refused to leave until I made him better. I don’t really know where he came from, but as I lay in bed one night, his voice whispered in my head. He described his fear in such chilling detail, I felt it with him. The despair, the utter hopelessness in his voice made my heart ache. He wanted to die. I told him that it would get better, but he couldn’t see how. So, I gave him Spencer. Aaron needed someone who knew what loneliness felt like. He needed someone who could lift him up, to help him find that boy locked in his heart, the one he wanted to be. 

I wish I had a Spencer, I long for that kind of connection. To love someone and not be afraid, but I can’t write them into existence. Instead, I wait. I find little ways to recommit myself to the perseverance that keeps me alive. With each book that I use to put someone else back together, I find a little more of my fractured soul.

I can’t describe what it’s like to want to scream every minute of every day.

Two years after a terrifying night of pain destroyed his normal teenage existence, Aaron Downing still clings to the hope that one day, he will be a fully functional human being. But his life remains a constant string of nightmares, flashbacks, and fear. When, in his very first semester of college, he’s assigned Spencer Thomas as a partner for his programming project, Aaron decides that maybe “normal” is overrated. If he could just learn to control his fear, that could be enough for him to find his footing again.

With his parents’ talk of institutionalizing him—of sacrificing him for the sake of his brothers’ stability—Aaron becomes desperate to find a way to cope with his psychological damage or even fake normalcy. Can his new shrink control his own demons long enough to treat Aaron, or will he only deepen the damage?

Desperate to understand his attraction for Spencer, Aaron holds on to his sanity with both hands as it threatens to spin out of control.


Three signed copies of Aaron are up for grabs – make sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway by October 15th:

(Giveaway open to US residents only. If you’re outside of the US and would like a signed bookmark from Aaron, please request one from

Want to see the rest of the stops on the tour?

About J. P. Barnaby

As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.



  1. Congrats on the upcoming release JP! I remember seeing a blurb on your site a long time ago about this character. I was very happy when I discovered Aaron on the DSP coming soon page. I loved reading about Ethan in A House of Cards and I can't wait to find out Aaron's story, too. Love the cover!

    1. Hi Lisa! Thank you so much. It took me a long time to get Aaron right, and I am very proud of the progress he's made since he first whispered to me in the dark. Someone asked if it was more like Little Boy Lost or the Forbidden Room - and I have to say that he has the innocence of Enlightened, but the hard edge of reality of A House of Cards. I hope you enjoy his journey.

  2. The cover is amazing, and your post has me riveted about the book. I look forward to reading it!

    1. Hi Jacob! I can't wait to hear what you think. Just a few more days. :)

  3. Such depth and poignancy in this blurb. Can't wait for the book!

  4. It's going to be an intense ride. That's for sure. I'm excited to see Aaron and Spencer get their Happy end.
    Ooh.. this book can't come fast enough. lol...

    Congrats on another release! ;)

  5. This sounds like one intense book. I can't wait to see what happens.


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